The human brain, a vital organ unrivalled throughout the animal kingdom in terms of its performance, just keeps on surprising us. We have made considerable progress in recent decades in understanding its functioning. There is, however, still much to discover and explore, not only to understand how humans grow, reflect, think, learn, adapt, and feel, but to make advances in improving the brain’s functioning (particularly in terms of learning) and repairing its dysfunctions, whether mechanical, genetic, pathological etc. This is why Futuribles has decided to begin 2019 with an issue devoted very broadly to the human brain, the first in a series that will be completed over the coming months.
This article by Grégoire Borst makes a start by presenting the reader with an account of how the human brain operates. What do we know today of the way the brain is constructed from the embryonic stage through to adulthood? What is the pace of that construction? How is the neurological system established? What is the general architecture of the brain and to what specific aptitudes do its various elements relate? Does the brain have particular capacities for adaptation? Is it influenced, in its construction and operation, by the familial or socio-economic environment etc.? These are the big questions explored here, in order to understand the operation of that organ in an age when competition between man and machine is a topic of increasing concern, particularly in relation to advances in artificial intelligence.