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Monday, May 14, 2007

T.P. - Part I

If you toss a coin seven times to get seven heads, you know there is something wrong with the coin.
This topic is going to be weird so please be prepared for it. It is a controversial topic. I've been thinking about it since long. It has literally "consumed" whatever little mind I had! I won't jump straight to the point and start with some background information.

Slaves or Masters
I had once written a long post about consciousness and its existence etc. This is closely related to that, yet very different. Consciousness, I guess we are all aware of. But my question this time is, other than taking lots of critical(maybe) decisions, what is the role of this 'consciousness' ?
Okay. You want to walk from point A to point B. So your conscious brain gives orders to your brain to walk/run etc to point B. And then you walk/run watever to point B. Apparently simple. But it certainly not so. Walking itself is a very complex thing, when you wonder about the nerve impulses involved, which muscle to relax, when to relax, when to contract, coordination, balance, destination, etc. But, the catch is, when we walk, are we aware of all these things happening ? No. All we say is WALK and a certain program gets executed in the BRAIN which makes us walk, by following various very very complex procedures.

The Brain and Us
From the last example, we could see that we(consciousness) have an important role in giving orders, but no role at all in following complex instruction sets. That is done inside our brain. Think of all the other tasks that we do and the skills we posess. How effectively, the brain is able to bring about these complex changes, and we are unaware.

Practice makes it Perfect
Back to the same example. How did this 'walking' program get executed? A possible mechanism can be this, that all these "programs" are stored in memory and recalled when we need them. To store them in memory, such automated programs, we practice a task. For example, any sport. When we play football, as a beginner, we try and get better. We try to dribble the ball, keep it in control, and try to aim it where we want. Then we practice. Resultantly, these skills come naturally to us. The next time we play the game, we dont have to think about doing all these things. It almost becomes a "HABIT". We take it for granted. This is an example of how our brain learns. We decide on something. Practice it. And a PROGRAM for the same is created in memory which gets exectuted when we need it.

Power of the brain
We hear it everyday that the human brain can be very very powerful. It is true indeed, if we notice the above examples. Well, maybe some of the processes are carried out by or in coordination with other organs as well, yet the capabilities of learning and then reproducing the learnt skill so effectively is impressive indeed.

The Question
I end this post, keeping it short and not touching my origional subject at all. Though the question I look forward to ask is, now that Ive given an example of how the brain learns these skills :

Can we TEACH our brain, a skill, which is seemingly impossible, yet possible in theory ?

I guess I framed a weird question.
Let me just ask,

CAN WE TEACH THE BRAIN ANYTHING WE WANT, if it is possible theoretically ?

I would also like to see if one one you could guess what the heading of this post stands for. HINTS: The Sub-headings.

See you soon with TP - Part II

~ Twish ~


Lagnajeet_Das said...

Interesting topic to discuss about honestly!..Well in my opinion Yes, we can teach the brain anything we want. It is not a computer , but even better than that.It has unlimited Hard-Disk space..Exceptional speed and accuracy. But what is required is our will and our concentration. These 2 things prevent us from being able to learn anything and everything.

Moreover, It is very difficult to have 100% efficiency in will power and concentration. Human mind is like a computer with infinite memory n infinite speed...and the computer requires unlimited n uninterrupted power to run! which is not possible due to many external influences.

So, it is mainly the external world, that governs what happens in our brain. To decrease external interference, the best possible way, as known till date and practiced quite widely .. is Yoga.

saurya_time_travel said...

nice post and a good topic to discuss. well i dont agree that u can program ur brain that easily. i however dont disagree completely.

lets take an example. say som1 is aracnophobic: afraid of spiders.(ronald weasley !) he certainly wants to defeat his fears. program his brain to delete all scary ideas bout spiders. but can he?

not really, but surely he can ...confusing ?
okay leme elaborate.

our brain is more intelligent than we r. when we see ourself in a mirror eyes are fooled bt nt the brain,(well unless it'sa st gobain mirror).

i will giv an analogy, when u download a patch for say windows xp, when is it installed? whn the system boots or shuts down nd system need 2 restart aft that. becoz the system memory has to be empty b4 that.

same for our brain. it has to be empty b4 we can reprogram it. guess wat i am taking bout --- HYPNOTISM ...

