I’m trying to get my head around two facts. The first one is the phenomenal horsepower underlying the human brain:
The human brain contains roughly 100 billion neurons. Each of these neurons seems capable of making around 1,000 connections, representing about 1,000 potential synapses, which largely do the work of data storage. Multiply each of these 100 billion neurons by the approximately 1,000 connections it can make, and you get 100 trillion data points, or about 100 terabytes of information.
The second fact (as observed by Paul Waldman at the American Prospect) is that people so frequently reach unhinged conclusions:
It’s important to realize just how widespread the idea that the apocalypse is coming very soon really is. A poll conducted last year by the Public Religion Research Institute found an incredible 44 percent of Americans (and 67 percent of white evangelical Christians) agreeing with the statement, “The severity of recent natural disasters is evidence that we are in what the Bible calls the end times.”
How can these two things both be true? It’s as if we’re smartphones loaded with crap aps.
Might we download better intellectual tools—critical thinking aps, habits of reading and walking in solitude, etc.—that would bring our brains to less ridiculous conclusions?
I’m increasingly of the opinion that Richard Dawkins was right about memes: there really are language replicators in the environment that assist thought and others that virally disrupt, and even lock-up, thought.
What aps have you downloaded into your “meat computer”?