Author Topic: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)  (Read 7959 times)

Matt Koeske

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ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« on: May 26, 2008, 11:08:58 AM »

Check out an interesting piece on Edge.org by neuroscientist, Michael Gazzaniga: prologue and first chapter from his new book, Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique.

The book will be released June 24th: http://www.amazon.com/Human-Science-Behind-Makes-Unique/dp/0060892889/

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Kafiri

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2008, 12:36:12 PM »
Interesting article Matt,
Try reading it in conjunction with this one:  http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/kauffman08/kauffman08_index.html In some sense both Kauffman and Gazzaniga are writing about the same things, complexity and emergence in the form of self organizing systems.  It seems to me if we apply what Kauffman has to say with Gazzaniga we come up with this:  the ceaseless creativity Kauffman describes is what created the critically unique human brain Gazzaniga writes of.  And, as a bonus, reductionism leads us in the wrong direction. I understand just enough of complexity, chaos theory, emergence and self-organizing systems to be dangerous.  But it seems to me that the emergence of a higher level, self-organizing complex system is the product of the very creativity Kauffman describes.  Now here is where I speculate(  (-)smblsh(-) ): the very process of creativity creates the laws of that particular system.  Where were "laws," the "natural laws" of the universe one second before the Big Bang?  Did not the creation of the universe "create" the laws that govern the universe?  Taken to the human realm, consider this; as a higher level, complex, self-organizing system emerges, is created, e.g., the psyche, are not the "laws" that govern that system created in the process.  This is why Kauffman says that reductionism will not take us where we need to go. As part of my speculation, I speculate Jung sought to discover the "laws" that govern the complex, emergent, self-organized system we call the psyche.  For my own convenience I use the term "system laws" to describe the created laws of each individual emergent system.  There are a plethora of sub-systems to the basic system we call human.  As each of these sub-systems emerged the inherent creativity created the "laws" of that system.  As the psyche emerged and self-organized it's own laws were created.  As culture emerged and self-organized, it's own laws were created.  One reads more and more today(E. O. Wilson, Kauffman)of calls for science, the social sciences, and the humanities http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanities http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_sciences to come together and work creatively with one another.  And one thing that seems evident about the humanities is that reductionism does not work.  The laws of each particular emergent system must be sought out and understood.  The is exactly, intuitively, what Jung undertook to accomplish.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 12:44:50 PM by Kafiri »
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Sealchan

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2008, 01:23:34 PM »
I think your speculation is likely to be accurate.

I would say that the mechanism of the laws that arise at one level is reductionistic, but the laws themselves are not because they are a particular subset of possibilities that are determined in a subjective, historical context.  So we can't say that neurons themselves explain the nature of the rules of the mind but they do explain the mechanism of the rules.  Neurons themselves do not explain why those particular brain organs or thoughts exist because such explanations are a matter of the history of the evolution of the brain and the experience of the organisms with those brains.

Matt Koeske

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2008, 12:13:50 AM »
Taken to the human realm, consider this; as a higher level, complex, self-organizing system emerges, is created, e.g., the psyche, are not the "laws" that govern that system created in the process.

One edit I would suggest would hold the human psyche to be perhaps somewhat less "emergent" than we are tempted to see it.  That is, research is continuously showing that there is more and more "consciousness" in animals than we once (anthrocentrically) believed.  As Gazzaniga's book prologue states (if what his research has shown holds up over time), the selected mutation for the significant increase in cortex size in humans may be related to a couple "genetic switches" . . . but in many other respects, the human brain is structured and operates like other ape and mammal brains.  And it is not hard to observe in human behavior numerous patterns that are fundamentally similar to animal behavior patterns.

What I mean to get at is that many of the laws of the human psychic system are equally laws of mammal and especially ape brains/psyches . . . and so those laws have preceded the system of the human psyche by millions of years.  It remain a mystery to me just how much of our consciousness is "new" as opposed to the result of an increase in the degree of a few genetic codings.  That is, I suspect that the human brain's unique system is based on retoolings of previous "psychic" traits existing in apes and perhaps all mammals.   I don't recall the favored term in complex systems theory, but with this retooling, a few basic tweaks on a fundamental level can lead to what seems (from the outside perspective) to be a massive systemic change.  In this case, human soul and culture.

