War Games, Terminator, and The Human Brain Project

Human Brain Project

Human Brain Project

Our children believe that within the world of computers and technology….anything is possible.  We have seen dramatic advances in computing and technology that have increased our connectivity and contributed to our quality of life.  Parents of my generation, however, can also remember when super computers developed a mean streak and ruled their creators in an effort to destroy mankind.  And who can’t still imitate Joshua from War Games? ”Would you like to play a game. . .”

Enter the Human Brain Project. . .  European scientists are teaming up to try to recreate the complete inner workings of the human brain using a super computer.  Can you imagine a super computer “brain” that can talk, experience, learn and interact in the way that humans do?  The only kink in the master plan is that the program requires over $1.3 billion in funding over the next 10 years and neuroscientists are at least a decade away from having the proper computer.  Some people really like to dream big.

If you think that the Human Brain Project is unbelievable science fiction, check out this unorthodox brain boost.  An Oxford University researcher is attempting to improve a child’s ability to learn math by stimulating a portion of the brain with electricity.  Using transcranial direct current stimulation, he hopes to encourage the responsiveness of neurons and make them more prone to engage in certain tasks.  There is some concern over the ethics of boosting a child’s brain power without the effort of learning, but if you are interested in the process for your child, evidently the researcher already has a line out the door.

How does all of this relate to my child?  Simple, in this era of so many “smart” devices, your child needs to develop an appreciation for how smart and special he or she really is.  Start with a simple brain diagram or scale model of the human brain.  Discuss the sections of the brain and what movements and thoughts that each brain section controls.  Help your children to think about their own thinking (metacognition). If they understand how their brains best process information, they will be able to have self-directed improvements in their own brain power. Talk about the diseases of the brain and how those diseases limit those movements and thoughts as well as the impacts of drugs and alcohol on body functions and decision making.  And finally, talk about bike helmets and other ways to keep the brain protected (and in our family, why it is critical to play sports safely).

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