‘Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind by Mark Pagel’; and ‘Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are
The culture we live in and the inconceivably complex neural network inside our skulls are both essential to our identities. These books are speculative, drawing on current knowledge about the brain, evolution, genetics and social behavior to expound on researchers’ theories about such conundrums as why humans have engaged in genocide, whether we possess free will, why we go through life with the sense of a consistent self and whether the software for that self might someday be uploaded onto a server, allowing a person’s consciousness to “live” on after the body dies.
In many cases, the evidence for the theories being presented is indirect, scant or nonexistent. For example, Seung predicts that proving how the connections among our nerve cells store memories will require the use of technologies that haven’t been invented yet, while some of the theories about human social behavior described by Pagel may never be provable. Nonetheless, both of these books challenge our assumptions about what makes us who we are and offer provocative new insights.