I remain more hesitant than Kauffman and some others who are true believers in complexity . . . although perhaps it is my attitude that is more archaic and superstitious.  That is, I feel we do best to approach natural complexity very cautiously . . . the way we would approach anything wild and alien, the way we would approach a god.  It is tempting for us to appropriate complexity for our belief systems, but the thing about this emergent complexity is that it cannot, I think, be contained by our egoism.  And if we are not sufficiently capable of constructing and perceiving our egoism as a margin of error in our observation and theorization, we will form a spiritualistic (participation mystique) relationship with complexity.  This is one of the reasons I'm usually hesitant to embrace gadgety neologisms (which abound in complex systems theory).  Where bunches of abstract terms adhere to ideas, it's a pretty safe bet to assume that the egoic factor still holds a great deal of sway over the theory and therefore limits the accuracy of the scientific observation of data.

Complex systems theory exposes us to a brave new world that we still know very little about.  Equally, we still don't have an adequate understanding of ego psychology . . . or ego/Self psychology.  My generic advice to all of us is to formulate a strong understanding of egoism before we dive in head first to complex systems.  Complexity has a numinous effect on us . . . and I think that much of what has been considered divine and inspirited throughout human history is, more accurately, naturally complex or the product of emergence from complexity.  But we are incapable of understanding natural complexity from Nature's perspective.  That is, we can't keep track of all the iterations and interrelationships of the systems quanta and subsystems in our conscious minds at once.  Our perceptions and comprehension are severely limited . . . and as a result, we have no option in the attempt to understand complexity than to construct reductive paradigms.

It makes for an interesting paradox, this study of complexity, because it is a human limitation that any study must utilize and depend on reductionism.  So, to say that we should eliminate or decrease reductionism strikes me as simply impossible.  Essentially, I think that to propose that we can understand complexity sans reductionism is a form of hubris or inflation . . . and I see hints of that in the zeal and ideology of Kauffman (even as I sympathize with much of what he has to say).  It is important, I think, to recognize that natural complexity is not something we can make ourselves the masters of.  It can't be bent to human belief and behave as we wish it to.  That wildness and vastness is the very defining essence of complexity.

In Kauffman's thinking I feel there is an inadequate counterbalance of ego psychology, i.e., the understanding of human perception and projection . . . of what exactly gets projected and why.  And how we might learn to better account for this.  This accounting for the ego goes hand in hand with accounting for the Self-as-Other, I feel . . . and so it requires a pragmatic implementation of individuation.  By pragmatic individuation, I especially mean to indicate the parts of the Work that come post-Coniunctio.  I.e., not just depth, descent, and "expansion of consciousness" (which is, I feel, mostly connected to the pre-Coniunctio dissolution stage), but the bean-sorting kitchen work of trying to bring the newly expanded psychic system into a manageable and functional order.

As for reductionism, I think it has become necessary to differentiate some forms of reductionism from others.  There is a kind of 19th century, positivistic, "scientific" materialism that sought to reduce naturally complex things to very simple paradigms.  That's what Jung always railed against.  But what we know about this sort of reductionism today (and are rapidly learning) is that it turned out in many cases to not be scientific at all.  Primarily because it underestimate Nature's complexity and projected onto the observed natural object a kind of egocentrically reduced Other.  That is, I think that this kind of reductionism comes from a inflated and unself-aware egoism that  looks down upon non-egoic natural complexity as if it were clearly inferior to human "consciousness".

Jung was justified to criticize this attitude, I think . . . but it has left us with a dangerous legacy, because it pushes us toward spiritualism, which is essentially rooted in the underestimation of matter in very much the same way that 19th century materialism was.  I see that kind of materialism and spiritualism as tow sides of the same coin.  Both are egocentric devaluations of matter/Nature.  It is hardly any wonder that the end of the 19th century had an intellectual climate that was half romantic spiritualism and half positivistic materialism.  Jung, in my opinion, lived a life between these two 19th century polarities, trying to find a way to pull them together.

