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Mind/Body

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by Hip, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    If you look at the architecture of a computer, and the history of computer development, it is a designed constuct that operates on logical principles, has a clear data representation strategy, and was developed step by step into methods for combining low level physical processes in such a way that they can be described and manipulated in high level abstract symbolic terms.

    Computational systems analysis is a high level data and logical abstraction analysis. It can produce data flows and algorithms for manipulating them.

    Programming uses software that is based on logical manipulation of lower level computational abstractions. Those programs use data that is stored in logical and separable ways in the computer, including magnetized regions in conventional hard drives.

    The lower level processing software uses assembly language, which itself is a collection of routines that translates into machine code. Machine code in modern digital computers is binary, 0 or 1. This is what is encoded in various architectures.

    The brain is very different. Things are not stored as 0 or 1. That storage can be modified, sure, but so can any physical structure. Modifiability is not enough to proclaim it software, nor at the software level. Yet it might be argued that the brain can modify its own structure, and that therefore this is equivalent to that structure being software. This would be a mistake however. Much of what the brain does is instantiated and mediated by local physical processes. Its not run according to any symbolic or rules architecture. There is no software processing of such structure, neither by symbolic processes nor logical algorithms. Abstracting things to a software description is just a model.

    Again it might be argued that we use symbols, and we think in terms of symbols, which demonstrates a software processing capability. Again, this is a mistake. Modern neuroscience is showing most of what we do, how we think, is non-symbolic. The very "symbols" we process are not precisely developed definitions/data, but flexible distributed processes, most of which is nonconscious. Because of higher brain function we can learn and manipulate rules. In a very limited sense this can be said to be what a computer does, but the nature of how we do it is so very different. We are still learning about that. We are not logical or rational beings, we do not think symbolically. We are creatures who can learn to use logic or rationality or symbols, just as we can learn to speak English, or Dutch, or do higher mathematics. There is an abstract level that can describe this in information theoretic terms, but such terms miss the complexity of what is going on. It is when someone starts thinking of such abstractions as real processes in the brain that mistakes are made.

    What can be changed, and how it can be changed, that could be described as learning or adaptation, is itself defined by brain architecture. We are only just beginning to understand this. I regard the view that the brain is a computer as a major impediment to progress.

    These are fundamental problems relating to abstraction and the nature of models. The most important statement in systems theory is this: the map is not the territory.
  2. lansbergen

    lansbergen Senior Member

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    But the brain is not static, it changes. As I understand it with your definition the whole brain would be software.
  3. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Yes, and so is a tree or a rock. However I do not think Hip means changeability per se, but the capacity for self induced change, i.e. learning or adaptation. Unfortunately that definition possibly applies to an amoeba or tree, and definitely anything with a CNS, though not a rock.

    The processes used in brain adaptation apply equally well to fish. I wouldn't want to claim them as symbol manipulators though. Fish have limited learning capacity. They can learn new categories of events and respond to them. However they cannot reverse what they learn as a sudden change in response. That requires abstract manipulation of data. Such manipulation is most probably not symbolic, but it can be described in terms that are symbolic, which is where the confusion comes from.

    You can describe anything in symbolic terms. Anything. That doesn't make such descriptions either accurate nor reality.

    This whole language is confused, with meanings of terms being blurred and re-used in different contexts. This leads to the confusion, and I am most probably not exempt from that. We need new ways of thinking about the brain, and about psychiatric disorders, and a good place to start is to get rid of the old language and confused and misleading models. Lets at least admit ignorance when we don't know stuff.

    There is a gradual change in intelligence from worms up to advanced mammals, though emergent intelligence in things like ants is very different from intelligence found in mammals. Humans also have a form of emergent intelligence. I think one popular name for that is culture, though things like mob behaviour are something else. Its rules are different again. Humans are also different in that we developed external memory storage - ways to store and transmit what we learned. The earliest was probably simple verbal signals and gestures, which evolved to language and cave painting, and in the current age has led to computers. Such things do change the nature of intelligence, but we are still figuring that stuff out. However many animals appear to have a taught culture, especially primates.