TwIsTeR said...

Wow ...
Infact the last two words... of both the above comments... would be a part of .. PART 2...

but no 1 tried guessing the title...

Arun Chaganty said...

Hmm... Lets see, Ten Parts?

Five in this one, five in part 2?

Well my take on this is that:

1) Conciousness is not the act of just being able to walk from pt. A to pt. B, but that of FREE WILL (I think that might be under critical decisions). Also conciousness is that meta sense, your inner mind talking, your "mind's eye". I like my conciousness very much indeed.

2) Regarding the question, this is something I've been trying very hard to do. I've tried to get myself to think of ideas on demand, didn't work out very well. I also tried to conciously multithread my brain. I've experimented with putting two stories together, one word of each alternatively, and tracking the story. A bit more successful. Don't really have a point here, but I think that yes, it is possible to get the mind to do anything, just no highly probable (teaching myself Quantum Physics in 3 seconds).

Gr81 said...

Wow now thats some post!

I agreed with your idea about "learning" a task. Its like a Macro - u define a set of instruction and the next time u just need to call the Macro. Or better say a function (like in programming) coz it also allows us to make a few changes in the task.
Like if we go from A to B, we can change the speed, path etc. So even when we aren't exactly controlly which muscle shuld b relaxed our brain does control this according to our wish. So we can say that no two steps taken by us are same.

Brain is very complex. And since there are a few HP fans here (:D) they wuld agree that even for defeating the boggart (in the wardrobe) you need to overcome your fears and think about something funny. So its very tough (and maybe it is practically impossible to make our brain learn everything with 100% efficiency, but its theoretically possible!) but as Lagnajeet mentioned with meditation, yoga (and hypnotism) you can try to improve your efficiency.

So Arun lets see you learn Quantum Physics in 3 secs.. (Mayb wid practice u will b able to do that)

Gr81 said...

Waise TP culd stand for Time Pass :D
Thats wat i do these days

saurya_time_travel said...

Hmm .. TP sounds very err .. well leave it .. i asked my dad (a neurosurgeon) nd there is no such abreviation in either psycology or psycatry or neuro sciences ... so lets start guessing ..

it could well be 'theoritical probabilities' nah .. too mathematical ..

or 'TEMPORAL PROGRAMMING' well this cud be a good one, temporal lobe is a part of the brain where coordination, speech nd MEMORY r stored .. thats it !

it fits in ! wat say ppl ? (i had programed my brain to extract the word out of twish's) ..

obiwankenoby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
obiwankenoby said...

tp, looking at the subheadings, means 'the power'.right??

Arun Chaganty said...

Temporal Programming sounds awesome. However, Twish did say:
HINTS: The Sub-headings.

On the topic, where does conciousness start appearing, I have a theory. I've done some dabbling in AI, and a lot of thoughts are around the fact that perhaps the brain gains its power from the neural connections . This has me thinking that perhaps conciousness does too.

First of all, I'd like to point out that the time for our brain to pass on signals (neurons) is something like 10^-3 seconds, not very fast, in comparison to around 10^-9 or less for most computers. Furthermore, the number of storage units in most computers is FAR FAR more than neurons. Many other specs are also more than that of the brain, EXCEPT, that the brain's neurons are connected in a most unique fashion, and have a heck load of connections. We are definitely able to store more information (this would be data/unit) that a computer, and we are able to process much faster. Why is this. My bets are on the fact that we have a very distributed computing framework, with thousands of parallel processors, instead of just 2 or 4 (or 8 I hear). There is no bottle necking of execution of commands in the brain (I'd like to mention that 1 processor can only execute one command at a time. Period. Multitasking just sends commands to the processor in a staggered fashion, so it looks like things happen concurrently.)

Now, let's look at SOCIETY! I wouldn't think it would be a longshot to say that a society is a connection of HUMAN BEINGS!. I mean to extend that connections analogy from the cellular level to the very macrocosmic level. Society definitely is a different story from an individual. There is no doubt in my mind that a large amount of human development is because we have a societal structure, where we do have a sort of "group" conciousness, as obiwan did mention.