I think that the "solution" to that Platonic split is to be found in a deep revaluation of matter (which is what I think the alchemists were on about symbolically and psychologically).  Reductive spiritualism would have to give way to a non-spiritual understanding of natural complexity.  But what we so often see in fringe and pseudo-science today is something very different.  We see the spiritualization of complexity and matter . . . and in my opinion, this approach is a regressive throwback.  I don't think we need to start calling the same old (egocentric) god, complexity.  Instead, we need to start observing and accepting the complexity that underlies our egocentric notions of divinity.  I.e., the complex materialism that enables us to experience intricate abstraction and reductionism in the way we do, emergently.

There is distinct and abundant materiality in our abstractions and reductive paradigms, in our thoughts, our beliefs, and in our languages.  I mean things like intuitive physics, our generic sense of force and action, space and relationship, causality, etc.  No abstraction can free itself from these materialistic terms and still make any sense or be of any use to us.  That is a humbling lesson in natural complexity, I think, because it demonstrates how a limited number of fundamental, material building blocks + iteration + variable interrelationality can lead to infinite emergence.  But the lesson I take from this personally is one of humility, because I know I cannot master this complexity and subject it to egoic reduction (and call that scientific).  In order to be scientific, I have to admit that the comprehension of complexity is beyond my capacity and control.  To reduce it (to an egoic paradigm) is to misunderstand it . . . so long as one believes in the reduction's truth.  And that belief is the dangerous temptation of paradigm building.

But if our (unavoidable) reductions are taken as functional fictions and allowed to be plastic and adaptive, to seek both resilience and elegance in the face of continuous change and flux, then we might be able to use these reductions as place holders or "observation decks" from which we can identify some of the natural and material elements around them.  But in order to maintain and develop functional fictions, we need to be able to valuate the "signified", the thing itself.  Where valuate is not to know or control, but to respect its Otherness without trying to conform it to egoism.  If we fail to do this, we end up observing and studying our own egoic projections (and not recognizing them as projections) . . . as seems to happen today in the theoretical edge of quantum physics,  And, from what I've seen, complex systems theory as well.

We need a mechanism through which we can know when what we are observing is actually egoic projection.  That mechanism is the kind of psychology I would like to help build/revise/champion.  And perhaps that is where the potential scientific usefulness of psychology really lies . . . in a functional construction of egoism (as differentiated from parts of the psyche that do not abide directly by conscious will).
« Last Edit: May 29, 2008, 04:58:37 PM by Matt Koeske »
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Sealchan

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2008, 12:21:41 PM »
Complexity science seems most valuable in that it offers an additional direction for the scientist who is looking for answers.  Computer simulations will be required to test theories of complexity.  But, as in Chaos theory, the specifics of the actual states of every last component of a complex system can significantly impact the behavior of the whole so matching theory to reality will be difficult. 

Where complexity science is likely to apply is in the most open-ended aspects of cerebral cortical interconnections where plasticity is the name of the game.  There are the required multitudinous units of roughly similar character interacting in relatively simple, ordered ways.  The ability of the neuron to be changed by the pattern of neural stimulation allows the qualities of sustained neural activity to be "instantiated" in the mechanism of the brain.  So here the mechanism of the brain meets inseparably with the experience of the brain.  The mind includes both aspects: mechanism and behavior.

But is not human language and culture the emergent layer of order here?  I, for one, have always been open to the idea that animals are conscious.  But the difference is that humans have developed a culture and a greater level of "self-consciousness".  We know that we know...even if we don't know what knowing is exactly.  Reading the symbols of the unconscious is always an effort of self-consciousness.  Language and the complex forms of physical activity that are governed by language all point to a whole new layer of the physical realm, what Teihard de Chardin called the noosphere (as in geosphere and biosphere).  The incidental development of the human larynx (and supporting organs) such that humans can utter clear toned vocalizations has allowed for a highly differentiable language to develop in our species.  This ability to recreate reality in words and grammar proved appreciative of a larger cerebrum.  So some primate species became able to re-present their world especially well in the form of vocal utterances that allowed for the detailed presentation of knowledge separate from the direct experience of it.  Virtual reality was born.

