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Some Random Thoughts About The Human Mind
Sometimes you have a new thought, an idea, or eureka moment, but it’s not gutsy enough to expand into a reasonable length article or essay. So, here’s a potpourri of thoughts on all manner of aspects dealing with all that stuff that’s between your ears that’s too good not to record, but with not enough meat available to flesh out.
* You Then; You Now: That you that existed ten years ago share none of the fundamental particles, atoms, molecules, etc. that makes up that you that really does exist right now. Yet you in the here and now can connect with that you that existed a decade ago. You remember that you fell off your bicycle, and you may still have a scar of two visible from that former era and accident. So what bridges the gap and connects you today with you yesterday or that you ten years ago?
* Mind: When it comes to the human mind, I like the observation that we spend a lifetime trying to make a mark on the world when in fact it is the world making its mark on us.
* Mind: The mind is not a synonym for ‘the soul’. The mind is a thing because it requires energy to power it. The mind has reality, even if it is just a nebulous part of the brain (i.e. – the mind is not a separate structure or organ within the brain). If I destroy your brain, I destroy your mind. The mind is the repository of all those non-autonomous controls you have over your body; those voluntary functions (like doing your homework even if you don’t feel like it) or quasi-voluntary functions like holding your breath, forcing yourself to stay awake or hold off going to the bathroom. It’s where your memories are; where you think (processing information already in storage or newly received); where you make decisions. The mind is often divided into the subconscious mind and the conscious (self-awareness part of the) mind.
* Mind: Your mind contains all that makes you, you. It is the essence of you. It contains and controls your perceptions, knowledge, memories, creativity, emotions, your thinking, your understanding or comprehension or ability to figure things out, your personality, and it houses your dreams and daydreams. A frequent topic for discussion in philosophical circles is whether or not the mind, specifically your mind, is the be-all-and-end-all of cosmic reality. The answer IMHO is a resounding “no” because the mind cannot be a perpetual motion ‘machine’. In other words, the mind is like all things (assuming other things), a thing subject to deterioration over time or subject to entropy. All things go downhill – dust accumulates, desks get cluttered, stars run out of fuel, cars breakdown and people grow old. It takes a constant supply of external reality energy and matter (same difference) to keep entropy at bay. That renewal of supply might win the battles, but entropy ultimately wins the war.
* Worldviews: It struck home to me recently how often we shift our worldviews. We have no worldview at birth. Our worldview at five is one that’s full of self, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, imaginary friends, and parties with lots of cakes, cookies, soda pop and presents. All of that certainly changes, and drastically so, when you hit the teens when your worldview shifts to the opposite sex and sex and rebellion against all things adult. Maybe somewhere there’s an easing in period, a first stirrings, where you start to acquire a worldview of a God and heaven and angels and all things bright and beautiful (that’s probably imposed on you by parents and social mores. Then you get trust out (usually by choice) into the adult world that’s full of bills and responsibilities and employment and/or family life raising your own brats. During all of this you probably never really think of the ‘natural’ cosmic context you find yourself in. But that tends to come as you pass the half-way mark and start heading downhill. The Big Questions come more to the fore and you start to adopt a worldview that makes comforting sense away from the normal routine worldview of taxes and nasty bosses and your kids in trouble with the police again. Again, for most, that tends to revolve around God and heaven and angels, etc. But some people start thinking more outside the comforting religious box and more about space and time, and before and after, and finite vs. infinity and what non-religious Big Picture makes the most philosophical and logical common sense. And whatever specific you come up with can also shift as you reflect on your earlier reflections without end as new concepts and connections come into being or focus which you’ve got to ponder and fit into the master worldview jigsaw puzzle you’ve established.
* Consciousness: Every living thing from humble microbes to plants, jellyfish to frogs, birds to cats to primates have consciousness because all respond to external stimuli in ways that are not predictable by classical physics (unlike a rock expanding and contracting as the temperature rises and falls). From conception to brain death you feel and respond to stimuli 60/60/24/7/52, like gravity and temperature, etc. If you respond, in un-rock like ways, you have consciousness.
