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Some posts from antiquity...  Ranting about the Brain
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Subject: What if synaesthasia IS thinking?
I like reading and thinking about the brain.  This lump of goo defines us, small changes made to its chemical/sugar bath can have drastic effects on who we think we are, and how we behave, and research shows our brain makes decisions LONG before we're aware of it, and our two hemispheres contain two different personalities, and ...  I mean, shit, how can you NOT be fascinated?

What follows is an old post from my old old old blog, discussing the brain:

What if Synaesthasia IS thinking? What if there is no center of thought, some phantom consciousness of our brain that accounts for oursense of self?

It struck me while I was biking today that synaesthasia might be just extra communication among brain components, that these components were already communicating and that synaesthasia was just an extreme of this interlink phenomenon.

Now it's been said that creative people are seven times more likely to be synaesthetic, but what I'd like to know is: are intelligent people likely to be MORE synaesthetic!? One way of measuring intelligence is raw computational ability. Another is memory or recall. Another is lateral thinking, the ability to piece together parts of a puzzle that might not be related at first glance but later prove to be so.

What if this is intelligence? What if the synaesthetic condition is just an extreme form of the interconnects that drive our brains?

We have vision centers, sound centers, shape processors, facial recognition, sound buffers, 'fight, fuck or flee' centers... They're all connected - what if smarter people have more connections, or more efficient connections?

Have there been studies of any correlation between synaesthasia and intelligence? Damn damn damn, this is amazing to think about.

And I was thinking about the nature of consciousness - still not more than 5 pages into these new books I got (was reading the Vernor Vinge novel instead) but I was thinking (heh)...

Perhaps there is no consciousness, per se. The brain is a big lump of specialized interconnected data processors, each gulping down as much input as it can and sharing the symbolic, digested concepts with other centers. The more interconnects (or more effient ones, I don't know which is more likely to prove true but the result is the same) you have the more information can be shared and the smarter you are... But what if these processors, tied together by a shared memory, ARE consciousness?

I imagine one possibility is the temporal lobes, largely believed to be the foundation of actual thought and/or consciousness, are time-sensitive correlators of data. This region of the brain simply (hah) monitors the entire symbolic network and pieces together an entire world view from the echochamber of babbling processors we call a brain. I wish I could find confirmation of that idea presented in a Dilbert cartoon that the brain doesn't show any 'conscious thought' activity until after actions have been decided, 'cause this would lend credence to the idea that the lobes are merely an after-the-fact piecing together of what the brain has already done.

This is how drugs affect the brain, we can't control this because there is no "we", we're a processor trying to make sense of the babbling output of a collection of processors!

This doesn't absolve us of responsibility, or show that we have no 'free will' but instead reinforces the idea that we are what society makes us. Our brains are wired up from the moment we're born, making sense of this onslaught of data and creating a worldview based on things that the brain centers and memory consider consistant. If the brain decides 'good kids' are really a survival priority then we'd create more systems were kids are instructed properly, programming them in effect to have the values and interconnects necessary to function the way they should...

Suppose the brain really does work this way, we don't have a consciousness so much as an animal instinct to preserve and prolong life, and the brain - based on a lifetime of observations and accepted relationships - instinctively picks the proper path! I don't see a huge leap between "fire hurts, must avoid" and "if I teach my kid how to act fairly and honestly it will be easier for me to work with him, and he with the world, and my survival chances are better when others pull for me instead of push against me."

Now assuming this is the case, we've got a massively complicated parallel processing device that's designed to input data and sort it into relationships. These relationships are stored in a communal memory which all centers share, and the entire mess is driven by an instinct to avoid pain, fear and ultimately death. It's true that a few simple rules can create forms of infinite complexity, and from these simple parts we've arrived at a brain that seems conscious, seems aware, and functions as we've come to expect.


[oh yeah]

I meant to wonder: Language is passed to us from our parents and our society, it's one more set of input, another tool to forge relationships between concepts. How much does language affect the sense of self, and if there are languages without a word for "I" do people natively speaking this language lack the sense of self we're seeking here?
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