The Brain Supremacy

From the frontiers of neuroscience

What Is the Brain Supremacy?

Neuroscience is changing science, society, and us.

 

The Brain Supremacy book coverThe brain supremacy is a great and rapidly-developing change in science, in which the traditional dominance of the physical sciences will be challenged, and then usurped, by the growth of the biological, and especially the brain sciences.

Three great flows in the river of science are converging. Expect a white-water ride, as the power of physics-derived brain research methods and the force of the genetics revolution meet the youthful energy of a science emerging from childhood into a fully-fledged research field. When I started out, neuroscience was a branch of physiology. No longer.

As the brain supremacy takes shape, our culture, including the culture of science, will have to change, because it relies on outdated assumptions. As a bonus, the change could take scientific hubris down a peg or two, as we realise just how much harder brains are to study than anything we've tackled so far. That's no harm either! Humility's an unfashionable virtue in this self-promoting age, and it's hard to slip from confidence to arrogance when you're trying to analyse a living brain.

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The brain supremacy can't come soon enough for me, for three reasons. Firstly, because time's getting on in this particular life-path! Secondly, because it's going to be amazing to watch. Neurotech is already phenomenal; in the brain supremacy its power will reach awe-inspiring capacities. How about dream recording, selective memory erasure, mindreading? How about the facility to share dreams, or download artificial experiences? How about the ability to reprogramme your beliefs and desires? It's going to be a fascinating journey, seeing even a few of these promises come to pass.

Finally, thirdly, there's my great hope: that the brain supremacy could make us all more human. Minds need more careful handling than rocks or proteins; the ethical constraints are tighter. The potential for misuse of the new technologies -- which is admittedly nightmarish -- will, I hope, make us more careful of each other. Every human brain is gloriously unique. The more we recognise that, the harder it may become to commit the atrocities which ruin and destroy them ...

... and the easier it will get to work towards cures for hurt neurons. Think what we could do if we gained the gift of precision brain control. Might fanaticism, violence and psychopathy become curable disorders? Might the hideous damage inflicted by childhood abuse, or the diseases of old age, be reversible at last? Those are goals worth chasing.

I'm so lucky to be alive to see this time when, more than ever before, we hold the hope of a better future in our hands. In this blog, I’ll aim to share some of the reasons behind that sense of being lucky, by sharing news from the sciences of the brain.

 

Copyright Kathleen Taylor

Kathleen Taylor is a freelance science writer and researcher at Oxford University.

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