* Consciousness: Consciousness is just the awareness of your surroundings in the here and now. You have to draw on your subconscious to identify the nature of those surroundings. Self-awareness is acting on what you became aware of, the nature of those surroundings and for that you also have to draw down upon your subconscious. You’re aware that you hear a noise and you need your subconscious (experience and memory) to identify it. Maybe it’s thunder; or a car cash; or your dog barking; or a door slamming or a jet plane flying overhead (which you then need to identify as a normal commercial jet or a military fighter jet). Your self-awareness of that will then draw down upon your experience and memories for the proper way to respond to the nature of that noise. You may need to secure the property if there’s a thunderstorm coming; or call the police/ambulance if it was a car crash; or let your dog in, etc. You’ll self-awareness will respond differently if you smell something consciously and that something according to those subconscious memories you immediately draw on tells you it is something cooking vs. something burning. In the case of the noise or the smell, a one day old baby couldn’t make that distinction between this or that since it has no subconscious memory bank on which to draw though it consciously hears the noise and smells the smell just as you do.
* Consciousness, Theory of: Actually I don’t think it’s all that mysterious; well it may be mysterious but it’s biologically universal. Every living thing from humble microbes to plants, jellyfish to frogs, birds to cats to primates have consciousness because all respond to external stimuli in ways that are not predictable by classical physics (unlike a rock expanding and contracting as the temperature rises and falls). From conception to brain death you feel and respond to stimuli 60/60/24/7/52, like gravity and temperature, etc. If you respond, in un-rock like ways, you are self-aware or have consciousness. If you should have some different definition in mind, then perhaps look for a dividing line between that which is clearly not exhibiting consciousness by that definition and what is. What is the difference in biochemistry between that which is and that which is not? Explore that and you’re on the way to an answer!
* Self-Awareness: Consciousness can be expressed as a series of Russian dolls, which probably doesn’t actually explain what it is, but it’s interesting. We start with: “I’m self aware”. Then, “I’m self aware that I’m self aware”. Then that string is followed by “I’m self aware that I’m self aware that I’m self aware” and so on down the line unto infinity.
* Self-Awareness: Here’s a wicked thought experiment. Create two clones of yourself. Raise them to maturity. Then, remove their brains and toss them away (this is just a thought experiment and so morals and ethics can be bypassed). Now have your brain removed (and toss your body away). Have one hemisphere transplanted into one clone; the other hemisphere transplanted into the second clone. While the two hemispheres of your brain have slightly different emphasis in terms of functionality, you can function as a reasonable whole with just one hemisphere. Now the question arises, will you be self-aware in two bodies at the exact same time? You could accomplish twice as much and be totally aware of the totality!
* Self-Awareness: Presumably your self-awareness begins at conception, and thus there is self-awareness even at the cellular level. Now if you, and here ‘you’ could be a plant or a microbe, respond to stimuli (external or internal), then you are self-aware, albeit awareness of self comes in degrees – a mammal is more self-aware than a cactus even though both can respond to stimuli. If you respond to stimuli in a way that’s not predictable by the laws of physics then you are self-aware. A rock cannot be a ‘you’ since it does not respond to stimuli in any way that physics cannot predict and thus a rock is not self-aware.
* Self-Awareness: Fast-forwarding to the future, if your mind has been downloaded into a hardware (silicon and steel) body, you can always upgrade to the next and newest model. I see the spawning of a robotic fashion industry! The 2050 you wouldn’t be caught dead inside a 2045 robotic model! The other ramification is that you can ‘clone’ yourself (or rather your mind) by downloading your mind as many times into as many robotic hardware forms as you wish. Perhaps one robotic form that’s designed for undersea exploration; one designed for mountain climbing; another that’s small enough that it can explored the most claustrophobic of cave systems. If your mind exists simultaneously in many different robotic bodies, then you must have more than just a single self-awareness, simultaneously.
