Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain


I’ve recently finished David Eagleman’s Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. As an introduction to neuroscience I rather enjoyed it. In essence his main points are:

  • The brain is complicated.
  • It is really complicated, just think about how vision works. It is much less straightforward than you think.
  • The brain is made up of lots of different competing bits. They are often telling you to do different things for different reasons. In a situation like this it is basically pointless to think about which opinion/aspect of your personality is the real you. They are all the real you, you just have to live with the contradictions. For example you are at once hardwired to be faithful to your partner and to cheat on them. This makes life interesting if not easy.
  • Your brain is all that there is. If you mess around with the biology (cut bits out, take drugs etc.) you change you. This is obvious when you do something major like stick a spike through your head, but is also true when you do something subtle. In effect this makes it difficult to see people’s actions as anything other than the outcome of the interplay between their biology and their environment. If this is true it has big implications for things like crime and punishment.
  • We are still only scratching the surface of what neuroscience will tell us. In the future we are likely to know a lot more.

Well worth a read I’d say.


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