If you take out some blood, and put it on a slide, and observe through a microscope, do you see any conciousness. Nope. Whats the difference? Is the blood concious in the body itself? I truly have no idea, but I'd say no. But I'd like to comment that blood is not connected very well, it doesn't form a superstructure (thought the veins and arteries do).

One last point I'd like tot make. Remember proteins, and their multiple structures? You know, from the very atoms, to the arrangement of atoms (amino acids), to the chain of amino acids (protiens), to their helical structures, finally (could there be another such structure?), the last structure of protein folding. Every stage plays a big role. But the last stage, plays a humongous role, of directing substances through its structure, to get it to connect to the right chains, etc. That is the superstructure i'm talking about that is present in the brain, and in our society.

Your views...

Dhruv said...

Really nice post. Thought provoking.

saurya_time_travel said...

Networking, that is certainly the key to consciousness, as all of u certainly have pointed our. our body, or i dare say the network of neurons, is the true 'us'. I mean what are we but the consciousness of being ourselfs. (A bit philosophical, but plz adjust)

'ab main mere aukat pe aa raha huun.' Let me discuss some thing about the quantum mechanical aspect of consciousness.

I hope u ppl remember the scodinger cat paradox. well let me say, that the box which cointains the poor cat, HCN bottle and hammer and all, also cointains a well masked observer. There is also an observer outside the box. Let us say at time T=t, the cat hammer drops, bottle breaks and poor cat 'allah ko pyara ho jata hai'. but this is only observed by the guy inside. for the one outside, the cat is both living and dead.

in quantum terms the uncertainty wave functions have not yet collapsed for the outside observer, i.e. he is not yet conscious of the event.


with this definition i think analysis should be easier and more scientific. a cell cannot be conscious, on its own. this is because to bring about a collapse in wave function, 'observation' is nessary, and a cell cannot 'observe'. The human eye is also not conscious, becoz, although it can see, it cannot 'observe'. try to get my point. a comprehending device is required, a brain.

a last example. say we remove all sence organs, eyes, ears, skin, tougue and nose from a subject. (am a bit diabolic ...) will u consider him conscious ? come on he has a fully functional brain ...

so i will conclude with this - consciousness is a network meant to collapse wave functions and brain is nt the only part of it. it includes the sence organs as well no doubt. Doubt is whether it should also include 'output organs'.

Suggested reading:
quantum mind
quantum brain dynamics (QBD)
quantum consciousness

saurya_time_travel said...

Phew !
i talk a lot dont i ? ;)

your turn ...

Lagnajeet_Das said...

i guess TP means "Twish's Posts" hahaha lolz

Arun Chaganty said...


I'd like to argue that that analogy doesn't really help. Your saying that a brain is required for conciousness, but a brain isn't a brain without being concious. It's like saying an object is round if it is a ball.

Also, something about the argument;
A person is concious of an event only after the wave function collapses is rather... weak. Suppose a ball bounces outside the box. There is not uncertainity there, no wave function has collapsed. Is the observer concious of that event or not?

Regarding whether a person without any sense organs, would it not be possible to still execute those critical functions of conciousness, that of decision making, and that of talking to one self. Awareness of one's own existence. That is really what conciousness is, not just seeing whether an event happens or not (other wise computers would be "concious:" by now)

I recommend Roger Penrose's Shadow of the Mind for an account of the science of Conciousness. I've not completed it. But he says that the current scope of science (including quantum physics) can't explain it, and that it requires a new science altogether. He starts explaining about that new science, but I've not reached yet.

Nice discussion we are having though. Lots of ideas popping out.

obiwankenoby said...

hey like that!
so many comments pouring in?not bad at all!

i dont know about the schrodinger's cat paradox and consciousness as told in the quanto pop science books- can i get it here?

about the topic though words seem to fall short when i start on the topic- but the point i wanted to press was that this thing is not dicrete and you cannot say that the chicken that hatches out of the egg became conscious just.....now!

and also your consciousness depends upon how many sense organs you have and their corresponding sensitivity.
ever seen and talked to a psychologically hypersensitive person?
they can sense the animosity, affection, anger -whatever you have between your ears -and seek you out.
but yell at them, unleash your fury and they break down -compare to measuring a km on a screw gauge!

consciousness also depends on the size of the organs though.but come to the point-why cant we reproduce our brain on an ic?
i am of the view that computers are faster than us but their vital fault is that they see the world in bits and bytes while we,another class of machines, use another approach to gauge\see our suroundings.so want computers that specialize in remebering events and cant even reproduce a picture they store accurately?
two options- change the apprach to programming forever, or try your head- it meet the specifications.

i am using the snbose library right now and polarization of light has lost the aura of being boring.coming up with a post in......... say.........a lifetime?

pssst-why does this word verification take twice?

