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The Brain is Green

When we have work to be done, we normally choose the most effective and efficient workers. Similarly, when we have to cross a city by car, we normally choose the shortest and easiest route. We are always looking to be more effective and efficient while spending the minimum of energy and resources. Well, our brain does exactly the same thing.  The brain favours neural pathways that consume the least amount of energy possible. The brain represents only 3% of the body’s weight, but uses almost 20% of the body’s energy.

green-brain-250x187-grey-brDr. Lars Muckli and his team of scientists from the department of Psychology at the University of Glasgow in the UK, found that the brain saves energy by predicting what it is likely to see in familiar environments. These findings support the hypothesis of Professor Karl Friston, a neuroscientist from University College in London, who suggests that the brain is actively predicting what input it will receive rather than just passively processing information as it arrives.

For many years, Jeff Hawkins, who invented the PalmPilot and the Treo smart phone, has been using his knowledge of neurobiology to create artificial intelligence. In his book, On Intelligence, he explains how the predicting capacity of the brain forms the basis of human intelligence. The brain anticipates and predicts everything: images, phrases, and music notes by using information stored from previous experiences.

Humans have the most evolved brain of any species on earth. Our brain has evolved for millions of years to produce a unique form of intelligence. Throughout this evolutionary process, the brain has been developing complex mechanisms to reduce energy consumption. These mechanisms have had a great influence on the way we think. The brain has developed a “lazy” mode of functioning which favours routine neural pathways that utilize less energy.

Today we are making all of our systems green and eco-friendly, but our brain itself is probably our first system to realize the importance of turning “green.” Millions of years ago, the brain had already understood that energy and resource conservation is key to human survival.

From the Book:

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