The brain-as-computer is a powerful meme. It’s no more accurate than metaphors inspired by fluid dynamics or automata, which were cutting-edge technology in their time, says Robert Epstein.
The invention of hydraulic engineering in the 3rd century BCE led to the popularity of a hydraulic model of human intelligence, the idea that the flow of different fluids in the body – the ‘humours’ – accounted for both our physical and mental functioning. The hydraulic metaphor persisted for more than 1,600 years, handicapping medical practice all the while. By the 1500s, automata powered by springs and gears had been devised, eventually inspiring leading thinkers such as René Descartes to assert that humans are complex machines. —Robert Epstein, The Empty Brain (Aeon)