Gently, brother!: New Frontiers in Brain Science

you don’t understand a thing until you are able to do things with it.  So we in history’s morning may have said “all is matter, stuff, material” but we did not know what we meant until the art of the potter was developed and we could shape mud and fire on the wheel.  So is it with the claim: all we are is brains.  First spoken by a philosophe in the 17th century it did not become true in our mouths until in the 23rd century the corporations offered The Salons of Brain Transformation.

I went there to talk to my father who was on the way out of a session.

“You are a bird.  I am a bird.  The sky is a bird.  Time is a bird.  Man and woman gain and loss life and death rembering and oblivion all are wings.  Of a bird.”

“I see father.  You have asked the brain molders to craft a brain for you that sees all in this avian guise.”

“No no no no no” he said.

I felt in my pants pocket for a crumpled receipt : one transformation to see my father as a bird-addled lunatic.  The signature was my own, it was my own brain the wheel had spun.

I pressed 1 on the elevator and another panel opened with decimal floors.  I pressed 1.0 and another panel opened with percentile floors.  I pressed again button after button to specify where I wanted to descend to while the floor of the machine remained still.

“For I remember stopping by the way

And saw the potter pounding his wet clay

And with its half obliterated tongue

It murmured: gently brother, gently pray.”


15 thoughts on “Gently, brother!: New Frontiers in Brain Science

  1. The feedback loop screech of brain modification (modify the brain – then it wants to get modified again because of it’s prior modifications) – it’s like karaoke in hell.

    What prompted this piece (or is this one of those blogs where you’re not supposed to ask?)?

      • Do you think it’s maybe just overwriting outselves? That with sufficient changes, the human would be gone – even if all the lego components of his brain are still there. That the configuration is pivotal to us (much as DNA configuration is pivotal as to whether a species lives on or is extinct)?

      • What if it’s instead an issue for them. Them being not us?

        I think at some point us becomes something else, surely? I mean, what if you modify a dwarf brain to be very much like an elf brain – surely at some point it’s not a dwarf anymore?

        Yeah, I know, I brought in fantasy races! But the thing is as a specie were kind of like an only child – with no siblings we think everything revolves around us. So I needed to bring in some make believe siblings to show as much as a sibling is not you and is an ‘other’, surely at some amount of self modification, all that remains is an ‘other’?

      • Unless you’ve got a ‘I’m all about life going on per se, not any particular specie (like, for example, my own)’, I find that radical but I’d get your position. Otherwise it seems like the only child talking – the talking horse aint human!

        I’d agree the elves, dwarves, mermaids and talking horses are all ‘life’. And if they had orginated from the first proto life on this planet – they are all (super distant) relations.

        But the dodo is dead, man!

        The wise things the dodo had to say – they are gone. We are no replacement for dodo wisdom.

        Nor is some other species a replacement for us.

        Even if it is we who manufacture that specie.

      • Well how do I know that rock over there isn’t human? Or that the dust slowly choking my motherboards cooling fan isn’t human? How can I ever really know?
        I think the real question is how did I get on the pointy end of a question mark here? Somehow my saying ‘talking horses aren’t human’ is the more questionable of the two things said, the other being ‘Hey, if every ‘oohman had their brain rebuilt to be a labradoodles brain, there’d still be humans around!’
        Does the radicality scale really, truely go that between the claims ‘talking horses aren’t human’ and ‘if we put a kitchen wizz inside everyones skull and buzzed around for five minutes, there’d still be humans’, the former is the more radical claim?
        I don’t think it’s the more radical claim, if only because I’m hardly that imaginative!

      • well if you believe Aristotle it’s cause the rock is not alive, it’s not an animal, and it doesn’t talk. the question is what features of humans are essential or important.

      • Well, how would the talking horses answer that question in regards to humans?

        Or does the question jar ‘We shouldn’t be asking them’, which maybe says something in itself?

  2. Mikey says:

    I think the clay is about right. It doesn’t want to be demolished and reformed. It’s scared, of course it is. But it’s not being a massive pussy either. It’s not whining about it, just saying “gently brother, gently pray.” It’ll still be clay but it will also be something new. That’s a hard process to go through, and the potter needs to understand that.

    All the clay’s questions are answered with a “sort of”: Will I be the same? Will I be different? Will I still be me? Will it hurt? The pot I was before, is that gone? The pot I was before, will that survive? Is it better to stay how I was? Is it better to be changed?

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