Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Brain Bugs

There are lots of things I'd like to be when I grow up: economist, cartographer, psychologist, David Sedaris, linguist, evolutionary biologist. I like skylines, so maybe I should throw architect in there, too.

I want his job

My latest obsession is with neurobiology and the evolution of the human brain. This is thanks to another book I read, which reinforces my love of a topic that developed when I read Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind. This one is called Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives by Dean Buonomano.

As George Costanza would say, you know I always wanted to pretend to be a neurobiologist.

(Interestingly, my girlfriend's dad is a neurobiologist, sort of, or a biomedical engineer who specializes in the physiology of the eyeball retina [corrected by gf], or some other interdisciplinary researchy thing that's hard to pin down.)

Like Kluge, Brain Bugs is all about how our brains evolved in a world that is very different from the world we now live in. So there are lots of things our brains do that are not very well adapted for the modern world. Buonomano calls these "brain bugs."

Not this kind of brain bug

It's a fascinating read about how:
  • our memories fail
  • our fears are irrational and outdated
  • we're not built for number, time, or space calculation
  • we're easily susceptible to advertising and suggestion
  • we tend toward (irrational) supernatural beliefs
Buonomano approaches all of these issues with an explanation on how the brain evolved.

But it doesn't explain why my brain is so fascinated with this kind of stuff.

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