Brain's the enemy.

Mary had also taught that the human brain was the most admirable survival device yet produced by evolution. But now her own big brain was urging her to take the polyethylene garment bag from around a red evening dress in her closet, and to wrap it around her head, thus depriving her cells of oxygen.

Before that, her wonderful brain had entrusted a thief at the airport with a suitcase containing all her toilet articles and clothes which would have been suitable for the hotel.

Her colossal thinking machine could be so petty, too. It would not let her go downstairs in her combat fatigues on the grounds that everybody, even though there was practically nobody in the hotel, would find her comical in such a costume. Her brain told her: ‘They’ll laugh at you behind your back, and think you’re crazy and pitiful, and your life is over anyway. You’ve lost your husband and your teaching job, and you don’t have any children or anything else to live for, so just put yourself out of your misery with the garment bag. What could be easier? What could be more painless? What could make more sense?’

Just about every adult human being back then had a brain weighing about three kilogrammes! There was no end to the evil schemes that a thought machine that oversized couldn’t imagine and execute. 

So I raise this question, although there is nobody around to answer it: Can it be doubted that three-kilogramme brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?


On the conclusion of species.

El professor Jerison ha estudiat en profunditat l'evolució del cervell humà, i s'ha concentrat, sobretot, en els suposats avantatges d'un cervell molt desenvolupat en relació amb la grandària i el pes corporal. Amb tot, els neuròlegs afirmen que la depressió és una malaltia mental que només afecta els éssers que tenen la capacitat de reflexionar sobre si mateixos i de pensar en el seu passat i el seu futur. És a dir, que només es poden deprimir els humans perquè tenen un cervell gros. En aquest sentit, patim potser un excés de cervell?

Segons el famós psiquiatre britànic Tim Crow, hem de buscar l'origen de l'esquizofrènia en l'evolució dels cervells de majors dimensions. Crow afirma que l'esquizofrènia és el preu que paga l'Homo sapiens per tenir la capacitat del llenguatge. Aquesta idea és sens dubte suggeridora, però per a Jerison l'aspecte interessant és l'engrandiment del cervell, que suposa un nou salt evolutiu, d'una magnitud comparable al que va haver-hi fa 200 milions d'anys, quan en passar de rèptils a mamífers els animals van necessitar l'oïda i l'olfacte, a més de la vista.

«En l'evolució de tots els llinatges d'homínids, de l'australopitec en endavant, en un moment determinat va sorgir la necessitat de posseir un "mapa" més precís del territori que ocupaven, constituït ara per uns quants quilòmetres quadrats, i no solament uns quants metres quadrats, com en el cas del rèptil». Aquesta necessitat d'informació es troba en l'origen de l'engrandiment del cervell humà. Segons Jerison, això degué succeir quan el cervell humà tenia la grandària del d'un ximpanzé o una mica més, i l'evolució cap al llenguatge va venir de la necessitat de conèixer, reconèixer, un territori més extens. I del coneixement, i no pas de la grandària, ve la depressió. Perquè, com afirma Jerison no sense una certa ironia, «quan coneixem millor el món també ens coneixem millor a nosaltres amteixos i quan et coneixes a tu mateix, és molt probable que no t'agradis tant». Així, per a ell, l'esquizofrènia, la depressió, fins i tot els desordres bipolars podrien tenir l'origen en el millor coneixement de nosaltres mateixos. Un fet molt complex i en el qual influeixen multiples factors, entre els quals, saber que morirem, la renúncia a la immortalitat que va comportar el canvi del sistema de reproducció. La consciència de la mort ha significat un gran impuls en l'evolució. A excepció de l'home, no hi ha cap animal que la tingui. De manera que, ja ho veieu, quan parlem d'intel·ligència no tot són avantatges.


Eduard Punset (2008) Per què som com som

Matter Turns Intelligent.

