We are all unique. And we all have unique brains. According to Sebastian Seung: In our brains, uniqueness resides in the pattern of connections between the brain's neurons. Where the connectome is the entire collection of our brain's neuronal connections, the totality of how we are wired together.
In the first chapters I found Sebastian Seungs often simple, chatty, informal style a bit simplistic and too much in the direction of popular science. But, the book grew on me as I read on. Actually, throughout the book Sebastian Seung gives us many brilliant insights. Complex issues are made understandable by good examples and Seungs broad knowledge of the field.
If we are our neural connectome, it then follows that we can change ourselves by changing the connectome. But, first we must know more about the connectome. And, to find connectomes, we will have to create whole new machines that produce clear images of neurons and synapses over a large field of view.
Seung is always careful to note that ''we don't know yet whether a connectome actually contains a person's memories, personality or intellect. Testing these ideas will occupy neuroscientists for a very long time.'' Still, reading the book leaves you with the impression, that more new knowledge about the connectome will eventually completely change how we think about ourselves and how we should deal with the world.
In the final chapters Seung manages to sneak in some comments about running complete brains as computer simulations. I.e. would it be possible to extract the connectome from a real brain and then run a simulation of it on a computer?
Here, Seung is not overly optimistic. Even if we had a full connectome described. Running a good simulation is still difficult, problems like; a) Insufficient neural modelling b) Extrasynaptic Interactions c) Insufficient knowledge of the laws of nature. Etc. might make it difficult to come up with realistic simulations.
Eventually, Seung believes that we will be able to find connectomes quickly and cheaply. And, a lot of good concrete treatment and knowledge will follow from this.
But, fully understanding the brain is a much broader goal though. Which might take more than just knowing connectomes. Still, reading Seungs book leaves one with the feeling that knowing more about connectomes will be a good start.
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