Daniel Dennett has decided that the mind is less like a computer than he had previously imagined. Instead, the Darwinian philosopher suspects that the brain may be even more Darwinian than he had supposed. The constituent elements of a computer have no individual interests and are not in competition. They encounter no risks or opportunities. Brains, however, are made up of basic elements, neurons, the distant ancestors of which were free-living cells. Dennett speculates that neurons may retain traces of their ancient ancestral spirit, inducing them to compete with each other for resources. This competition feeds upon the opportunities provided by the constant influx of virus-like information entities known as memes. These themselves exploit the opportunities that the marketplace of the brain affords to replicate and spread to other minds.
Dennett’s notion of ‘feral neurons’ is eye-catching and rather thrilling, but its value is hard to specify. It signals that he is continuing to have ideas (though this one was first aired several years ago) and that he is capable of changing his mind. It humanises the idea of the