Got my brain back

In fact my computer came back from Apple a few days ago, but I am still in a state of wonder that it feels like a missing part of my brain has been restored. More and more I am convinced that I am a network and that network doesn’t stop at the edge of my skin.
There was a great piece in 3Quarks by Abbas Raza about Jeff Hawkins’s theory of the brain – mainly the neo-cortex – as a memory/prediction system. I was so excited that I immediately ordered Hawkin’s book, “On Intelligence” and wasn’t disappointed. Hawkins made the very intelligent choice of enlisting a co-writer, Sandra Blakeslee, science correspondent for the New York Times, so the book is written in straightforward English, so that one can focus on understanding the concepts rather than wrestling with unfamiliar language.
I had come across Hawkins ideas about intelligence some years ago and at the time had dismissed him as a rich techie wandering into areas he wasn’t equipped to deal with. Well I was wrong. No doubt, people working within the areas will find niggles to dismiss him, but as non-expert, but someone who spends quite a lot of time reflecting on how my mind and the minds of others work, I found him pretty convincing.
Curiously, following reading “On Intelligence”, I read Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” (perhaps better subtitled The Power of Thinking Without Consciously Thinking) , which has attracted a certain amount of rather dismissive reviews and reading it in the context of Hawkin’s theory, found myself nodding, yes,yes,yes.
Hoping to complete a triumvirate, I bought Teed Rockwell‘s book “Neither Brain nor Ghost”. This followed reading a review in John Thackara’s blog, where he talked about Rockwell’s idea that mind is “a single unified system embracing the nervous system, body, and environment”or as Rockwell puts in his comment to the entry,” I am arguing in my book is that the self is a behavioral field that expands and contracts within an environment.”
Sadly, Rockwell’s book was not the clarification I had been hoping for, but more a book written by an academic for other academics. Which is a great pity, because although my talk of losing half my brain when my computer goes wrong is in part a joke, my growing sense that who we are doesn’t stop at the edge of our skin isn’t simply something for academic debate, but a perception that has important practical implications.

A nasty case of kernel panic

About ten days ago, I was happily put some figures in to a spreadsheet, when an ominous black box appeared on my screen telling me, in four languages, to shut down my computer. Over the next few hours, that black box became a frequent companion. Digging around on the net I found I had a nasty case of kernel panic.
So I booked myself an appointment with an Apple Genius at the Apple Store in Regent Street, thinking well this is a software fault and my Genius will be able to plunge deep into the system, fix it and I’ll go home with a working computer.
Sadly, the diagnosis was that it was some interaction between the operating system and a bit of faulty hardware that was the problem and I am still waiting for it to be fixed.
What appalls me is the recognition of how deeply my computer is entangled with my life. All though I have had access to a number of computers during this time, I still find myself reaching to do something and realising that the information or application I want is no longer available. Things that were easy have now become hard.
All of which reinforces my view that our personal computers should reside out there in cyberspace rather than being closed up in a single bit of hardware.
Normal service will be resumed once my kernel panic is over.