Segments in this Video

Who Will We Be? Part 6: Introduction (02:30)


Human beings are surrounded by inventions, living closely with machines. Dr. David Eagleman wants to explore where the innovative human brain can take the species as technology becomes more sophisticated.

Marrying Biology and Technology (03:47)

The brain orchestrates all aspects of our body. A young girl afflicted with a rare inflammatory neurological disease has nearly half her brain removed to stop seizures and save her life. Doctors discuss the difficulty the procedure.

Cameron Mott Today (02:08)

Eagleman examines scans of Mott's brain before and after her operation. Seven years later, she is functioning normally and no longer suffers from seizures. Eagleman reflects on brain plasticity.

Cochlear Implant (02:44)

Since the 1970s, the cochlear implant allows deaf people to hear. Crude signals reach the brain. The brain works to decode the signals, cross-referencing them with other senses and detecting patterns.

Alien Language Game (03:59)

Eagleman's lab member Joshua wears a vest that transmits a word in the form of a vibration and attempts to guess what the vibration means. Over time, he learns to decode words. Eagleman reflects on sensory expansion.

Interacting with the World (03:39)

The spinal cord nerves that connect Jan Sherman's brain to her muscles have deteriorated. She controls a robotic arm by thinking about it.

Technology and Mortality (02:45)

Physicality dictates how we think and feel. Eaglemen reflects on the loss of knowledge with Francis Crick's death and the possibility of accessing information stored in the physical structure of the brain.

Brain Preservation (04:05)

Brain preservation is possible, though the science is controversial. Alcor Life Extension Foundation preserves human bodies and brains in liquid nitrogen with the goal of reactivating the deceased with technology that does not yet exist.

Connectome (04:37)

Sebastian Seung at the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences works to understand the unique patterns of connections that underlie brain function. He maps a mouse brain, slice by slice, to creates a 3D model of connectivity.

Computational Hypothesis (03:54)

Moore's Law states computer processing power doubles every two years. Eagleman reflects on creating a digital copy of the brain and running it on other platforms. Shawn Hill is part of the Blue Brain Project that aims to create a software and hardware infrastructure that can simulate the human brain by 2023.

Blue Brain Project Study (02:00)

Scientists subject slices of rat brains to electrical current, mimicking brain activity. A computer recreates each interaction and integrates with data from around the world. The team hopes to have a fully working simulation of the human brain by 2023.

Artificial Intelligence (03:50)

The goal of a sentient machine has not yet been accomplished. The iCub is designed to learn like a human child. Eagleman interacts with the robot.

Manipulating Symbols (03:12)

The Chinese Room, first created in the 1980s, suggests that manipulating communication in order to create valid responses is possible. Eagleman demonstrates the experiment; it has no personal meaning.

Leaf Cutter Ant Colony (02:58)

Each ant has a specific job but they work together toward a common cause. The colony is regulated by local signaling.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (04:46)

Neurons gather electrical and chemical signals, and pass them along to other neurons. A team at the University of Wisconsin uses TMS to study the connections made across the brain in sleeping and awake patients; consciousness involves integrating brain activity from various regions of the brain.

Building Consciousness (03:27)

Eagleman considers the possibility of humans becoming non-biological beings. Simulated life offers endless choices. Is it possible we are living in a simulation?

Controlling Human Development? (02:33)

Factors outside of the mind dictate much of who we are and what we do. Eagleman reflects on the future of our relationship with our body and our world.

Credits: Who Will We Be? Part 6: The Brain with David Eagleman (01:24)

Credits: Who Will We Be? Part 6: The Brain with David Eagleman

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In Who Will We Be? Dr. Eagleman journeys into the future, and asks what’s next for the human brain, and for our species. Mother nature has evolved a brain that is able to rewire itself according to its environment, which means that as technological advances continue apace, our technology is on a crash course with our biology. Dr. Eagleman describes ways in which we’ll be able to plug new sensory inputs into our brains, to perceive more of physical reality than we currently do. For instance, although we now see in the visible spectrum new technologies could allow us to see in ultra violet or infra-red. Or we could have a totally new sense like the vibratory sense that Dr. Eagleman is himself working on. In addition, modern day “brain-machine interfaces” will one day allow us to enhance our physical bodies. The biggest game changer as a species would be if we discovered a way to upload our brains into digital space. Dr. Eagleman explores what it would take to do so. We would need powerful computers, and a complete map of the brain’s connections, as well as the activity that runs on top. But would this simulation be conscious? Neuroscientists may discover that what’s important is not what the brain is made of but what it does, and if we can faithfully represent the computations it makes on another non-biological medium, then we may make the move from biological to digital species. Distributed by PBS Distribution.

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL114673

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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