Yesterday I posted that the White House’s upcoming BRAIN initiative was conceptually incoherent, and I snarkily implied the NYT needed some science-fiction checkers for its overly credulous reporting of what we could expect out of the initiative.
What a difference a day makes! In an article today they’ve become more skeptical. They write: “the new initiative… has, as yet, no clearly defined goals or endpoint. Coming up with those goals will be up to the scientists involved and may take more than year.”
It’s a good pickup on the Times’s part, though they may be overly optimistic that Obama has chosen the right scientists, and that a year is the proper order of magnitude for coming up with a paradigm shift. We’ll have to watch to see how much sense the new program ends up making, and when it starts making it.
I’ll predict that the likely outcome will be a balkanized program. The reason? I just don’t think neuroscience has a new paradigm to shift into at this point, and I don’t think government money’s going to make one appear in the next year. Nobody, for example, seems that jazzed about my candidate shift – that the electromagnetic field is the ground of consciousness, and that the brain filters human consciousness out of it (rather than “creating” it as the party line currently has it). Even though Walter Freeman has devoted his life to showing the empirical basis for this idea – if you haven’t read his work, start here. I hope I’m wrong – I’d love to see Freeman get the play he deserves. And regardless I’m glad the research is being done, new paradigm or not. Let’s wait to see whether the Times can continue to dial back on the breathlessness as the year unfolds.