Friday, 25 May 2012

Crooked Wisdom

You're walking down the street, it's night and of course it is one of the worst neighborhood of the city. A limping silhouette approaches you. An old alcoholic. Or a young drug addict, for what matters. For some of you, this is a nightmare. For others it's just week end. For two or three maybe it's simply Monday. Nobody is thinking that there is something to learn.
Oh yeah, that too many benders and this is where you end up.
Or that a human being is worth it, no matter how many banana skins on the top of the head.
Anyway: no, it's not this kind of learning.

The poor fella of this story (and this is a story, bear in mind), is hardly able to articulate a word. He's disconnected, there is no sense in his utterances. OK, his interior life could emerge fragmented and also his neuro-connections are trying to make (desperately) contact again with some configuration that were lost during New Year's Eve, 1991 (for the old guy). Reality is: the train of thoughts of the brother is simply going nowhere.

Now it's time for the lesson on stage. What do you see in front of you? A deranged consciousness, lost in the intricacies of his own convolutions. Thanks for him, he's facing a consciousness in order. The train of your chain of thoughts is on schedule, you know where are you going, right? Your mind is fully aware of his own presence to itself. No kidding: your consciousness is reflecting her own efficiency in being herself. Good. Now, I would say that the deranged fella is honest at least. In fact between the two is definitely the luckiest: because he is much, much closer to the TRUTH, to completely grasping the wisdom. 
So really you think that the configuration of your neuro-connections is your confident self and that is you? Let me understand: an organ of a biological being, say a liver or a brain, is producing a complicated pattern of (electro)procedures. This liver (or brain) is so sophisticated that in collaboration with other livers (or brains) has managed to establish an architecture of fictions where its body and the bodies associated with the other organs, livers (or brains) are living exploiting the augmented possibilities of those fictions. Now you are confidently thinking that you are someone. A liver! (or a brain, for that matters). Well done, my friend. I think that the brother fellow who drank himself, or that erase himself in his own circulatory system, he's probably more in the game than you.

One last thing: I'm not suggesting that you annihilate yourself with a liquid or a powder. I know we humans always love magic, but this is not the case. I'm just trying to give you a reason to be happy. A happy organ, one step closer to be perfectly centered in wisdom. Ah, I forgot to tell you: wisdom has been made to available for everyone. I mean not just you and your deranged friend (please don't eat the banana skin...). Even the asshole and the deliptuous. It's a party for everyone. You know why? It was meant to include also worms and cabbages, cockroaches and ivy. In other words no need of legs to reach wisdom: it's there! Feel happier? Hug the deranged, you wiser, miserable! Or adorable, for what matters...

Friday, 11 May 2012

One Man Gang of Minds or the Honorable society of minds

How many brains does it take to make a mind?

Well, if you think that a mind is the brain, the answer is ONE. Now,it is fair and correct to assume that a mind is associated with one brain, in fact you have memories of things occured to a specific brain and you can move your hands, but not someone's else, though all these obvious confirmation of the thesis, well, there is something misleading in the One Man Gang theory about mind.
You observe a brain, you see is reacting like a mind, it's done. 

The problem is, you abstract the brain from its environment, but isolation is in the theory, not in reality. First thing, try to make a cognitive vacuum around your supposed One Man Gang. In linguistics, if you don't expose a child brain to a linguistic community during the time of a window of development (usually teenagehood), your subject will be severely impaired. In his mind. Another case: put a man in jail, alone, deprived of contacts, for many years. He will go mad, right? Oh yeah, you can bet. What happened? He's gone emotional. He has no friends. Be more specific: his brain lacks feedback, literally feeding from other minds: he's mentally starving.

OK, so we'll agree that to have a healthy mind, you need companionship. Good. But it's not enough.
Do you know how the brain itself works? The most recent model is of a parallel, distributed, decentralized system. It means that the brains is doing several times the same things, from different departments, without direct supervision. A good detail is the distribution: what does exactly mean different departments? 
Well, your brain is made of several, overlapping configurations of neurons. Further on it is possible to distinguish areas dedicated to work on specific tasks, like language, visual processing and so on. But most interestingly, the brain is operationally greedy. Yes my friend, the brain wants to process and he doesn't give a dime about how. Take calculations. Despite the limping metaphor of the brain like a computer, a normal biological human brain doesn't like too much computing. Why? I tell you why: it has been evolved to live in the savanna, jungle or mountains. He had to run, to aim, to manipulate tools, to express aggressivity, to conquest females, to strike deals and alliances, to gain control of a tribe and so on. In the wild, there is more action than numbers. So if by any chance you put an electronic calculator in front of a brain, he will use it merciless. Does it account as distribution? No? Yes? When you want to remember something, you write it down. Good. Your brain retrieves the information from the notepad. Or from a neuroconnection associated. Where is the difference? The skin. If you think that cognitive process are solely the ones occurring within the boundary of your skin, then you need give me stringent definition of how the brain delegates function within his boundaries and outside: how does it defragment the procedures?

