It is only fitting that the story of the brain should be a visual one, for the visuals had the ancients fooled for millenniums. The brain was so ugly that they assumed the mind must lie elsewhere. Now those same skeletal silhouettes glow plump and brightly colored, courtesy of a variety of inserted genes encoding fluorescent molecules. A glossy new art book, “Portraits of the Mind,” hopes to draw the general reader into neuroscience with the sheer beauty of its images.
See some pictures of the structures of the brain here
A mindclone is a software version of your mind. He or she is all of your thoughts, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values, and is experiencing reality from the standpoint of whatever machine their mindware is running on. Mindclones are mindfiles being used and updated by mindware that has been set to be a functionally equivalent replica of one’s mind. A mindclone is your software-based alter ego, doppelganger, or mental twin. If your body died, but you had a mindclone, you would not feel that you personally died, although the body would be missed more sorely than amputees miss their limbs.
We have absolutely no experience with mindclones. Never in history has there been anything like them. Hence, it is natural to find it difficult to understand the concept. From time immemorial we have thought of our identity as being limited to one instantiation, namely that contained within our body. To grasp mindcloning it is necessary to envision identity as being a unique pattern of thinking that can occur in two or more substrates or forms. If you can accept that a mind can be duplicated, with appropriate mindware and a rich enough mindfile, then you have accepted that a single identity can occur at least twice.
Neuroscientists consider it settled that the mind arises from the cooperation of billions of interconnected cells that, individually, are no smarter than amoebae. But it’s a shocking idea to some that the human mind could arise out of such an array of mindlessness. Many express amazement that emotions, pain, sexual feelings or religious belief could be a product of brain function. They are put off by the notion that such rich experiences could be reduced to mechanical or chemical bits. Or they worry that scientific explanations may seduce people into a kind of moral laziness that provides a ready excuse for any human failing: “My brain made me do it.” Our brains indeed do make us do it, but that is nonetheless consistent with meaningful lives and moral choices.
Jean-Pierre Changeux is France’s most famous neuroscientist. Though less well known in the United States, he has directed a famous laboratory at the Pasteur Institute for more than thirty years, taught as a professor at the Collège de France, and written a number of works exploring “the neurobiology of meaning.” Aside from his own books, Changeux has published two wide-ranging dialogues about mind and matter, one with the mathematician Alain Connes and the other with the late French philosopher Paul Ricoeur. Continue reading →