[Comp-neuro] Discussion - science follows technology - what is the program

James Schwaber schwaber at mail.dbi.tju.edu
Tue Aug 26 22:07:12 CEST 2008


A lot of the discussion about the 'right way to model' or what to model 
may be a version of what my friend Mike Gruber has termed  a version of 
the science-technology fallacy, the idea that you have to understand a 
process analytically before you can use it, and he always quotes Carnot 
here--thermodynamics owes more to the steam engine than ever the steam 
engine owes to thermodynamics.  Obviously, humans used and controlled 
fire for 100,000 years before Lavoisier explained what fire was, and 
planes flew for decades before there was a theory to explain how they 
did it.  In fact theory 'demonstrated' that heavier-than-air flight was 
impossible. The reason we buy the fallacy is because of the outlier of 
nuclear physics--yes, in that unusual case, nuclear technology and bombs 
were utterly dependent on the groundwork of theory, and lasers arose 
from quantum research.   But this is not the common case in the history 
of technology.

For neuroscience the question is can we predict, control, and modify 
brain function even though we never be able to 'understand' it 
analytically?  As of now the answer seems to be no.  Will this ever 
improve?   Drilling down won't cut it.  What would?   


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