Hydrogen…, given enough time, turns into people.
Edward Robert Harrison, 1995

One of the most spectacular developments during the 13.8 billion years since our Big Bang is that dumb and lifeless matter has turned intelligent.

(...) there’s clearly no undisputed “correct” definition of intelligence. Instead, there are many competing ones, including capacity for logic, understanding, planning, emotional knowledge, self-awareness,  creativity, problem solving and learning. (...)

intelligence = ability to accomplish complex goals

This is broad enough to include all above-mentioned definitions, since understanding, self-awareness, problem solving, learning, etc. are all examples of complex goals that one might have. It’s also broad enough to subsume the Oxford Dictionary definition—“the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”—since one can have as a goal to apply knowledge and skills. Because there are many possible goals, there are many possible types of intelligence. By our definition, it therefore makes no sense to quantify intelligence of humans, non-human animals or machines by a single number such as an IQ. (...)

It’s natural for us to rate the difficulty of tasks relative to how hard it is for us humans to perform them, as in figure 2.1. But this can give a misleading picture of how hard they are for computers. It feels much harder to multiply 314,159 by 271,828 than to recognize a friend in a photo, yet computers creamed us at arithmetic long before I was born, while human-level image recognition has only recently become possible. This fact that low-level sensorimotor tasks seem easy despite requiring enormous computational resources is known as Moravec’s paradox, and is explained by the fact that our brain makes such tasks feel easy by dedicating massive amounts of customized hardware to them—more than a quarter of our brains, in fact.

I love this metaphor from Hans Moravec: "Computers are universal machines, their potential extends uniformly over a boundless expanse of tasks. Human potentials, on the other hand, are strong in areas long important for survival, but weak in things far removed. Imagine a “landscape of human competence,” having lowlands with labels like “arithmetic” and “rote memorization,” foothills like “theorem proving” and “chessplaying,” and high mountain peaks labeled “locomotion,” “hand-eye coordination” and “social interaction.” Advancing computer performance is like water slowly flooding the landscape. A half century ago it began to drown the lowlands, driving out human calculators and record clerks, but leaving most of us dry. Now the flood has reached the foothills, and our outposts there are contemplating retreat. We feel safe on our peaks, but, at the present rate, those too will be submerged within another half century. I propose that we build Arks as that day nears, and adopt a seafaring life!"



No, if a king is so hated or despised by his subjects that he can't keep them in order unless he reduces them to beggary by violence, extortion, he'd far better abdicate. Such methods of staying in power may preserve the title, but they destroy the majesty of a king. There's nothing majestic about ruling a nation of beggars - true majesty consists in governing the rich and prosperous. That's what that admirable character Fabricius meant when he said he'd rather govern rich men than be one.


To start with, most kings are more interested in the science of war - which I don't know anything about, and don't want to - than in useful peaceful techniques. They’re far more anxious, by hook or by crook, to acquire new kingdoms than to govern their existing ones properly. Besides, privy councilors are either too wise to need, or too conceited to take advice from anyone else - though of course they're always prepared to suck up to the king's special favorites by agreeing with the silliest things they say. After all, it's a natural instinct to be charmed by one's own productions. That's why raven chicks are such a delight to their parents, and mother apes find their babies exquisitely beautiful.So there you have a group of people who are deeply prejudiced against everyone else’s ideas, or at any rate prefer their own. Suppose, in such company, you suggest a policy that you’ve seen adopted elsewhere, or for which you can quote a historical precedent, what will happen? They’ll behave as though their professional reputations were at stake, and they’d look fools for the rest of their lives if they couldn’t raise some objection to your proposal. Failing all else, their last resort will be: ‘This was good enough for our ancestors, and who are we to question their wisdom?’ Then they’ll settle back in their chairs, with an air of having said the last word on the subject – as if it would be a major disaster for anyone to be caught being wiser than his ancestors! And yet we’re quite prepared to reverse their most sensible decisions. It’s only the less intelligent ones that we cling on to like grim death.