Monday, April 12, 2010

Why Neuroscience?

I've talked about why I do science in general. Now I want to talk about why out of all the interesting, amazing, and groundbreaking fields out there, I chose neuroscience.

For me, neuroscience is the next frontier though we still have yet to foray further than a figurative few feet into space and the ocean's depths (believe it or not, that alliteration was accidental).

Get out there, do some learning about the nervous system! Grab the spinal cord by the (dorsal and ventral) horns!

I want to know what makes me me. I want to know why I think the way I do, whether others think the same way, how it came to be that humans are able to do all of these tasks that would be tough for a (current-day) computer in a snap.

Wait, humans are faster than computers? I must have that backwards, right? The majority of us may not be able to do math at the speed of electricity, but we perform computations on problems that would take hours just to input into a computer in a matter of seconds, or less. Where a computer has to work through all of the possibilities for a thousand little variables that may be affecting the situation, we can take one glance and intuit the solution.

As Jonah Lehrer posits in How We Decide, our feelings and emotions and instincts and hunches are not inferior to the careful, methodical calculations of computers; they are actually the product of massive parallel processing that takes place beneath your consciousness. The problem is knowing when something is off in that processing, when a variable is not right, when a thought from a nearby stream is interfering - when to trust your instinct, and when not to.

In order to know when to trust our gut, however, we must know how we think so we can keep a mental eye out for those mistakes.

That brings me back to the point I want to make. After looking at the world around us, we've finally turned our attention and our questions back to ourselves. And now we've got the tools to actually get some of those answers.

No comments:

Post a Comment