Will we ever understand how our brains work?

November 9, 2012

Several projects are trying to reverse-engineer the brain. In How to Create a Mind, futurist Ray Kurzweil champions their cause.

When it comes to the human brain, many scientists believe that we are incapable of understanding how it works because we lack the tools and intelligence to measure its mind-blowing complexity. Others are starting to question that notion, and to subtly redefine the task. In How to Create a Mind, futurist Ray Kurzweil has ridden into battle for the challengers.

He starts by asking what it means to be complex. If you consider that a forest is made up of trees, each of whose branches is different, then you might conclude that the forest’s complexity is impenetrable. But if you realise that the forest grows according to certain rules and contains repeating patterns, then the problem becomes tractable. You don’t have to measure every last gnarly twig; you can make predictions instead. As Kurzweil says, you can reverse-engineer it. […]