The illusion of coordination
I want to introduce you to Michael Gazzaniga. The man who showed us how the left and right sides of the brain can become separated, and have conflicting demands of one person. My own interest here is more a demonstration of how brain function can reflect our projects.
Contemporary brain sciences are closing in on a mystery. Edging toward the possibility of the illusion of singular control, and singular truth. Even the most nihilistic among us will struggle to accept our limited ability to choose. So says Michael Gazzaniga in his 2012 book, “who’s in charge : free will and the science of the brain”, (cf Chapter 4 ff). In the proceeding chapter he introduces the interpreter part of our left brain. A function that retrospectively takes credit for automatous actions. Gives them justification. Backfilling explanation that we offer to external enquiry when no such conscious intervention really occurred. We even have a part of the brain that is active in recalibrating time lines in recall to help us in this justification. At a very fundamental level, we lie to ourselves to give meaning to actions, of which we had little control.
In his 2019 book “the consciousness instinct” Gazzaniga presents a compelling case for just how uncentralised this brain interaction is. Most interestingly is the suggestion that as our life experience grows, we add more modules to neurological stacks (each with its own operating procedure or rules) and so the complexity grows. No module is interacting with another, other than in the output of the last, and offering an output to the next. These countless numbers of stacks then competing against each other. Each demanding attention with signals to the conscious part of us. The most successful contributing stacks become more relied upon, as more positive experience, and increase in regularity of use, thereby rewarded and invested in further. Redundancies are just a by-part of the whole. “What wires together, fires together” he cites from mantras born from Donald Hebb (ibid pp62). Offered by Gazzaniga as one more death nail amongst many to psychological behaviourism which others, like Noam Chomsky’s preprogrammed brain theory of symbolism and language, have further hammered home.
The latter part of this 2019 book is perhaps the most mind bending (pun intended). He reflects on pp193, of Pattee’s quantum and classical layers and size factor of enzymes that enable 1D and 3D connections – suggesting the mind-body problem sits at this same interface of the physics of relativity vs quantum theory. On pp196 he has notion of complimentarity still being resisted but that from herein is life. As order and chaos. Physical and arbitrary. Probabilistic symbolic measurement and material physical laws. Increasingly ordered and increasingly complexed over time. That this tension also has external account, pp209 Rebecca Sax, MIT – there is a part of the right brain that is specialised at anticipating the intentions of another person.
In my opinion, what this is explaining is our understanding of change. The intentional actions of change. Which we as human beings have become more able and sophisticated at managing. Although to what extent we are truly free to choose is debated at length in both books.
The data complexity management at a fundamental life perspective pp219, also suggests challenge between perspectives. To show how long life has been doing this he offers time perspectives in terms of evolutionary timelines of millions of years ago (mya). As bottom-up thinking ~550 mya, competing with top-down ~350 mya. This is presented as data control advantages which offer complexification needing new modules to find new ways. By pp222, he presents bubbles emerging that are selected by a control level that is built into the complexification of modular structure. The chosen output from one modular structure, picked because it represents new rules that offered the best result based upon prior experience. Replaced or upgraded when better protocols or rules offer better results still.
Who reads even the broad sentiment of this build up, and cannot see a comparison to the organisational challenges in projects we externalise every day?
My next psychology focused blog will introduce communication decisions, as cost-benefit decisions of the brain.