Once again, Morozov indicts the tech press. Do we want a horde of gadget reviewers or critical thinkers? Read his “How to Stop a Sharknado” on Internet ideologies, public intellectuals and politics at the German site Zeit Online.
In the biological conception of nature and nurture, we tend to think that the dueling forces of genetics and environment shape and predict one’s personality. In a new study involving 40 genetically identical mice–all exposed to the same precisely controlled and measured environment–researchers are revealing the hidden importance of random chance on brain growth.
Writing on the New Yorker’s Elements blog, Gary Marcus explains the findings of the experiment:
Kempermann’s new mouse study shows that chance plays a role in cognitive development. For reasons as yet unknown, possibly having to do with intrauterine environments or randomness in the process by which individual genes are switched on, some mice became more active, others more passive; those that explored to a greater degree subsequently grew more neurons in their hippocampus. In an environment that rewards exploration, the more active mice would presumably thrive; with a simple follow-up it should be possible to prove that luck can mediate success in a carefully controlled environment.
Prosthetic limbs have come a long way. Newer bionic models facilitate natural human movement and help amputees regain their active lifestyles. As the New York Times reports, the advancement of artificial limbs has led many amputees to elect to lose more of their healthy flesh so that they can be fitted with newer models.
Instead of doing everything possible to preserve and live with whatever is left of their limbs, some are opting to amputate more extensively to regain something more akin to normal function.
Citing the research of a prosthetics start up, iWalk, the article states:
The goal is to build artificial limbs that resemble human arms in dexterity, strength, size and weight — and that veterans one day may control with their brains. The scientists plan to insert a small array of electrodes into the cortex, the brain’s top layer, or into peripheral nerves.
Controlling an artificial limb with thought instead of lifting a metal extension with existing muscle seems both futuristically bizarre and wonderfully intuitive.