Being Human: A New Site About Our Species (With An Essay From Me On Brains in Vats)

By Carl Zimmer | October 13, 2012 2:39 pm

I was recently invited to write an essay for a promising new web site that launches today, called Being Human.  It’s all about what it means to be Homo sapiens, and I chose to focus on our brain, which is so fundamental to our unique place in the natural world. In fact, we like to think of ourselves as our brains. You could, after all, imagine yourself as just a brain in a vat. It might be hard to manage, but if someone could figure out the right liquids to put in the tank and the right wires to stick into it, it “ought” to work. Hence, The Matrix.

This is actually a new notion, and in my essay, I take a look at our ideas about the brain over the past couple thousand years. Check it out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, Writing Elsewhere

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Comments (3)

  1. David B. Benson

    Computers become less serial and more parallel rather rapidly now. Data storage technology similarly becomes less obvious and simple.

    Brains still win for complexity but for appropriate tasks, computers are faster.

  2. Jon Johanning

    Some version of the brain-in-the-vat idea is not that new. Descartes, for instance, argued that an “evil demon” might be giving him all the sensations that he interpreted as his sitting in his room writing.

  3. timbebinder

    “Brain in a vat” might just have what it takes to be the next Justin Timberlake hit song.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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