Baroness Susan Greenfield, Neuroscientist.
Humans adapt to the environment. We got a short course in Neuroscience 101. It’s the brain that determines our individualism.
Greenfield is a renowned neuroscientist, and talked about the plasticity of the brain, neural connections and experiments that establish that the mental is the physical. ‘Thinking is movement confined to the brain’, she quoted, and showed how ‘use it or lose it’ principles of physical exercise also worked in brain cells.
Connections give ever deeper meaning over time as the world around you is personalised. (The opposite happens in Alzheimers)
She then ventured into more contentious areas; quoting the Daily Telegraph on the ‘erosion of childhood’ and the habituation of violence from video games, attention problems from high video game and TV watching. There were lots of peer-reviewed journals (and more of The Telegraph) and some emotive terms like ‘gambling’ and ‘addiction’.
She argued that there are two basic modes for the human brain: meaningless and meaningful and you could see where this was going: video games are bad. This lead to a critique of social media, narcissism. ‘In the old days we used to play games like this ..’ (Shows picture of kids in sandpit)
Interestingly, she argued that being in charge of your own identity was very important to avoid loneliness, and argued that immersion in social media was losing that control of your own identity.
From there it became a bit predictable, and limited. Books are good (I agree) video games (no meaning, no connections) are not, search engines and relegating our memory to Google are bad …. She read a bit about the importance of facts, from Dickens. I think, without irony.
Good things she argued for: stories, physical exercise, interacting with nature. Then, a quote from a the ‘laughter, fun and giggles’ of bike riding with the kids. Really.
Odd choice to open a tech conference. I guess it reveals that the smartest scientists in the world, with the best machines for registering brain activity in the world, are still prisoners of their own imagination and own neural connections.