I have a theory on mind that dovetails yours, and I hope you will like it. It has something to do with the way old things become new things, thus also with how old ideas become new ideas.
It is one thing to be able to simulate situations, but it is another one to predict them, and that's what our brain is able to do. Theoretically though, we cannot predict new things out of old ones, but we can certainly have the feeling that we can. We have the feeling we can win the lottery for instance, and this feeling is so strong that we buy tickets even if we know we almost have no chance to win. I also have the feeling that my theory is right even if it is completely speculative. Do we have a brain function that forces us to speculate, a neurotransmitter that rewards us when we take chances? And even if it was so, how could we use our memory to speculate since its duty is to remember things, not to change them?
I found a convincing answer to that in Darwin's theory. That theory shows that things can face changes in their environment if random changes happen to them when they reproduce themselves, and memory is a kind of reproduction. So I figured that our ideas could change if random mutations were happening to them, or if random crossings were happening inside them the same way randomness at the DNA scale helps species to evolve at their own scale. Other animals do not speculate, and it might be because their mind is not able to produce randomness, or at least, not the way ours do. Do we have a random function that alters our memories randomly or is randomness part of the way memory works?
If it is a function, then it has to be located at a place where all the information goes through, so it might be part of the hippocampus' duty when it simulates situations. If it is the way memory works, then it might be due to our neurons' imprecision, which may be similar to people's indecision when they vote for instance. Sometimes we feel we can take risks and we vote for change, and sometimes we feel insecure and we vote for security. If more people feel secure, then the government changes, but nobody can predict future, so no government can either. What happens is that we socially take a decision without knowing it will work, and I think it is also what our mind does, so it has to stay concentered on what it does in case it wouldn't work, and it is that concentration that we would call consciousness. It is change that we would get conscious of, and when no change happens outside of the brain, we could get conscious of the change happening into it.
When we drive for instance, we are not conscious of the road until something that our mind cannot subconsciously handle happens, but we are still conscious of what we think, and we can even remember it. So this way, you're right, what we are conscious of is a simulation: we simulate the response to a change, and we can also simulate a response to our own internal random changes. It doesn't matter if we take a risk while thinking, but it might be dangerous to do so while driving, or even while trying a new way to fly for instance, but it is so rewarding when it works that I think evolution has developed a particular way to force our animal mind to take risks: imagination, which comes with the pleasure of imagining a better way, which is of course only a simulation. I have more to say on our subconscious behavior, but I will let you digest what I said on our conscious one before continuing.
"Some people are effectively attracted by novelty, but I think that, most of the time, we are resisting to it."
I agree with you. I think that as organisms, we initially orient toward novelty, but not necessarily in a friendly way. We instead assume possible threat from the novel.
And like the gorillas with Jane Goodall, even when we stop seeing the novel as a threat, we just ignore it and act like there's nothing there.
Particularly when it comes to novel ideas that confront our pre-existing belief systems, yes, I agree there is a lot of resistance.
"Notice that, if my idea succeeds to transmit itself, it doesn't mean that it is right, it only means that it has survived to its changing environment until now."
Again, agreed; Susan Blackmore would also. You're describing the genetics-like spread of memes.
Now, I'm having a harder time understanding what you're saying about mass, movement and waves, but I'll continue to try to figure it out before replying more.
« novelty (at least initially) attracts us, rather than getting us to resist it. »
Some people are effectively attracted by novelty, but I think that, most of the time, we are resisting to it. I like novelty since I present some, but facing other's ideas, I noticed that, whenever they don't have anything in common with mine, I don't really study them. I'm looking for people that understand what I say, and my own theory says that whenever an idea is too different than the ones we already have, we can simply not understand it. It works like the evolution of species: facing an external change, if by chance you get the right mutation, you will survive and transmit the mutation, otherwise you will have more and more difficulty to live. It means that you will understand my idea only if one of your ideas is already close to mine, or if the right mutation happens to one of your ideas while we are discussing, which is highly improbable. Notice that, if my idea succeeds to transmit itself, it doesn't mean that it is right, it only means that it has survived to its changing environment until now.
« Here's where I get really lost. Why does the second object move? You haven't mentioned any force influencing it. »
Whenever we place two sources of waves at a certain distance from one another, they will move to stay at the place where the wave they get from the other source opposes the wave they are actually producing, and once they are at the right place, they will act to stay there, so we will have to exert a force to move one of them away from the other before the other is aware of the motion. They will then be producing what we call a standing wave, a wave that doesn't seem to be moving, just oscillating, like those ones at wiki for instance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_wave#Opposing_waves
They do so because it takes less energy to produce their waves this way, because they kind of share the work. We know atoms do that because we can compare the resistance they offer when we accelerate them alone to when we accelerate them while they form molecules. Their resistance, thus their mass, is always less important when they form molecules. That's what is called the loss of mass due to bonding in particles' physic.
I'm trying to keep up with you; having a little trouble.
"when we throw a ball, its mass opposes the force we apply to it, but in the same time, it is because of its mass that the ball starts to move, because if we could not feel the force it exerts on our hand, we couldn't even throw it."
OK, I get that. I'm not sure yet I understand how it connects to evolution.
"what would happen if two sources of waves would behave to stay synchronized while we would accelerate one of them towards the other: the first one would resist to its acceleration, and the second one would only move after a while, what would induce a space-time shifted motion between them."
Here's where I get really lost. Why does the second object move? You haven't mentioned any force influencing it.
