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...

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