This eventually created not only a survival advantage but a sheer dominance over other life forms such that the biosphere now is being self-transformed (via the human species) by an emergent noosphere, a whole new level of complex physical behavior (culture and technology as behaviors of the physical world).  This last thought combines some of the idea I take from Philip Lieberman with Teihard de Chardin

The noosphere (realm of the mind or psyche) arises, in this sense, out of the biosphere not as a distinctly separate layer of physical activity but one both emergent from and somehow not reducible to AND integrally connected with and mechanically explainable by the lower biospheric layer. 
 

Matt Koeske

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2008, 11:11:29 PM »
I agree that modern culture is a classically emergent form (with original tribalism being less of a genuine emergence), but language is more complex, in my opinion.  I suspect that a development of language such as poetry could be considered emergent, but language as expression and communication is essentially part of our biology.  I mean, of course, a capability for language and not a specific language like French.  It's not very likely that we developed our big brains and vocal anatomies in once fell swoop.  And so it's reasonable to hypothesize that language co-evolved along with our biological capacity to use it.  Although perhaps its more emergent forms were produced after we reached the evolutionary point we remain at today (but perhaps not).

What I found most interesting about Steven Pinker's rather academic (but well-written) The Stuff of Thought was his discussion of language as based on the principles of an intuitive physics.  Even behind our poeticisms and abstractions, our language and our thought function in a virtual space with a physics modeled closely on the physics of the material world (i.e., the "stuff" referred to in the book's title).  In other words our language and thought are less emergent from the materiality of our cognitive process than actually very much mired in that materiality.

My belief is that this cognitive materiality is the main root and source of the "psychoid" phenomena (i.e., archetypes) that are the meat of Jungian interests in the psyche.  That is, archetypes behave like material things.  They are not abstract or egoic, but logical and imbued with libido.  They function in predictable ways, just as matter is predictable (at least on non-quantum levels).  That's why they can be studied . . . although it's hard to say what it is they really are beneath the symbolic narrativization that our perception gives them.

I think Jung's theories and studies of archetypes are of great potential importance to the understanding of the human psyche.  Regrettably, Jungians have been at least as fascinated with the numinous mysteries that adhere to archetypes as they have to the logic and signification of psychic materiality that the archetypes suggest.  My feeling is that the study of archetypes can help us learn about psychic structure perhaps more than anything else.  Deification of the archetypes is probably inevitable, but I'm not sure this is the best approach for either individuation or the construction of a functional psychology.

You bring up neurons, Chris, and the little I know about neuronal behavior has fascinated me . . . because I fell that I can often sense or observe my thought-feeling process operating with memory complexes and quanta in very much the same way that we know neurons interact.  Specifically in the interconnectivity or specific associative patterns of memory quanta and the way some of these connections are triggered by building action potentials.  This seems to fit in with the way we valuate associations of memory quanta on an observable phenomenological level.  Each association between quanta has a scalable valuation.  The constructs or complexes of memory quanta that we "think in" are conglomerates of complexly associated quanta.  The construct is composed not only of the specific quanta associated, but of the quantifiable strength of each individual association.

This model would indicate that even seemingly "simple" thoughts are actually very complex and multifaceted.  But we (as conscious thinkers) do not think on this quantum level of neuronal memory.  We take the constructs or complexes of these quanta and move them around in psychic space in accord with intuitive physics.  But as the chess players of our thoughts (rather than the chess piece builders), we tend to be unconscious of the way some of these piece inherently interact with one another.  There are ways these memory complexes (as systems composed of quanta) can fit together with or have a specific relational effect with other memory complexes that we do not easily see.  Because on the quantum level of memory, there are quantum reactions and interactions that structure our thoughts without our willing them to.

It would not be surprising if biological structure (in the brain, primarily) and instinct were to "seep into" the system of cognition on this quantum or unconscious level.
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Keri

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2008, 09:54:07 AM »
You bring up neurons, Chris, and the little I know about neuronal behavior has fascinated me . . . because I fell that I can often sense or observe my thought-feeling process operating with memory complexes and quanta in very much the same way that we know neurons interact.  Specifically in the interconnectivity or specific associative patterns of memory quanta and the way some of these connections are triggered by building action potentials.  This seems to fit in with the way we valuate associations of memory quanta on an observable phenomenological level.  Each association between quanta has a scalable valuation.  The constructs or complexes of memory quanta that we "think in" are conglomerates of complexly associated quanta.  The construct is composed not only of the specific quanta associated, but of the quantifiable strength of each individual association.

