Monthly Archives: March 2013

Blog #2: Control of the mind (Week 4)

The human brain has always fascinated me. When you see one in the flesh, it looks like nothing more than slimy, pinky-grey glob, when in essence it is one of the most complex single objects in the known universe; confounding to this day scientists who attempt to uncover its countless mysteries. Our brain is the epicentre of our being. It controls how we perceive the world, and crucially, our consciousness and sense of self. Noë believes that we “make consciousness dynamically, in our exchange with the world around us,” which is an interesting thought because I’m sure that most of us would like to think that we have full control over our brain and, in turn, our consciousness.

On a personal level however, our brain (please excuse the pun) seems to have a mind of its own. I am quite good at remembering faces, but, rather frustratingly, am not so good at remembering names (almost as if my brain is toying with me). In this regard memory is certainly a fickle thing. Andrew talked in the lecture about how sensing certain things can bring back memories. For instance if I ever smell chlorine, I remember in vivid detail the swimming lessons I took when I was a child. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I forget the password to my email.

Our brain, our mind, our consciousness (whatever you want to call it) is a mutable thing. It can change. You can improve your memory by teaching yourself memorisation techniques, for instance. BUT, external forces are also able to change how you think. Pamoukaghlian writes that “today, the horrifying landscapes that Orwell imagined are all scientifically plausible,” which is probably why I am as cynical as I am. I don’t want the media (whether it be news sources or advertisers) getting into my head and telling me how to think.

I need to believe that I can think for myself.

Noë, A 2010, ‘Does Thinking Happen in the Brain?’, viewed 27th March 2013, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/does-thinking-happen-in-the-brain

Pamoukaghlian, V 2011, ‘Mind Games – Science’s Attempt at Thought Control’, viewed 27th March 2013, http://brainblogger.com/2011/12/28/mind-games-sciences-attempts-at-thought-control/

 

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Blog #1: The consequences of our unquenchable thirst for speed (Week 2)

I found the most interesting aspect of the Murphie reading to be Virilio’s notions on the technologies of speed; that as a society our insatiable need to increase the speed of all aspects of our life is greatly affecting our sense of space. Virilio, in a way, is trying to warn us about the continual creation of more and more complex technologies, because as technology becomes more advanced our chances of losing control of it begin to increase. He states that “we have invented machines whose systems are so fast and so complex that they operate beyond human capacity. We program our own disappearance” (Murphie & Potts 2002, p. 37).

In the 21st century speed is everything. Every year Apple updates their roster of products touting FASTER, THINNER and LIGHTER designs. Always faster. Always thinner. Always more powerful. Because I don’t have the time to wait 20 seconds for my laptop to boot up. It needs to start RIGHT NOW.

Google Search now brings up webpages with each subsequent word you add to the search bar, so you can find what you’re looking for before you even know what it is that you want.

Virilio’s (admittedly dark) take on technology reminds me a lot of chaos theory, a school of thought in the world of mathematics which tries to understand changes and variables in complex systems. Take, for instance, the story of Jurassic Park. The scientists thought they had their creation under control, but as Dr. Ian Malcolm so elegantly puts it: “Life, uh, finds a way.

And with supercomputers like IBM’s Jeopardy-beast ‘Watson’ putting the intellect of some of the world’s smartest people to shame, it becomes easier to understand why academics such as Virilio are apprehensive about modern society’s obsession with speed. We seem to be getting closer and closer to the inevitable robot apocalypse.

Murphie, A and Potts, J (2002), ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ in Culture and Technology, London: Palgrave: 37-38

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