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2010 Coming down from the reductionism trip …

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Animal cell, Wikimedia Commons

In (surprisingly) the New Scientist, Brian J. Ford observes, “The secrets of intelligence lie within a single cell” (April 25, 2010).

For me, the brain is not a supercomputer in which the neurons are transistors; rather it is as if each individual neuron is itself a computer, and the brain a vast community of microscopic computers. But even this model is probably too simplistic since the neuron processes data flexibly and on disparate levels, and is therefore far superior to any digital system. If I am right, the human brain may be a trillion times more capable than we imagine, and “artificial intelligence” a grandiose misnomer.

I think it is time to acknowledge fully that living cells make us what we are, and to abandon reductionist thinking in favour of the study of whole cells. Reductionism has us peering ever closer at the fibres in the paper of a musical score, and analysing the printer’s ink. I want us to experience the symphony.

I recommend avoiding the thoughts and works of reductionists.

Interpret the history of life how you will, reductionism as such has been the most spectacular failure since the perpetual motion machine. I wonder if there is a conceptual link between the two ideas …

One Reply to “2010 Coming down from the reductionism trip …

  1. 1
    smordecai says:

    Reductionism is not dead. Only the “Life is Chemistry” approach is. They failed so now it’s “Life is Physics”. Read Sync by Strogatz

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