Do you think this part of the reason that the more you pay attention to your dreams and give value to their particular symbols, the more the "dreamweaver" seems to make efforts to help you understand by reinforcing those symbols or building on them?  Are those symbols actually the associations or constructs or complexes (and I understand you to mean this differently from a "Complex," right?)?

Love, Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

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And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
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Matt Koeske

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2008, 04:55:13 PM »
Do you think this part of the reason that the more you pay attention to your dreams and give value to their particular symbols, the more the "dreamweaver" seems to make efforts to help you understand by reinforcing those symbols or building on them?  Are those symbols actually the associations or constructs or complexes (and I understand you to mean this differently from a "Complex," right?)?

That's my working hypothesis.  But, of course (like neurons), these symbols change slightly as the connect with other quanta (and complexes) in memory . . . and as time progresses.  It's possible that the dream symbols we consciously fixate on and analyze are actually more likely to "evolve" and morph, simply because we are constantly relating more and more new (and old) information to them.  In fact, it now occurs to me that such an evolution of archetypal complexes of memory is also a close parallel to the alchemical Work and its transformation of the prima materia.  I knew there was a good reason for me to like alchemy so much  (-)idea(-)!

This would mean that these symbols are not static, and our analyses of them are not confined to excavations of buried layers and depotentiated memories.  We can help grant revitalizing libido to these symbols through our conscious attention and obsessions (The Art perfects Nature, as the alchemists always said).  This is very clearly the case with animi figures . . . and they also seem to reciprocate the libido our attention grants them.

This is all just guesswork and intuition . . . but I do like the way it would seem to match up with the way neurons behave.  In general I'm skeptical about 1-to-1 mappings between psyche and brain (I've yet to come across one that impressed me).  But if we are to be genuine materialists (rather than spiritualists), we must accept that it is highly likely that on some level, a 1-to-1 mapping might exist.  It might be too complex to ever "decipher" it with any precision, but of course our capacity to know something does not define its existence.

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Matt
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Matt Koeske

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Re: ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE? (Michael Gazzaniga)
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2008, 12:10:37 AM »
Are those symbols actually the associations or constructs or complexes (and I understand you to mean this differently from a "Complex," right?)?

Yes and no.  I don't think that the complexes of memory quanta are equivalent to something like what I mean by the core complex.  The core complex probably would be somewhat nonlocal in the brain, drawing from many (all?) different areas and memory complexes.  The core complex would be a major determiner of "personality", a way that we are, think, feel, and relate to the world and to information in general.

With these things I'm calling memory complexes, I'm thinking of conglomerates of associated memory quanta which would perhaps manifest in dreams and visions as a symbolic figure or object.  Like, for instance, the cylindrical, picnic, sushi bag in my Men at the Vessel dream (apologies to some, as this was not posted publicly).  That symbol is a collection of qualities that connect to emotional associations for me.  Each quality has a somewhat different association, and these associations converge at this symbol . . . where the symbol is the memory complex of this convergence of quanta.  The symbol is a narrativization or condensation of the convergence of feeling-toned associations.

But in the case of dream personages (especially major ones like animi figures), I suspect we are talking about more than a simple convergence of memory quanta.  We are, I think, talking about a whole structure and dynamic of the psyche complete with instinctual and genetic presences.  Personages have will or agency, and that will can come into conflict with the ego's will.  It's more like we are relating to something at least partly Other when we are dealing with complex dream personages.

But on some level, even these archetypal personages are constructed in memory (in dreams, that is) in the same fashion that memory complexes are constructed.  The same rule of association applies, as does that of the gravitational center of the complex or personage that attracts memory quanta to it.  If these phenomena parallel neuronal activity, then that same activity is afoot in both memory complexes and personality complexes . . . but the latter is significantly more complex and less fixed in brain space.

You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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