Brain Reset – Press and Hold for Three Seconds

They say the human brain has a finite capacity. Of course, given there are a finite number of molecules in the brain, this might have been an obvious fact, but the finiteness (is that a word?) of the brain’s capacity is more limited than these outer limits. Or so I have come to believe.

I am not a particularly social person. I am not asocial per se, but maybe I push the boundaries occasionally. For instance, I might not participate in social events, or honor all of the niceties that society expects from an adult. There is an explanation for this: much of these expectations have always seemed inefficient because remembering to say or do certain things means I have less energy and brainpower to focus on the things that really matter, like solving world hunger.

Just kidding, I have no intention of solving world hunger. Not because I don’t want to, but I am not sure if there is a real point to it. My bets are on that cheeky asteroid heading towards the Earth this moment, while world leaders are debating climate science.

Anyway, sometimes, I wonder if I have overloaded my brain and need to hit a reset button somewhere. You know, like the time your Windows machine got slower and slower until you simply had to re-install the operating system. (P.S. The real problem was the completely useless anti-virus software that the technician installed for you. Oh, I might have been patronizing…I’ll take that back.)

Of course, a reset button would not erase all of your memories. It would eliminate all of your obligations instead, and let you start from scratch. Todo lists will be truncated. You will be unsubscribed from Amazon Prime and all magazines, and your bank account will be reset back to your net worth.

The Gene: An Intimate History

A minor accomplishment of mine earlier this week was to finish reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book, The Gene: An Intimate History. True to its word, the book is a straightforward but rather vivid history of genetics, and its evolution through people and time.

There is never a dull moment in this story. Starting from the early times of Darwin and Mendel, all through the as-yet-unsolved mysteries of present day, Mukherjee’s narrative is flawless in its depth and prose, punctuated with brief interludes into his own family’s struggle with mental illness. The author’s future fate is left undiscussed, but inevitable dark clouds loom on the horizon. Strange though it may seem, each one of us is walking backwards into the future, with the past receding in front of us, and yet – we fear to look over our shoulders to see just how much further the precipice of destruction lies.

The story of this astonishing thing called the gene immediately humbles and awes. Akin to the Big Bang theory or quantum physics, but on a completely different scale and dimension, the frothing, active process that drives our existence is almost unbelievable in its richness, yet rings true. My earliest foray into this space was when I read Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.

Intrigued, I was compelled to follow up with Richard Dawkins’ old classic, The Selfish Gene. Mukherjee’s novel completes this journey (for now) by dwelling on both the practical and philosophical aspects of genetics. For the casual reader, there is a world of a difference between knowing of genetics and evolution, and actually understanding how it all works and fits together.

Mukherjee also touches upon the social and ethical aspects of enhancing (or meddling with) our genetic code, or that of future generations. The pseudo-scientific backdrop of events of World War 2 serve as a reminder that science is terrible weapon in the wrong hands and minds, even more so when its foundations are faulty or its agenda is hijacked by the determined.

All in all Mukherjee’s book is a worthwhile read and deserves all the recognition heaped upon it. It will, no doubt, make you think and wonder.