What is creativity? How do we measure it? How do our brains implement it, and how might AI?Those are some of the questions John, David, and I discuss. The neuroscience of creativity is young, in its “wild west” days still. We talk about a few creativity studies they’ve performed that distinguish different creative processes with respect to different levels of expertise (in this case, in jazz improvisation), and the underlying brain circuits and activity, including using transcranial direct current stimulation to alter the creative process. Related to creativity, we also discuss the phenomenon and neuroscience of insight (the topic of John’s book, The Eureka Factor), unconscious automatic type 1 processes versus conscious deliberate type 2 processes, states of flow, creative process versus creative products, and a lot more.
Randal, Ken, and I discuss a host of topics around the future goal of uploading our minds into non-brain systems, to continue our mental lives and expand our range of experiences. The basic requirement for such a subtrate-independent mind is to implement whole brain emulation. We discuss two basic approaches to whole brain emulation. The “scan and copy” approach proposes we somehow scan the entire structure of our brains (at whatever scale is necessary) and store that scan until some future date when we have figured out how to us that information to build a substrate that can house your mind. The “gradual replacement” approach proposes we slowly replace parts of the brain with functioning alternative machines, eventually replacing the entire brain with non-biological material and yet retaining a functioning mind.
Randal and Ken are neuroscientists who understand the magnitude and challenges of a massive project like mind uploading, who also understand what we can do right now, with current technology, to advance toward that lofty goal, and who are thoughtful about what steps we need to take to enable further advancements
Mark and I discuss his book, The Spike: An Epic Journey Through the Brain in 2.1 Seconds. It chronicles how a series of action potentials fire through the brain in a couple seconds of someone’s life. Starting with light hitting the retina as a person looks at a cookie, Mark describes how that light gets translated into spikes, how those spikes get processed in our visual system and eventually transform into motor commands to grab that cookie. Along the way, he describes some of the big ideas throughout the history of studying brains (like the mechanisms to explain how neurons seem to fire so randomly), the big mysteries we currently face (like why do so many neurons do so little?), and some of the main theories to explain those mysteries (we’re prediction machines!). A fun read and discussion.
Steve and I discuss his book, How to Motivate Your Students to Love Learning, which is both a memoir and a guide for teachers and students to optimize the learning experience for intrinsic motivation. Steve taught neuroscience and engineering courses while running his own lab studying the activity of live cultured neural populations (which we discuss at length in his previous episode). He relentlessly tested and tweaked his teaching methods, including constant feedback from the students, to optimize their learning experiences. He settled on real-world, project-based learning approaches, like writing wikipedia articles and helping groups of students design and carry out their own experiments. We discuss that, plus the science behind learning, principles important for motivating students and maintaining that motivation, and many of the other valuable insights he shares in the book.
We made it to the last bit of our 100th episode celebration. These have been super fun for me, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the collections as well. If you’re wondering where the missing 5th part is, I reserved it for Brain Inspired’s magnificent Patreon supporters (thanks guys!!!!). The final question I sent to previous guests:
Do we already have the right vocabulary and concepts to explain how brains and minds are related? Why or why not?