[Comp-neuro] Re: [D] dignity and the brain as an an engineering problem

James Schwaber schwaber at mail.dbi.tju.edu
Wed Aug 27 19:15:02 CEST 2008

The technology I suggested would be desirable is "can we predict, 
control, and modify brain function" and my suggestion was that if we 
could it would be a basis for theory/science. This is not engineering in 
any sense that violates dignity. Rather, it is the explicit goal of 
biomedical science, to develop methods useful to neurology, 
neurosurgery, psychiatry etc.

gros07 at itp.uni-frankfurt.de wrote:
> ? Is the brain just an engineering problem ?
> In his comment on -science follows technology- James Schwaber 
> discussed analogies between engineering problems and neuroscience and 
> his comment
>>> For neuroscience the question is can we predict, control, and modify 
>>> brain function...
> indicated a possible closeness between the study of the brain and an 
> engineering problem.
> Everybody subscribing to this mailing list probably agrees that the 
> brain constitutes a object for
> scientific investigation. But is it also an object
> for engineering considerations?
> In my point of view definitively not. Dignity is, of course, only the 
> result of some poorly understood
> electrochemical processes. We should nevertheless
> highly value human dignity and keep a strict line
> of separation between analogies to engineering,
> or thoughts of engineering, and any living brain.
> Regards,
> Claudius
> *****************************************
> *** Prof. Dr. Claudius Gros           ***
> *** http://itp.uni-frankfurt.de/~gros ***
> *****************************************
> On Tue, 26 Aug 2008, James Schwaber wrote:
>> 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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