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20130415 Is it really nobody in charge?


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This book is a very interesting view at the world from seemingly special point of view of neuroscientist. Generally speaking it describes works of human brain as it is understood now based on significant amount of research and experimentation with people whose brains were impacted either by lesions or necessary surgeries that either took out some parts of brain or cut out some connections between parts of brain.

The picture that emerges from this research shows human being not as one defined and whole entity as we usually perceive ourselves, but rather as totality of multiple neurosystems that pretty much independently control not only unconscious functions, but also a lot of what we consider conscious thinking. Especially interesting are multiple experiments with people whose right and left hemispheres of brain are separated and cannot communicate. Since our receptors are independently connected to left and right hemispheres such people react completely differently to the same stimuli depending on whether they presented to left analytical part of the brain or to the right sensitive part.

The experiments with “interpreter”, that is the part of left brain which makes sense out of inputs, shows that our “making sense” has really shaky relation to reality while having a huge costs for the organism which spends 20% of energy on supporting such a huge brain. It has to be good evolutionary explanation and in my view such explanation comes from survival advantages provided by long term planning. I think that such planning even if based on incorrect assumption allows for much better outcomes of intentional acting comparing to just plain reaction to environment. Obviously if planning occasionally gets to be based on right assumptions, the result would be spectacular improvement in survivability; the great example would be agriculture which is completely based on long term planning.

Another interesting philosophical take out would be understanding that even our own personality is not really one strictly hierarchical command and control system that we believe it to be. If even one brain of one person is really a complex combination of multiple autonomous and semiautonomous systems which act pretty much on its own and interact with each other via communications based on the strengths and volume of signals which often make us act even before we consciously decided to act, then we deprived of one and only example of effective work of command and control system.

That puts all philosophical structure of superiority of top down command and control systems build in XIX century in precarious position of being based on plainly incorrect understanding of reality. If even a brain of one person is really not a top down system, but rather neurological market where different parts of brain exchange signals and producing actions as outcome of self-organizing activities, then what reason do we have to believe that other complex systems like human society could be efficiently organized in such way? The answer is – none, and without such reason the whole philosophical foundation of communism, socialism, and such just goes down the drain.

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