Gr81 said...

Now i missed on a lot of convo while I was offline!

U guys are really discussing very nicely.
Just a few things I hav 2 say:
First of all, can some1 tell me how exactly our brain is formed? (I hav no clue) I was just thinking that when we compare "The Brain" with our computers, we forget that the brain evolves forever, that is it keeps on changing in a much more rapid way whereas a chip once made, isnt changed untill it lands in garbage. There are ppl who regained their memory, or made their mind "sharper". So what exactly changes in their brain?

I heard of a guy who was able to enhance his brain so much that when asked to remember and recall a sequence of numbers, his brain would show very little activity unlike a normal brain who would try hard to recall the numbers. I dont know what "little activity" medically means (Maybe something like less neurons were used in a more efficient manner to transmit the signal)

About the sense organs part, I agree with Arun. A person who has only a brain is still concious. But there is a difference. A person blind with birth will think in a completely different manner than a person who lost his sight later. Because the former has no clue about how round a ball is, whereas the latter can atleast "visualize" how the ball is even though he can't see it.

So if you have a brain (without any sense organ from birth) you will never get a chance to think the way we do. So I fear that would mean no evolution of brain, no adding of "macros" and no knowledge of anything that is around us. It would be like being in coma.. u are alive but no less than dead.

So is this also conciousness?

PS: If you have switched to the Blogger 2, then u need to be signed in your gmail account. That way you will automatically get an option to comment using your Blogger account (U dont need to sign in again, nor write the verification code - which is shown to only "Visitors")
Happy Blogging!

Navneet said...

okay...seems like all of you guys have a completely non-biological view here.

ok so lets see how the brain gets conditioned to perform certain tasks....for this we first assume that all the circuitry is is place and is working normally.

when you're talking about learning, its a voluntary task...hence there are higher centres of the brain involved(the very fact that we can chose what we wish to learn and otherwise)...so when a child starts to cycle...its a new task and what is happening is that the circuitry that allows control over this task is being strengthened with each time it is practised...thus after a definite number of tries, the kid learns to cycle.
now once an activity has been learnt, it is transferred from a voluntary activity to an almost involuntary one (some people can talk on the mobile while driving a car, not possible when you're learning)....biologists call this conditioning, if you've heard of pavlov's experiment you'd have some idea of what it is about.

maybe i should write some stuff about the brain, seeing that you guys are interested in it.

@twish: is TP by any chance supposed to be "two pence" or "theoretical programming" ?

Abhinav Uppal said...

Nvr knew dis Blog is so happenin...

I like ur style Twish, f xplainin thins...

Dis is da first time, dat I had da patience to read thru a post... lol

Eagerly waitin 4 T.P. part II

M nt givin my views here, lets c wat Twish has wid him to say nxt...

obiwankenoby said...

oilyes the blog is happening right.
but tell me if you know the highest number of comments a post has recieved-in our blog.
can this be the record setting post?(think guiness!)

okay you wont believe who i saw here(actually u would)- sunita panda of kgp fame.she is here for her bitsat and staying in the IISER guesthouse. but i couldnt talk to her much because iwas SO SO SO hungry that i kept shifting legs. D

the consciousness post has a lot to earn from arun's interest though-robotics and interaction of biological systems.
and navneet should post a brain-y article so that we get the full picture.you owe us one navneet!

so long mates

obiwankenoby said...

and i am also a bit disappointed that the ornithopper post dried up.

Arun Chaganty said...

umm... who is sunita of kgp fame?

obiwankenoby said...

sunita panda was a kvpy summer camper with us. she read in the kv of iit,kgp.