Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It's just ben a little odd lately

Back in my radio DJ days, I worked at a station whose chief engineer was also a psychology student, a pursuit in which he gained great insights into the minds of people who sit in small rooms, playing records and talking about the weather.

I remember him telling me about studies that were being conducted to prove that probing a certain part of the brain would enable one to recall everything that had ever happened, every single event, every meal, every book read, every message about picking up milk on the way home from work, all of it.

I thought it was a horrible idea, believing that forgetting most stuff was the best way to deal with most stuff. And when that same dude told me that in the future we would all be carrying phones around with us so we could make and receive calls wherever we were on the face of the earth, I really thought some of the cheese had fallen off his cracker. (And he didn't mention that the pocket phone would replace a camera, a video recorder, a dictionary, an encyclopedia and a dozen personal photo albums.)

Well now, 40 years later, along comes my former fellow Baltimore County resident Dr Ben Carson, newly anointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who told a crowd of stunned employees who now face the prospect of working for him every day that the human brain is incapable of forgetting things. Remember, he was a neurosurgeon who performed incredible medical feats such as separating conjoined twins, so naturally, the president has chosen him to apply those skills to the field of building houses and workplaces for the disadvantaged.

But he told the hushed (shocked) crowd, in his Meet The New Boss address, that the brain "remembers everything you’ve ever seen. Everything you’ve ever heard. I could take the oldest person here, make a little hole on the side of the head and put some depth electrodes into their hippocampus and stimulate. And they would be able to recite back to you, verbatim, a book they read 60 years ago. It’s all there. It doesn’t go away. You just have to learn how to recall it."

And here I sit, thinking a "hippocampus" was where giant herbivorous mammals go to college.

But, thanks just the same, Ben. I don't want to recall every single thing that happened to me on July 23, 1954, April 3, 1962, or the first time I went on a date.  I remember every second of the last date I went on, because it's still going on.

He continued: "(The brain) can process more than 2 million bits of information per second. You can’t overload it. Have you ever heard people say, 'Don’t do all that, you’ll overload your brain.' You can’t overload the human brain. If you learned one new fact every second, it would take you more than 3 million years to challenge the capacity of your brain."

He says this, and then I look up "weather" on the cell phone (there's another use!) and two seconds later, someone asks me what the weather's gonna be, and all I say is, "I dunno."

Image result for ben carson goofyDarin Dougherty, a psychiatrist and the director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s neurotherapeutics division, said, "Using electrodes placed in the human brain to implant memories or to recall forgotten memories is simply not possible at this time," and he ought to know.

Dr Carson ought to know too, and he also ought to know that slaves were not brought here as "immigrants" who came to the U.S. in "the bottom of slaves ships" for better opportunities.

Also, "jumping off the roof of a building" is not a definition of "transportation."

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