There’s a quote, ‘anonymous’ in the sense that it spawned from bouncing around tumblr (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong,): “You were born too early to explore the galaxy; you were born to late to explore the Earth.” Sure, the deep sea is mostly undiscovered, maybe if you built some badass submarine you could go explore dope stuff like the Mariana trench and see all those baller deep undersea creatures like this cutiepie right here.
But there is one thing we still can explore and you’re using it right now. You’re exploring it right now, kinda. You are it right now. It’s the brain. Is the human mind our generation’s frontier?
The brain that is President Barack Obama had his body sign off on funding a $100 million project to “map the brain.” The money is being used to draft a bunch of really good brains to study brains. The project? Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, (or BRAIN for short, which is probably just a coincidence).
BRAIN already has two team leaders, who are drafting a “dream team” of brain scientists – which is probably going to be like your classic ‘assembling the crack team’ montage from movies like Ocean’s 11.. Hopefully they don’t get an explosives expert,because blowing up brains isn’t great science. Hopefully they do get a master of illusion, because blowing minds is great science. Matt Damon would be pretty cool to have, too. (The actual scientists involved also have fantasies of assembling the ‘crack team,’ “You might start with people who are very senior and are household words in their fields, and then you may realize that what (you) actually need is the young Turk who’s a visionary wild man,” said one team leader. If you’re looking for a wild man with no understanding of neuroscience, feel free to Tweet at me, I’ve got all kinds of crazy ideas about the brain, I saw The Matrix, I get it.)
Much like Earth in Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy the BRAIN team must first figure out what the question is before they can figure out the answer.
Obama has received criticism for assigning such a large sum of money to research. Like the move to shut down the space program, many Americans think that science isn’t worth our money in times of economic struggle. I disagree.
Researching the mind and brain are important for a multitude of reasons; mental health is one of the worst afflictions in our country at the moment. Having a deeper understanding of mental illness would mean huge strides in the overall quality of life of, you know, everyone. BRAIN hopes “to decode brain activity to help researchers understand complex ailments ranging from traumatic brain injury to schizophrenia to Alzheimer’s disease, which cost Americans $500 billion annually.” That would be a great thing to solve, no? What about finding ways to prevent violence, to prevent suicide? What about a cure for ADD so I could’ve finished this article without checking Reddit 900 times?
Almost as important: the brain is humanity. The study of the brain is the study of all that is mankind, it’s the study of why we do the things we do, the study of how we understand things, the study of study. Humans are brains, brains that just happen to be connected to bodies that can do cool stuff like eat grilled cheese sandwiches and make out.
We have little to no understanding of ourselves, why we’re here and why that we know that we are here. We don’t know why we can wonder why we don’t know why things. Is the brain just a random clump of chemicals, evolved so that it can realize it’s just a random clump of chemicals? Is ‘the mind’ a separate entity from the brain?
Study of the brain and study of consciousness should be the new frontier of human exploration and knowledge, and there’s no reason to deny funding. Churches are tax-exempt because they are part of people’s faith and understanding of the universe, so there is nothing wrong with raising money for something that will help other peple understand our world, understand ourselves, and understand how we understand the world better better.