We all know that thoughts are powerful; they help us solve problems, inform important decisions, guide us to act, make sense of the world and provide new ideas and possibilities. Collectively, thoughts helped us land on the moon, invent the Internet and control much of the world around us. Less positively, collective thinking has also led to conflict, discrimination, and the destruction of the environment.
Given that thoughts are so important, what are they and how did humans develop the capacity to think in the first place? The challenge of answering the first question is that the brain is the most complex phenomenon known to humankind. Although there’s been significant progress in the brain sciences, we know much more about the visible universe than what goes on inside our own heads. The subject is complex, as thoughts appear in the typical adult brain which has around 100 billion neurons across 100 trillion synaptic connections. By comparison, there are an estimated 100 billion stars in our local galaxy, the Milky Way.