Dear Quote Investigator: The European Union has released a ten year scientific venture referred to as the Person Brain Project to construct a large-scale neural simulation of the brain. Google has actually hired the optimal computer scientist and also inventor Ray Kurzweil who has actually espoprovided a strategy of reverse-engineering the brain to help develop devices via artificial intelligence. These purposes are audacious, yet I am reminded of a logic-twisting doubtful remark:

If the human brain were so basic that we might understand also it, we would be so easy that we couldn’t.

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This concept has actually been attributed to brand-new age biologist Lyall Watboy, physicist George Edgin Pugh, and also his father Emerkid M. Pugh. Would you please search for its origin?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in the 1977 book “The Biological Origin of Person Values” by George Edgin Pugh that was a nuclear physicist and the president of a firm referred to as Decision-Science Applications. The statement was used as a chapter epigraph through a footnote that mentioned an ascription to Emerboy M. Pugh who was the father of the writer. Both the father and child were physicists, and Emerboy was a professor at The Carnegie Institute of Technology: 1

If the huguy brain were so simpleThat we could understand it,We would be so simpleThat we couldn’t.

Emerchild M. Pugh ** Author’s note: Quote from my father roughly 1938.

The case in the footnote pumelted the date of the quotation’s formulation earlier to the 1930s, however QI has not yet discovered any type of published evidence before 1977.

Here are extra selected citations in chronological order.

In January 1979 the “Brain Mind Bulletin” published an article about a symposium that had been hosted in New York City about New Dimensions of Consciousness. Lyall Watboy who created books around superherbal phenomena yielded a talk, and he employed the adage. Boldchallenge has been included to excerpts: 2

Biologist Lyall Watboy, author of Supernature, defined what he called “the Catch-22 of the biology of consciousness. If the huguy brain were so basic that we could understand it, we would certainly be so easy that we couldn’t!”

The excerpt above connected the saying to Watkid, yet QI conjectures that Watson’s renote was acquired directly or indirectly from Emerkid M. Pugh.

In 1980 a symposium on music teaching and also research organized in Bowling Eco-friendly, Ohio contained a document by Thomas A. Regelski that repetitive the comment made by Watson: 3

Biologist Lyall Watson, at a current symposium on Consciousness, defined what he dubbed “the Catch-22 of the biology of consciousness. If the human brain were so basic that we could understand it, we would certainly be so easy that we couldn’t!”

The quotation from Lyall was accompanied via a footnote that pointed to the “Brain Mind Bulletin”. The volume number, concern number, and also page number in the note were all accurate; but the year was erroneously specified as 1978 rather of 1979.

In 1984 a collection of esstates by the Polish philosopher Henryk Skolimowski was publimelted under the title “The Theatre of the Mind: Evolution in the Sensitive Cosmos”. He ascribed the adage to Watson: 4

Perhaps the connection in between the simple and also the complicated is even more complex than our language deserve to convey. Perhaps the simplicity of this connection will certainly reveal itself as soon as we end up being more facility, in that sense, that is, in which Lyall Watson talks around the brain: “If our brain were so straightforward that we can understand also it, we would be so straightforward that we couldn’t.”

The connection to Pugh was not foracquired. In 1989 a multi-writer clinical write-up around neurotransmitter regulate printed the adage and also attributed Emerson Pugh although the thumbnail description of Pugh was inaccurate: 5

As it was succinctly put by the British thinker, Emerson Pugh, “If the humale brain were so easy that we can understand it, we would be so straightforward that we couldn’t.”

In June 1989 the saying appeared as the solution of a syndicated newspaper puzzle dubbed Cryptoquote: 6

Yesterday’s Cryptoquote: IF THE HUMAN BRAIN WERE SO SIMPLE THAT WE COULD UNDERSTAND IT. WE WOULD BE SO SIMPLE THAT WE COULDN’T.

See more: Th Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad And You Should Feel Bad: Futurama

— EMERSON PUGH

In 1995 an short article in the journal “Revue économique” consisted of a shortened version of the saying which was placed between quotation marks, but no attribution was given: 7

“If the brain were so easy that we can understand it, we wouldn’t.”

In 2006 the book “Rhythms of the Brain” by Gyorgy Buzsaki published a variation that provided a slightly various phrasing; this instance was attributed to someone named Ken Hill: 8

If the brain were straightforward sufficient for us to understand it, we would certainly be as well easy to understand also it. —Ken Hill

In 2008 “The Guardian” publiburned an obituary of Lyall Watboy and also ascribed the adage to him: 9

He had a flair for vivid phrases, and also, in particular, a sharp eye for the paradoxes of life. He when renoted that “if the brain were so easy we might understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.”

In 2014 the saying was posted to the subreddit dubbed “Quotes” where it was attributed to Ken Hill: 10

“If the brain were basic sufficient for us to understand also it, we would be too easy to understand also it.” -Ken Hill

stumbled upon this this day. as a cog-neuro grad student, this believed crosses my mind rather often