Volume 4, Issue 2
December 2009

What Life Might Be

Martin O'Dea

Page 5 of 6

However, for the proposal to become impossible on the grounds of consciousness, then consciousness needs in some way to reside outside our anatomies and our basic code. What one might state in response to this proposal is that when one dies one is unconscious and nothing else needs change in the environment.

There is also a widely held view that our memories and our ability for creative thought are beyond the grounds of replication. 

When thinking of the mind there is often a natural tendency, it would seem, to exaggerate its complexity and uniqueness. However, it clearly is no simple task to reverse engineer and may well take a long time to achieve. Perhaps a part of the reason for this is that the brain is so dynamic and is impossible to analyse without acknowledging that it is, in fact, altering somewhat for each millisecond of an individual’s life.

Creatures of Interactive Adaptation or Learning

Recent work, as reported inPhysOrg.com,[1] to be included in a forthcoming (Oct. 2009) issue of Psychological Science, showing the findings obtained by Hanson, Russell A. Poldrack, professor at UCLA, and Halchenko, is of interest in the historical context of brain imaging; and the idea that the brain is divided into areas which carry out particular tasks. This work shows that reverse engineering of the brain is more complex than traditional location specific imaging of certain areas of the brain would ever allow. The researchers found that “[D]ifferent processing tasks have their own distinct pattern of neural connections stretching across the brain, similar to the fingerprints that distinctively identify each of us. Rather than being a static pattern, however, the brain is able to arrange and rearrange the connections based on the mental task being undertaken.” (Hanson et al 2009)

What may seem plausible from this is that each interaction we have with our environment is ‘learned’ in the mind but that the complexity of information, say (in a scenario where to alleviate one discomfort we have to endure another slighter discomfort), is linked to basic responses such as desires, and survival etc. and accordingly appropriated a relative hierarchy of import as well as a vast interconnectedness with all other experiences.

The links and the import can be highlighted and reinforced throughout this constant learning process, and so seeing an old boot may have a very different set of connections than seeing one’s baby smile. However, seeing an old boot that reminds us of a tragedy through some link may well elicit a stronger – different response. In the final analysis of this conjecture, then what is at play is our DNA comprised of stored information over eons, and its unique manifestation as an I, which from conception alters as it interacts, adapts, learns and stores.

Certainly we can see the complexity and we know as Hanson et al point out that the mention of ‘dog’ does not just have to have one basic response but perhaps many in our mind’s network, we may conceive of a pet, of a dog attack, etc. What must be interesting here though, for our purposes, is that much information must be in some way ‘ready’ just prior to stimulation as surely as it is not conjured up from nothingness. One would imagine then that within the proposed immersive programme as well as suggestions such as running through some of our senses and modes of interaction we might offer open questions which will require the minds’ briefest of recalls of vast potential responses before selecting the appropriate one; if one is asked to say something – anything. All your verbalised information must be in some way ‘readied’ before you do pick that ‘anything’. This must be triggering all of your information and so your memories; as we understand them.

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[1] "Researchers develop 'brain-reading' methods." PhysOrg.com. Jul. 2009. September 3, 2009 3:38PM EST 



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