Neuroculture is a new research field tying to build an unified theory of knowledge and in order to overcome the traditional division of the worlds of science and humanities based on the idea that both are generated through the human brain.
According to spanish neuroscientist Francisco Mora we are at the edge of a change in our cultural paradigms, at the beginning of opening the gates to a culture that will provide a new vision of humanity and society based on knowledge about how the brain works under the perspective of evolution. This new culture will occupy over the revolutionary social changes that are coming based on the knowledge of teh neurosciences which offers a biological answer to what we humans are as a species and the origin of how we behave.
According to Dr. Mora we are immersed in a process in which Philosophy, Ethics, Sociology, Law, Economics, Art and also Religion are being reevaluated in order to change our conception of the world.Today we begin to know that our brain is in turn a creator and mirror of everything that happens and that all human thought and behavior resides in its functioning and the codes that sustain it.
Already in 1959 british scientist Charles Percy Snow presented in his seminal book “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” this debate, in which described the conflict between the cultures of the humanities and science. His thesis was that the breakdown of communication between the sciences and the humanities and the lack of interdisciplinarity is one of the main problems for the resolution of global problems. In 1991 cultural impresario John Brockman coined the term “The third culture“, in clear reference to Charles Percy Snow’s text, to describe a new paradigm that consists of those thinkers in the empirical world who writing about their scientific work are taking the place of the traditional intellectual, redefining who and what we are by in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives.
Of course Neuroculture is an explendid example of this redefinition of the role of the contemporary intellectuals. As Joelle M.Abi-Rached and Nikolas Rose write in their text “The birth of the neuromolecular gaze” the in the 1960s we can see a “hybridization” of different styles of thought, practices and knowledges in the investigation of brain, mind and behaviour and the introduction of a reductionist and predominantly molecular approach to the realm of the nervous system that turns out to be insightful and useful. Today the discoveries of these neurosciences hold the key to the management of all manner of human activities and experiences, from psychiatric illness to economic behaviour, from human sociality to spirituality and ethics.
According to science historian Fernando Vidal we are living an age in which the brain is necessarily the location of the “modern self”, and consequently the cerebral subject is the anthropological figure inherent to modernity which gives supreme value to the individual as autonomous agent of choice and initiative. His vision in the book “Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject” offers a critical exploration of what he calls “neurocentrism”, the belief that became widespread in the 1990s that “we are our brains”. Furthermore, Vidal and philosopher Francisco Ortega criticize that the humanities and social sciences have taken a new approach and turned into a neurocentric view which embodies a powerful ideology that is at the heart of some of today’s most important philosophical, ethical, scientific, and political debates.
In any case, as the clinician Investigator Daniel Z. Buchman states, the different disciplines that studied the mind and the brain for years converged approximately mid-way through the 20th century into the field of neurosciences. Therefore this new Neuroculture is affecting our everyday language concepts of how we describe our inner mental states slowly erosioning of our folk psychology and replacing our vocabulary with scientific concepts for the satisfaction of thinkers like Patricia Churchland.
To make sense of all the aspects that the brain sciences cover it is worth contemplating the sheer diversity of traditions that compose this enriching discipline. The Pentagon of Neuroscience (or Neuragon for short) designed by computational neuroscientist Yohan John is a diagram which’s cyclic structure represents the similarity that the different listed subdisciplines share. Starting with the theoretical physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists at the top as you move counterclockwise from there the use of abstract mathematics decreases and the use of computational mathematics increases until we reach the biologists. Biologists are studying actual brains of animals and humans to understand how the nervous system behaves in order to help treat diseases and disorders. As you move away from the biologists and towards the psychologists and philosophers, the relevance of mathematics vanishes completely and the use of verbal methods increases. From there we move up to the most abstract philosophers of mind who help neuroscientists maintain a healthy skepticism.
Here we must connect with Embodied Cognition a relatively new and radical branch of Cognitive Science that looks to ecological psychology and dynamical systems theory to understand the contribution of bodily capacities to cognitive processes. As my old teacher Ignacio Morgado -Professor of Psychobiology at the Neuroscience Institute of the Autonomous University of Barcelona- states our mind is a brain function in interaction with its environment. And of course I strongly believe that when talking about our brain we should understand how the sensory motor functions it integrates with the whole body and our nervous system which includes for example our stomach which has 100 million neurons (as many as the brain of a cat).
The real question now is how we adapt this Neuroculture to the development of Artificial Intelligence in order not only to get over the traditional division of the worlds of science and humanities, but to destroy the dichotomies between natural and synthetic beings…
*(Pictures: pixabay.com & neurologism.com).