Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0155, January 24, 2018


  On Using More Than 100% of Our Brains

     The Lomographic Project, Item No. 007:
    "The Tower of Power"

Copyright 2018 by S.W. Paul Wyszkowski

     The popular belief that we are normally utilizing only 10% of our brains is one of the many persistent misunderstandings of actual scientific findings. Its origin probably lies in the fact that our conscious thinking and experiencing takes up a relatively small percentage of the brain's total functionality. The rest is expended on subconscious processes including creation of memories. This is the infrastructure that supports all the body functions and our conscious experience. In fact, in the process of being alive we use all of our brains though the intensity and location of brain activity at any moment varies with the situation.

     The native capacity of the brain and the quality and quantity of stimulation it is subjected to, especially in the early formative stages, vary from individual to individual. To a limited extent we can increase the brain's capacity by putting more demands on it. This is not an increase in percent of brain utilization but more like reorganization of existing resources for greater efficiency. The resulting increase in functionality is fractional. For a tenfold increase in functionality we would have to grow brains that are ten times more complex. Which may not even be physically feasible for an organic brain though an artificial one possessing that kind of complexity (or even greater) seems possible. Hence the current push to develop augmented intelligence systems that might lead to super brainy cyborgs with effective brain capacity orders of magnitude greater than what nature equipped us with.

     This may well come to pass and perhaps sooner than we think. Many of our gadgets are already far smarter than we are, although, so far, only in narrowly specialized ways, lacking the breadth of general comprehension that we are able to bring to our thought processes. They're catching up though - just ask Siri or Alexa, or any of the increasingly sophisticated game playing programs.

     "The question is," says Prickles, our resident cyber-psychologian and a most remarkable hedgehog, "once equipped with super-brains, are we likely to be happier or are we more likely to get ourselves into super-trouble?" Definitely both, at least initially, though I can't say which may be more likely. But if we continue to proceed along the path towards ever more complex brains, inevitably we're going to come to the point where complexity begins to become unmanageable, threatening to disintegrate back into chaos, whence we came.

     "Dust to dust," muses Prickles. "With a fleeting flash of comprehension in between. I wonder how far we may be from that optimum mental complexity where our ability to control events is matched by our understanding of our heart's desire?" For all I know we may have already reached it or maybe even passed it. "I hope not," she says."I don't know about you humans but I'm pretty sure we hedgehogs have ways to go yet. And it's nice to have a brighter future to look forward to." It is indeed, and I hope you're right. Whatever the case, I think we should enjoy life (i.e., infuse it with joy) as best we can under the circumstances, and watch out for stray asteroids.

     For once Prickles lets me have the last word.