The Brain Problem by Louis Goldstein


Man has a limitation on his nervous system which makes it impossible for him
to engage the world in a fruitful fashion; he is unable to predict events and circumstances with enough reliability to secure his well-being.
For instance, man is unable to guarantee himself a steady supply
of food. Hunger is still a fundamental problem despite the trappings of civilization and all our technological

The apparent success of some at the enterprise of living, is merely an illusion. It is at great cost to the
ecosystem and other societies that some societies are able to secure a steady stream of resources
for their inhabitants.

We engage in philosophical theorizing in an attempt to come to grips with our problems but it is not
enough. Man needs a way to deal with the particulars of the everyday. It is on the level of the particulars of the everyday that man secures from the world the necessities of living.

What is it then that is missing? What is the cause of so much unhappiness and physical suffering? I can specify precisely what it is. It is an inability of the brain to utilize
more than a small amount of information from the outside world in the making of decisions.
When we are unable to
incorporate more than just a small amount of information into our
decision-making we misjudge reality and so act in ways which are foolish, wasteful, and physically harmful. This
represents a fundamental defect of the brain; it is not amenable to education or training.

Many of us live in successful societies and are protected by those societies from the harshness of reality. We are not battered
on a daily basis by the uncertainty of securing food, water, and shelter. Even within so-called successful societies, however, there are many who struggle to survive. For
homelessness and poverty still persist in the land of plenty known as the United States of America. The struggles of life are even more evident in the world as a whole. Across wide swaths of the globe, hundreds of millions go hungry, basic hygiene is a rarity, and disease and violence are constant realities.

Existence for many is a struggle, but why is it a struggle? Has anyone answered this question to our satisfaction in 3500 years of recorded history? Why haven't lifetimes worth of
Inquiry by the best minds of every generation yielded an answer? Our world
is filled with suffering and premature death but no answer seems forthcoming. Could it be that our problem goes beyond mere intellectual endeavors?

I claim that our problem is a physical problem with our brain. The physical operation of our brain is not
compatible with happiness. What the brain does is to assure the reproductive success of the species; it does not assure any individual a reasonably comfortable life. A reasonably comfortable life is an artifact of society and at any one point in time it is the purview of only select societies. It is up to us to
change the physical operation of the brain in order to make life worthwhile for all.

We now have technology in the form of the computer to help us elucidate our brain problem. In the apolitical,
amoral light of the laboratory, it has been shown that the brain has trouble classifying the simplest of patterns. Why is this important? Because in a complex world where no two situations are exactly alike, the identification
of familiar patterns is the ultimate factor determining our behavior. Any
situation presents itself as a pattern of information which our brain must evaluate. It does this by comparing the present pattern with patterns gleaned
from past experiences. The brain depends on matching the new pattern with patterns stored in memory in order to know what action to take. We act in pursuit of a bite to eat, a friendly word, or a warm place to sleep at night. Success at securing our reward depends on assessing new situations correctly. This can only take place if the pattern from our memory we have selected as a match truly is a match. The pattern from memory must match the pattern represented by the new situation in order that our action be guaranteed appropriate.

Since the problem, as I see it, is an inadequacy with which the brain processes information we need to augment the brain's ability to process information. The computer presents
itself as an information processing device par excellence. In point of fact, the computer is able to perform
information processing in a way that precisely complements that of the human
nervous system. If we are to hope to increase our ability to process
information and thereby improve our ability to interact with the world we need to find a way to link a computer to the brain.


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