Plastic Diagrams: circuits in the brain

Why do we think the brain is like a computer. Originally computers were modeled on the brain and mind — but this was back in the 1940s and 1950s when first-world countries were threatening to continue to blow each other up with nuclear weapons. Humans were understood to be quite irrational. We were logical, but insane. Computers were also logical, therefore they were thought to be quite useful to model logically insane humans.

I’m continuing to think about this strange history — strange because somewhere in the 1960s, psychologists stopped thinking that humans were basically irrational, and instead started to treat them as rational, but not necessarily logical. And now the logical nature of computers was seen to be something for humans to aspire to: we became imperfect computers.

Eventually i’ll write the followup articles tracing this history leading to the very weird contemporary surprise that algorithms, being logical, aren’t always rational…

In the meantime, I’m quite fond of the notion of logical irrationality.

2016   “Plastic diagrams: Circuits in the Brain and How They Got There,” in Plasticity and Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject eds. David Bates & Nima Bassiri. New York: Fordham University Press. Pp. 219-267.

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