* Comprehension: Try as I might, I could never teach my cats the barest and most basic rudiments of algebra or even those boneheaded elementary mathematics of arithmetic that elementary schoolkids master. I could never get my cats to understand and appreciate the ancient Egyptian cat cults and goddesses. Even the concept of biological evolution – the how and why cats evolved into cats and the ancestry of my cats would be so much triple-Dutch to them. Their wetware, neurochemistry, etc. just isn’t up to this. Sunshine gives them warmth – that they understand but not how the sun shines.
Now, the upshot of that is, despite the human arrogance that our minds can comprehend everything part and parcel of life, the Universe and everything, perhaps we just can’t through absolutely no fault of our own. Maybe human brains, in the here and now, are not capable of figuring all things out, like the meaning of quantum physics, and the theory of everything (TOE) which is basically a theory of quantum gravity and coming to terms with what exactly is dark matter and dark energy and answering all those other questions that have gone without resolution for thousands of years.
* Free Will: I think most of us would agree that a reasonable definition of free will is the ability to voluntarily and consciously choose between two (or more) courses of action. You make a decision by your own free will that’s generated by your internal conscious self with no external influences, like someone, even Mother Nature, holding a gun to your head! However…
What if you view an optical illusion, an apparent reality of which there are numerous classic examples available? Initially you have two choices. You can convince yourself that what you are seeing is indeed reality (wrong choice) or you can convince yourself that what you’re seeing is not reality (right choice). But that’s mission impossible.
You know – you are consciously aware – that what you are looking at is an illusion and not reality. Can you now, of your own free will, take that course of action that will actually convince yourself that what you are looking at is an illusion and not reality? You know it’s an illusion, but can you convince yourself of that fact? Try as you might, no matter what, you will still see that apparent reality – the illusion – even though you know it’s just an illusion. Your brain is fooled and your mind can’t do a damn thing about it. Your free will cannot free yourself from seeing the illusion. You cannot negate that illusionary effect of your own free will even though you know it is not reality.
Now some optical illusions give you the apparent free will to view the illusion as this thing or that thing (like the classic two faces or one vase), but you can’t sustain that. You will shift perspective between the two illusionary options quite against what your own free will dictates. Further, you don’t have the free will third option of seeing neither of the two illusionary options.
In a somewhat similar vein, watching one of the season three episodes of “Through the Wormhole”, part of that episode, exploring the subconscious, showed the experiment of a test subject who was fitted with a pair of camera-glasses that showed him an image of a test dummy dressed the same as the test subject. The test subject was fully aware of this. The test subject was then conditioned by being stroked with a rod while at the same time viewing the test dummy being stroked. Then, the test dummy was suddenly violently assaulted, and of course the test subject reacted as if he were being assaulted and not the dummy. Even when the test subject was told that the dummy was going to be assaulted, he was aware of this in his conscious mind, he still couldn’t help himself via his subconscious reacting as if he were being assaulted instead of the dummy.
In short, your conscious mind cannot override or overturn your subconscious, free will be damned.
* Free Will: You probably believe you have free will. What you are actually thinking or saying is that you believe your brain has free will since you are your brain. Your brain is what makes you, you. Or, in other words, your brain believes your brain has free will. But your brain is just an interconnected lump, with the consistence of soft butter in a vat of salty water, of neurons, synapses, all firing tither and yon due to neurochemistry and biochemistry. And of course chemistry is just molecules and atoms and therefore electrons, neutrons and protons doing their electron, neutron and proton thing. So how is free will an emergent property of physics and chemistry?
Say you make a decision and then direct your brain to set in train whatever it takes to make that decision so, which is to say your brain decides to do something and then directs itself to make it so. There’s something odd about that notion. Your heart doesn’t decide to have a heart attack and then proceed to implement that decision.
