Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Purposeless brains

Finally the light of rationality is tearing apart the darkness of ignorance and mythology. We have defeated the kingdom of the spirits, haven’t we?
No more fairies or demons, no more ghosts and gods, we cleaned our epistemic world from all those fictions.
Yet, if you think a bit, something of the old tales is still around: focus, it is right there...Think: YES! The mind. 
Have you considered your mind? We don’t believe in ghost and we have no reason to think that our highest cognitive faculties are represented by spectre, right?

OK so, after the awakening from the night of legends and myths, our minds can finally re-join their biological organs, which are cognitions of living beings. Human minds are the enhancement of more basic cognitive architecture. Take an amoeba: it pursues sugary areas and avoids acidic ones. This is the core of intelligence: discrimination of differences: seek for nutrients (which are pleasures) and escape from dangers (which are painful). Any further sophistication in the cognitive department is just an extension of that primeval differentiation.

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Now, living beings are instances of life and they execute a program to survive. Seeking pleasures and escaping dangers are rules of the general program: survive.
In fact life, contrary to the rest of the universe, wants to survive. No stars or planet or mountain or cyclone, really wants to survive. But living beings do. They are a resistance to decay, an affirmation of being there. If it wouldn’t tear apart the corpse of good old Martin (Heidegger), we could call living being as “Dasein machine” (Dasein: German for being there).

So all these butterflies and monkeys, all these oaks and algae, everybody that moves (or roots), is an instance of the primeval resistance to decay. Now where life took its inspiration from? Well proteins are in the business of folding themselves; folding and catalyse further reactions. One day a protein folds a bit more and catalysed itself. Bang, life. 

WHY did it happen?

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Try to predict where the first gas-ball will appear in a boiling pan, or the first crack in a glass under pressure, or the path of a drop of water on a perfectly even surface. It is simply pure chaos, pure accident. A folding protein was bending here and there and one day it went in a posture of self-organizing replication. You can’t really take your eyes off a protein that…

After the appearance of the first self-replicating conglomerate, you have essentially the random group which tends to survive, the one which is indifferent and the one which drives towards annihilation. 
Guess which one survives after few generations...
At the beginning all the starting conglomerate are equal: pure chemistry, but in few duplication a selection of the program will start. The program itself doesn't aim to anything: it is purposeless.
In few generations the program which casually benefit survival, replicates more. In retrospective we can track down a winning lineage and we can recognize a goal, a tendency to survive: here we are! The resistance to decay.
Living beings are goal-oriented to their own survival and at the same time this tendency is purposeless.

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But proteins are not gods: they have some imperfections. And they started to duplicate themselves with errors. Mistakes are the mother of complexity: in few millions years you have amoeba’s descendants who wears Gucci and talk to I-Pad. Any human brain is just the heir of those successfully folding proteins.
Our wisdom and rationality is dissipating all the old stories and finally we can see with clarity that our existence is purposelessly oriented to avoid the painful sophisticated projection of acidic environments and to pursue the wealth, the richness and the pleasure of sugary ones: properly speaking human minds are hypertrophic  amoeboid brains.

Congratulations human race, you reach a real image of yourself. Now I suppose you’ll start to blab as usual about the fact that brains are narrative and we are made of stories. It seems to me that after dissipation of smokes and breaking of mirrors, stories are just an excuse to keep the dreaming on. Oh well, who I'm kidding, pass me another story!

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