    Here is a debate point for anyone wanting to think about this stuff. The Rosetta Stone is famous in having versions of a message in three very old languages all together on one stone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_Stone

    Here is the question, one which was an informal debate topic for me circa 1994. Is there any meaning on the Rosetta Stone? Why or why not? Discuss.

    My answer is simple, which I can explain later, but was very unpopular with a few linguists, philosophers and people who believe in the symbolic basis of intelligence. There is no meaning on the stone. At all.
  4. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    Q. What is mind?
    A. No matter.
    Q. What is matter?
    A. Never mind.

    (I'm not getting into this whole arguement. Minds do not exist, they're just an illusion of consciousness.
    I have a brain. I'm not any form of dualist and there is nothing after death.)
    My mind is completely closed on this matter.:p

    But I do like what you're saying, Alex. I just don't have the patience to argue about what a mess cognitive "science" and Chomsky's silly LAD has made. It does have it's appeal to dualists who insist that humans are somehow not animals. The whole load needs forgotten and binned and we need to go back to the '70s and behaviourism, now we have more advanced methods of studying it properly.
  5. Kina

    Kina Moderation Team Lead

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    I am finding this conversation fascinating. I picture my brain as a swirling mass of dense fog. I wonder in the end, will our human brains ever be able to fathom how the human brain actually works. There is a lot we do know and a lot we don't know. :)
    ahimsa likes this.
  6. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Hi Kina , I forget who but I think some great minds have asked the same question: are our minds smart enough to understand our own brains? I think we will but only in abstract. The complexity of the brain is orders of magnitude beyond anything else studied in science. Its not a surprise it still represents a largely unmapped frontier.

    This whole area of debate is relevant to ME though, largely due to one thing: psychobabble. Confusions about mind and body, and cause and effect of things, especially mind over matter, are at the core of psychobabble.

    On another front, notice I used the word "minds" or "mind" four times before this sentence. Yet it is not clear that it has the same meaning each time. "Mind" is a confusing term.

    Alex.
    Kina likes this.
  7. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    The mind is not the brain. The mind is consciousness, which is not limited to the physical body. This is something that scientific reductionism won't acknowledge, because it limits consciousness to a specific location (most notably the brain), and concludes that consciousness is FULLY dependent on the brain to exist.

    In my experience, this is not 100% true. There are times when I have been in the midst of some very nasty neuro symptoms, including an incessant pressure in my frontal brain, and in spite of those symptoms I have been able to access a part of myself that was not suffering from them, to identify myself with that un-suffering part, and thereby greatly lessen the suffering. This gave me a HUGE feeling of relief and freedom. It did not make my symptoms go away, but it made me feel that they were much more peripheral and not as oppressive.

    Unfortunately, I do not know how to make this shift from brain to mind easily, but I know it is possible, because I have done it. The one question that helps me get there is asking myself "WHO AM I?" When I identify with my brain and it's symptoms, then that is who I am. That is where my consciousness remains. When I see myself as more than a body that is in the throes of the symptoms, then the shift is more likely to happen.

    The big obstacle is always resistance to feeling my symptoms. I can't get out of them, if I don't feel them, and I don't want to feel them, because they feel BAD. But when I allow myself to feel them and investigate them with my consciousness, then they usually become much less bothersome. However, it requires a lot of self discipline to do this, and I am not always up for that.
  8. gracenote

    gracenote All shall be well . . .

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    Not the point, but funny?​
    "I'm Triggered: Neuroscience"​
    Valentijn, Mark and ahimsa like this.
  9. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    OMG! :alien: If I ever resort to talking like that, please just smack me!​
    Valentijn likes this.
  10. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member

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    Dense fog, check!

    But mine's usually a lot more stagnant than swirling. :oops:

    I've also enjoyed the discussion although the whole hardware/software discussion is way over my head. And I used to be a software engineer. *sigh*

    On that note, I'll leave you with my joke about how to tell the difference between hardware and software:

    Hardware is anything you can hit with a hammer.
    Software you can only curse at.
  11. rosie26

    rosie26 Senior Member

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    If someone talked to me like that, I wouldn't be able to stop laughing !!!! It's too weird.

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