Say you, or rather your brain, decides to cross the road, and puts in motion what’s needed for you to cross the road and so you start to cross the road. You would tell me that you decided to cross the road of your own free will. As you are crossing the road a runaway car heads right at you and so you decide to leap out of the way. But did you really consciously decide, of your own free will to leap out of the way, or did you just do it without any hemming and hawing and pondering whether or not to leap out of the way. You would probably tell me you had no choice in the matter, you just leapt out of the way, yet you (or your brain) still had a choice and still made a decision.
So what is the difference in principle between your decision to cross the street and your decision to leap out of the way of the runaway car? I maintain there isn’t any and thus your initial decision to cross the road was predetermined, by your subconscious if nothing else even before you became aware that you had apparently made a free will conscious decision.
Actually it has been experimentally verified that decision-making stems from the subconscious and not the conscious mind. Your perception that at least some of your decision-making is made consciously is an illusion. Therefore, there’s no such thing as conscious free will (which makes perfect sense if we live in a Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe).
* Free Will: Does free will require you to have an infinite or unlimited number of choices, or a finite number? If the latter, you’re still confined in a box, just a slightly larger box than if your box confined you to one and only one choice.
* Free Will: The ultimate lack of free will associated with you is that you had absolutely no say in being conceived and being popped headlong into this world. You had no choice in your ancestry or in your genetics or your sex or even what historical era you were to make your way in. Now if you have absolutely no free will in these rather important, in fact absolutely fundamental, parts of your life being kick-started, why should you expect any free will from there on in?
Of course in some societies you’d have no choice in schooling or religion or upbringing or even to the person you got hitched to, etc. But all of that really falls under a separate category of sociology and culture and has nothing to do with the metaphysical or usual notion of what it means to have free will.
* Dreaming: From the moment we wake up, until the time we go to sleep, our brain gets bombarded with sensory inputs – sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. When we go to sleep however, we’re in sensory isolation. Unless it’s a really loud bang, or super strong odour, or the pet dog jumps on top of you, you sleep soundly through it all. It’s not good to be in a sensory isolation tank for eight hours straight, which is what sleep is. So, how does the brain manufacture sensory input? Dreams! Apart from the automatic functions of the brain/nervous system, like breathing, your brain keeps active via dreaming. It’s generating images and receiving back those images – busy work if you will.
The reason therefore that it’s hard to recall your dreams, well it’s akin to short-term memory. Once awake, once the brain is in forward gear, in high-drive, what was dreamt about is now as irrelevant as what you had for dinner 101 nights ago.
* Reality: The only thing you can be absolutely sure of that exists – your definitive reality – is your mind. Your mind is the essence of what makes you, you, but even that doesn’t exist forever – your reality is fleeting. That aside, everything external to your mind is iffy in reality, including your own body, something also external to your mind (housed in the brain thingy of yours). You may say that ducks exist external to you because if you see a duck and it flies like a duck and it waddles like a duck and it quacks like a duck and it lays duck eggs then your reality includes a duck. Except, when you take, or think you take, or dream you take a dose of LSD, the duck then morphs into a rainbow coloured striped griffin. Or, you wake up and the duck vanishes from your (dream) ‘reality)’ – So much for ducks being a part of your external reality.
You might argue that there has to be an external cosmic reality including ducks and your body since the brain which houses your mind is subject to the physical effects of entropy (increasing disorder over time) and thus needs a constant supply of matter (like oxygen) and energy (say chemical energy derived from the food you eat) which only an external reality can provide to restore order. It’s hard to argue against the premise that the mind is like all other things subject to entropy. The mind is not the exception to the entropy rules, rule. But exactly how entropy is overcome (albeit temporarily) is up for grabs – things might not always be as they appear to be. For example, your mind could reside inside a computer programmed to give the illusion of an external reality of a cosmos and a world and your body. However, that computer is also subject to entropy and thus requires an energy source (in this case electrical, not chemical). However, that source of energy must have an external reality to that of the computer which houses your mind. A computer is no more a perpetual motion machine than your brain is.