If you like to live without boundaries, then you can enjoy the procedural liberalism of the brain. This is in a nutshell the extended mind thesis of Andy Clark.
If we have an extended, distributed mind, we are probably in good company. I mean, the restless delegation and negotiation of procedures by your brain is also an interminable communication with other brains. If you want to remember something, you can write it down or ask it to a friend. If you want to move the hands of someone else, you can always ask him. Trivial? Maybe, but who are you? You don't consider yourself a bio-circuit, but a curious human being, in search of adventures, following interests, instinct: you have aspirations, ambitions, you are deluded by many aspects of society, you are disillusioned by others, you hope for a better future, you love, you hate, you are someone, it's you. Now, all these things are done in negotiations with your peers, beloved, friends, parents, colleagues, neighbors, co-commuters, acquaintances, perfect strangers. Yes you learn what does it mean to be you, by a constant negotiation with the others. Your mind is the product of this negotiation amongst the many brain interconnected in your time space social region. Of course the brain associated with your identity has a lot of privileges, but not exclusively. You don't decide who you are entirely. And you don't decide what to think entirely. Many of your thought, many of the thinking paths of your mind are borrowed, stolen or granted from others. 

This is the honorable society of brains. So the answer is MANY.

Of course there are rumors that the society doesn't exist at all, but it is an invention of the foreign press to discredit the humans...

In this case the answer is: NONE...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The spectacular show of the Brain - In prose

If someone says that he never feared death, not even once, he would be a liar. There are a lot of reasons, but the most sound is that human consciousness is awareness of mortality. Heidegger was so convinced of that, he stated that man is being for death. You could say that what really defines mind is consciousness of being limited, that is, doomed to finish, to die, to go kaput.

The argument goes that self intelligence realizes the impermanence of everything and recognizes of being part of that everything. So, intelligence is a self realization of impermanence. And that's scary.
Because we are designed to look for pleasure and impermanence is not pleasant. We see everything that we can perceive as incomplete: it is nice, but impermanent. Sometimes we can make up this by ignoring impermanence or projecting indefinite permanence. In a word, we'd like the story to be continued. Somehow, at least. We seek fame, fortune, we hope our sons will do great, we keep telling stories, the story.

The big problem is that we are incapable of accepting a fragmented story. A story that goes nowhere. Bear in mind that a story can be unfinished. That's more than possible. An author that doesn't finish his novel, a young death, a sudden change of fortune on the verge of a big hit, ending with absolutely nothing. But in all cases, the story is unfinished, not incomplete. The difference? You can easily project a segment to the story, you can image how it could go on. It's because our self consciousness is a narrative intelligence. You probably don't pay attention to that, but we are distributing narratives all over the places. We spread narratives in our environment: we inseminate every meaning in our habitat as a piece of a story. And we love to see stories! We find that to be a story generator is great. We find corals very cute, but would like to swap your life with theirs??? Boring! We are dreaming of flying, because it's so amazing to fly over the places and ... would like to swap with a pigeon? Would you appreciate flight as much as if you were a pigeon?

Being human is super fun, because is intriguing, there is a lot going on, threats and promises and ways to change the plot. Most of all because we can reflect about it. We can laugh about it: human life can be so fun because we can have fun: we can superimpose irony on facts and that's really funny. Sense of humor is super fun. And it's a big shame everything has to go to the bin.

Our brain is so excited by the show is projecting to himself, that it doesn't want it to stop. Or better: the brain is so excited by the show that it is triggered to create a spectator for the show. The show is so great that the brain design an audience for it. And here it comes the mind. Because the mind can observe the show insofar it's the show. 

Of course when the mind realizes she's the show, she doesn't want it to finish, it's an addiction for narrativity. It is painful just to think that the show one day will end. So painful that the mind would consent to remain spectator of pure nothing, but still being. In fact this is immortality: to attend an endless show where plot and stories are becoming meaningless. Do you think you will pay attention to the intricacies of a man and woman relationship, after several millions of years? Why I say millions? Just after some hundreds years: the same stories all and all over again. 

The mind game is designed to make sense in one lifetime. Immortality is tasteless. You already have what it takes to be satisfied. You are the biggest show on earth.