David Eagleman manages in 240 pages to summarize all the information known so far about the brain. It reads fast, because it keeps your attention focused on the content, but also because the language is accessible, without being loaded with specialized terms. It is not a specialized book but a popular one, and the bibliographic list at the end of it gives you the opportunity to deepen the exposed problems.
David Eagleman addresses how neurons interact in response to practice and present devices that help the brain regain their impaired functions, such as vision and hearing. Eagleman also shows how new technologies have revealed the limits of human empathy, noting that a person who sees others in physical pain, the brain illuminates the same neurons that are activated by direct physical pain – though it illuminates less intensely when the observed victims come from a group, instead of being individual (confirming the journalistic stereotype: one is news, 100 are statistics).
We learn that the human brain is, in essence, a “plug-and-play peripheral device,” and Eagleman shows that, no matter what kind of data there is, “the brain realizes what to do with it.”
If you are interested in living almost forever, David Eagleman discusses in a chapter the possibilities of lowering your awareness in the cloud but also the limitations of technology. Another possibility is cryogenization, where the human body is vitrified to -120 degrees Celsius in the hope that in the future the world will have the technology to slow down or even stop the degradation of the body.
In short, it is a book suitable for the curious, who want to discover the human “computer” but also to take it on the beach or on a train trip.
David Eagleman’s wide-ranging roundup of the current state of knowledge about the brain is concise, accessible and often very surprising. It’s a strange new world inside your head. Brian Eno
David Eagleman was born in New Mexico and is a neurologist and professor at Stanford University. His books are translated into over 32 languages. More about him on his personal site.