Monday memo #1: The Mind

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Dear Intelligent General Reader.

Welcome to the first Monday Memo from The Browser.

Each day The Browser recommends five or six of the best pieces of writing that we can find anywhere online. The more diverse the better.

The Monday Memo reverses that approach. It brings together four pieces of outstanding writing with a common theme.

Today: The Mind.

If there is a particular theme that you would like us to address in a coming Memo, please do say.
Freedom Regained (
Julian Baggini | Scientia Salon | 14th May 2015

Notes on the relationship between mind and brain. "Brains provide the material means by which conscious life is sustained. Without brains there can be no human consciousness. But it does not follow from this that we can explain all human behavior in neurological terms alone and that conscious thoughts contribute nothing to our actions. That is a much stronger claim, which goes against the evidence of experience" (3,100 words)
A Plunge And Squish View Of The Mind (
Shane Parrish | Farnham Street | 18th February 2015

How memory works: a conjecture. "Plunge-and-squish adapts to whatever you have on hand. If there is a single relevant memory, plunge finds it. If there are several, squish constructs a modest generalisation that captures the quirks of its particular elements. If there are many, squish constructs a sound, broad-based generalisation." If a particular squish happens often enough, you generate a "perma-squish abstraction" (680 words)
The Hard Problem (
Oliver Burkeman | Guardian | 21st January 2015

Mind and brain are closely linked. "If you question this, try stabbing your brain repeatedly with a kitchen knife, and see what happens to your consciousness." But nobody — scientist or philosopher — can even begin to explain how the linkage works. Twenty years ago a young Australian philosopher called this the "Hard Problem" of consciousness, and the name has stuck: Why, and how, do we have self-awareness? (5,000 words)
Cracking The Brain’s Codes (
Christof Koch & Gary Marcus | MIT Technology Review | 17th June 2014

The main challenge in understanding how the brain works — and learning to manipulate it — lies now with cracking the code that neurons use to exchange information. We know that the basic unit of neuronal communication is the spike, an electrical impulse of about a tenth of a volt that lasts a bit less than a millisecond. The "rate of firing" encodes the information. Probably there are different codes for different functions (3,255 words)
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Robert Cottrell, Editor
Duncan Brown, Publisher

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