Can We As Humans Ever Truly Understand Our Minds And Ourselves?
For any animal, the nervous system is perhaps the most important system in its body, as it is the one foremost in enabling and increasing an animal's chance of survival as it allows action and reaction to stimuli both positive and negative, as well as coordinating the actions of all other systems. For the human being, the brain is of the utmost significance, and in addition to being the major part of the nervous system it is the catalyst that began the movement of the human race to the current position as "masters of Earth". The specific brain of a human is also possibly the psychological component that actually defines a human as being human.
With this brain we have, over thousands of years, explored nature and its ways of functioning, made significant, even ridiculous leaps and strides in our technology, ventured into parts of the cosmos, broken down substances into some of its most basic components and all in all, dominated life on Earth, and yet we still struggle to understand even the most basic processes of the very vehicle that made all these feats possible.
The Complexity of the Human. And Its Brain
One of the main problems with exploring the human brain is the fact that while the average human brain is quite similar to any other human brain, any two given human brains are also quite different. Any whether these differences are small or great, they can cause the brain display very different behaviours from the same stimulus in the same conditions. The phenomenon is evidenced by the Butterfly effect, discovered by North American meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz, describes how small changes to a system can have large, and perhaps unexpected outcomes. Even identical twins with similar genetic code who grow up together will not exhibit the same behavious as a reaction to the same stimulus as the very small differences in their environments have had much larger effects on their personalities.
Furthermore, there tends to be a feedback loop with any experience, which would the brain. Such as in the case of a boy who is lost in the dark and falls and cuts his arm. The darkness was the initial stimulus and the outcome was the boy cuts his arm. Now in his future experiences, the boy will fear the dark, so as to avoid cutting his arm again. In this way, the outcome of the first event is being used as input the next event, hence the feedback. This adds one other layer to the complexity of the brain. It can be said that it is the culmination of life experiences make us who we are. Interestingly, no two human beings will ever go through exactly all the life experiences, and it is all the differences whether small or large that create both psychological and behavioural differences from one human brain to another.
So Can The Brain Understand...Itself?
When we ask the question "Can humans understand our own brains?", we are essentially asking whether the brain can understand itself. And when we ask this question we are left with but two possibilities. It is either the power or capacity of the brain, that is, intelligence, experiences growth at the same rate as organism complexity, or both features have dissimilar growth rates. If the rates of intelligence and organism complexity are similar, we shall call this a linear growth relationship, or a exponential growth relationship otherwise.
If this growth is linear we have a two conclusions. The conclusions are either the human brain currently has the ability to understand itself, or it does not. If the brain cannot understand itself, it never could and will never never be able to do so since both intelligence and complexity always experience similar changes and their relationship is therefore constant. If the brain can understand itself, it in the past always could, and also will always be able to understand itself for the same reason stated above. It is worth noting that if the brain does have the ability to understand itself, it is not a question of brain capacity but rather it is an inefficient technique that is used to understand the brain that is wasting too much of its ability.
If the growth is exponential however, we would have a very interesting situation. This would give us another further three conclusions. If intelligence increases more slowly than the increases in complexity, we would either already lost the ability to understand our brains or are on the path to doing so. This situation however, seems to be very unlikely as due to the exponential growth of human technologies in the later years of human history as compared to what our technologies seemed to be like when we had smaller brains.
On the other hand of if the growth is exponential, we either do have the ability to understand ourselves and our brains, which we acquired somewhere along the timeline of human history, or that will acquire this ability sometime in the future, both because our intelligence actually increases at a faster rate than organism complexity. And also, if the last situation is the case, humanity of today will be nothing like humanity of the future.
Summary -The Possibilities
We understand it is either the power of the brain, or intelligence, experiences linear growth or exponential growth relative the organism's complexity. If this growth is linear, either the brain cannot,never could, and will understand itself or the brain can understand itself, always could and always will be able to do so. If the growth is exponential, the situation is that we can understand our brains, but either are losing the ability to do so as our intelligence is too slowly if at all, or intelligence is increasing very quickly. In addition to the two conclusions for exponential growth, we may not yet have the ability to understand our brains, but are on the road to acquiring that ability.
But instead of worrying about what our brain can't do, we should focus on what is can do. The amount of activities our brains allow us to perform are vast. So vast that the one to understand our brains really pales in comparison to its other abilities. Don't worry about the things you can't do, focus on the things you can.