X-Message-Number: 5200
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 1995 21:35:05 -0800
From: John K Clark <>
Subject: How much brain resolution do we need?


How much brain resolution do we need?  Neurons are fantastically
complicated electrochemical machines, and there are trillions in
your head, but I am not convinced that we must extract every
nuance of information from every one of them in order to have a
successful upload, or brain repair. Much of the information is
generic and has nothing to do with your individually. Even a lot
of the information that is uniquely yours, that which makes you
be you, does not reside only in the brain cells, it's in your
DNA, it's in every cell in your body and it's easy to preserve.

Consider the things neurons do.

1) General housekeeping: This keeps us alive and is astoundingly
complicated, but it's the same sort of thing every cell on earth does. 
Nothing unique here.

2) Short term memory: If I am unable to remember the last 10
minutes of my life before I am frozen I don't consider that a
major disadvantage.

3) Long term memory formation: It's not clear how much this
process varies from individual to individual and how much of it
is important for our individually. Let's be conservative and
assume all of it is and that we all store information in our own
unique way. We can discover what this process is even if we
never look at neurons. Not the memories but the process we use
to form memories must be encoded in DNA and you have lots and
lots of that. The DNA does not tell you what the program is, so
to speak, but it does tell you how to make the hard drive.

4) Long term memory retrieval: Same remarks, see above.

5) Long term memory storage: This is why we freeze brains, it's
vitally important information  if we want to preserve identity
and the brain is the only place that contains it. This is the
part of the brain we need to worry about, I think it's the only
part we need to worry about.

I hope nobody asks me for a reference to what I say next because
I have none, it's pure speculation. It occurs to me that a large
book can be written by a small pen , a large painting can be
made by a small brush and if you want something to last for the
long term it is a good idea to make it substantial. Because of
this, it may not be unreasonable to expect that long term memory
storage functions at a physically larger scale than the
processes that produce it.

Some have mentioned that dendrite spines might be important.
Perhaps, for memory formation, and in any rate it's a lot larger
than the chemical, nanometer, scale.

Before somebody beats me to it let me say that speculation is
fine but it's no substitute for facts and the only way to get
that is through experiment. I'd be a lot happier if we had a
better understanding about how memory storage worked.

                                            John K Clark       

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