The Sciences

You Are A Machine

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollDec 15, 2011 2:04 AM

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For any remaining mind/body dualists out there: neuroscientist Patrick Haggard builds magnetic coils that he can hold close to your head, and use them to control your body via signals to your brain. "Transcranial magnetic stimulation" would be the technical term. (He thinks it means you don't have free will, because he's a neuroscientist and not a philosopher.)

The machinery can't force Prof Haggard to do anything really complicated – "You can't make me sign my name," he says, almost ruefully – but at one point, Christina is able to waggle his index finger slightly, like a schoolmaster. It's very fine control, a part of the brain specifically in command of a part of the body. "There's quite a detailed map of the brain's wiring to the body that you can build," he tells me.

We sometimes say "the Large Hadron Collider is the most complex machine ever built," but I'm not sure how it would directly compare to a human being. All part of the great bootstrap up to greater complexity, which will continue for a while until it all inevitably deteriorates into empty space.

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