* Reality, Alternate: Any alternative reality (i.e. – higher realms of existence; spirit worlds; non-corporeal beings; astral planes; etc.) expounded by those who have experienced that so-called ‘reality’ by deliberately altering their brain chemistry via ingesting, injecting or inhaling various brain chemistry altering substances (alcohol, LSD, marijuana, petrol/glue sniffing, pain killers, or just any old generic ‘magic mushroom’), or undergoing sensory isolation is totally suspect, has no credibility and is not to be believed. That equally applies to involuntary brain chemistry alterations (i.e. – exposure to bring flashing lights, lack of sleep, oxygen deprivation at high altitude, long-term fasting, or eating foods that inadvertently contain brain chemistry altering chemicals).
You certainly don’t accept your mind-generated alternative realities you experience in dreamland when your brain is in sensory isolation mode, so why accept the ‘magic mushroom’ variety?
It’s hard enough coming to terms with everyday reality when you are wide awake and stone cold sober, so who needs to unnecessary complicate things with alternative ‘realities’? In fact, even when you are wide awake and stone cold sober you cannot always trust your mind to reveal to you really real reality – optical illusions anyone?
This alone blows out of the water most of what lumps together as New Age claptrap, like altered states of consciousness. You may alter your consciousness, but that doesn’t expose you to really real reality.
* Reality, Personal: Assuming there is a really real reality out there (as opposed to virtual reality via software or wetware), you perceive relatively little of it (like radio waves) and what the substance and structure of it is. What you do perceive (like light waves and sound waves) is second-hand, filtered and distorted having gone through several phase transitions from source to mind; from initial action to your final reaction.
* Reality, Ultimate: I’ve viewed many interviews with those to pontificate about ultimate reality being wrapped up in the human mind and consciousness. That’s nonsense. To get to an ultimate reality, start by removing one level of unnecessary complexity – life, mind, consciousness, etc. Nanoseconds to even millions of years post the Big Bang event, the Universe was sterile. There was no life, not even a proto-cell far less a microbe. What was ultimate reality then? There must have been an ultimate reality. Whatever the ultimate reality was then, it still is. Life, mind and consciousness are irrelevant.
* Telepathy: There’s one absolute reason I’m convinced telepathy doesn’t exist. As I go about my daily walkabout routine and associated observations, I’m forever passing out mental thoughts and images of what I think of many of the deadbeat drivers and other lesser forms of humanity I spy with my little eyes. My thoughts tend not to be very complementary to say the least. But since the lowlifes and rift-rafts haven’t ever proceeded to immediately stop their lowlife activities and drop what ever rift-raft things they were up to, to instead change direction towards me and beat me about the heat and body unto a bloody pulp for my unflattering thoughts, I conclude telepathy doesn’t exist. If it did, I doubt I’d be typing these thoughts now.
* Telepathy Revisited: There just might be a (slight) case to answer after all. That telepathy isn’t, isn’t silent one or two way crystal clear communication over vast distances between two separate brains or minds. What telepathy might be is that vague sense that there’s another mind out there, close by though, that has some resonance with your own. The classic case is that sense that you just know that someone else is watching or staring at you even though you can’t see who it is.
There has to be a medium by which this transfer can well, transfer from them to you. That medium apparently is Earth’s electromagnetic (EM) field. Brain thoughts or activity is electromagnetic in nature. It perhaps might be barely possible for those brain EM waves to be carried via Earth’s EM field to another person’s brain. That other person would at best just have a quasi-vague sensation that they were sensing, well, something, without being able to put a definitive finger on the specifics to many decimal places.
The non-human evidence is how large flocks of birds or schools of fish can in near unison turn on a dime. Since the “turn” command isn’t vocal, and visual observations would make for unacceptable lag times, the idea is that the communication is EM in nature from brain to brain at light speed via Earth’s EM field as the in-between medium.
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