"the same thing will happen if one of them gets perturbed by an external event: he will immediately resist to be perturbed"
I don't see why you would say that. We have evolved to attend to perturbations. Yes, there are thresholds of perturbation which will trigger full attention, but novelty (at least initially) attracts us, rather than getting us to resist it.
I'm intrigued by your efforts to find common underlying phenomena in these various situations, but I can't follow your reasoning enough to understand it.
« Can you give a common real-world example of what you mean? »
Here, I am comparing evolution to motion, and I show that they depend on the same seemingly opposed two phenomenon. It is easier to understand with a motion example, so here is one; when we throw a ball, its mass opposes the force we apply to it, but in the same time, it is because of its mass that the ball starts to move, because if we could not feel the force it exerts on our hand, we couldn't even throw it. Mass is related to both motion and force at a time, what we call inertia, and my theory shows how it can be so.
« Are you saying that the doppler effect produces mass and motion? »
Exactly! With doppler effect, we get two phenomenon for the price of one. The resisting part is easier to understand, because we know that moving with regard to a source of waves immediately produces doppler effect on the waves, but we also know that if it is the source of waves that moves, it will take time for the doppler effect to reach us, so we can still imagine what would happen if two sources of waves would behave to stay synchronized while we would accelerate one of them towards the other: the first one would resist to its acceleration, and the second one would only move after a while, what would induce a space-time shifted motion between them. The two sources of waves would follow each other at the same speed after the acceleration has stopped, but the information that tells them how to move would still come from the previous space-time location of the other source.
That's exactly what happens when we make a move: it takes time for the information from our mind to reach our muscles, and it also takes time for the reaction from the environment to reach our mind, plus it takes time for the move to be executed. If the timing between two people is crucial, as it is for friends for example, and the only way they can communicate is with waves, the same thing will happen if one of them gets perturbed by an external event: he will immediately resist to be perturbed, it will take time before the other one notices it, and it will also take time before the first one notices that what he suffered had an effect on his pal, what should induce a common movement in the same direction, which is away from the perturbation. Of course mind accounts for different kinds of timings, the short and the long term ones, but I think all the timings work the same. For instance, gravitation gives us one of the most common timings we have, the day and night, and we still can compare it to atomic clocks, which is a timing at the atoms' scale.
Here's a link to a free .pdf of Buzsaki's 2006 book "Rhythms of the Brain". His first line in the preface is: "The short punch line of this book is that brains are foretelling devices and their
predictive powers emerge from the various rhythms they perpetually generate." That sounds like it fits well with your theory.
"It's the same for our ideas: the ones we already have must not change while part of them suffer mutations, otherwise we could not even remember them, so we could not either apply to them the new mutations."
That sounds plausible. You could be describing the episodic memory engram, which usually undergoes rapid degradation (loss of detail) in order to efficiently encode the gist of the remembered event. Since recall works via reconstruction of the previous event, the reconstruction from a degraded signal may give rise to all kinds of errors.
"Once something is born, like a new specie for instance, its inertia (mass in the case of atoms) works to keep it the same, it opposes the changes that come from the environment, and at the same time, random mutations happen to its components (random direction or speed in the case of atoms), which inversely work to account for the same changes. So in reality, those two seemingly opposed forces work in common to preserve the most important part of the new phenomenon, which is its own existence. During the time catastrophic mutations happen to some individuals, most of them are reproduced very precisely, and they have to because it takes time until mutations are selected by the environment, and because during that time, the specie must stay the same."
I'm not sure I follow this. Can you give a common real-world example of what you mean?
I'm also confused by this:
"In my theory on motion, it is doppler effect on the information exchanged between particles that produces mass and motion, so if we consider that the information is carried by electromagnetic waves, then we can attribute the doppler effect to those waves."
Are you saying that the doppler effect produces mass and motion? I don't understand.
« Evolution is possible, to my understanding, based upon two equal and opposite forces/tendencies in the universe. One is the tendency for things to fall into patterns, i.e. to 'fit' together, and the other is entropy, the tendency for patterns to fall apart. Without entropy, we would have no mutation or death, both which are needed for natural selection. And without the tendency toward pattern-formation, we would have no structures, no life at all. »
Your fitting process fits my resistance to change process, and your entropy one fits my change one, but what links them seems a bit different, so here is my opinion in case it would help us to progress. Once something is born, like a new specie for instance, its inertia (mass in the case of atoms) works to keep it the same, it opposes the changes that come from the environment, and at the same time, random mutations happen to its components (random direction or speed in the case of atoms), which inversely work to account for the same changes. So in reality, those two seemingly opposed forces work in common to preserve the most important part of the new phenomenon, which is its own existence. During the time catastrophic mutations happen to some individuals, most of them are reproduced very precisely, and they have to because it takes time until mutations are selected by the environment, and because during that time, the specie must stay the same. It's the same for our ideas: the ones we already have must not change while part of them suffer mutations, otherwise we could not even remember them, so we could not either apply to them the new mutations.
Incidentally, I looked for randomness or noise in the listing of Buzsaki's papers and I didn't find any yet. You wouldn't have a link to a precise paper by chance?
« you talked about pushing atoms, and their resistance being mass. But most of the time, the dominant resistance in atoms is probably electromagnetic, rather than mass. »
In my theory on motion, it is doppler effect on the information exchanged between particles that produces mass and motion, so if we consider that the information is carried by electromagnetic waves, then we can attribute the doppler effect to those waves. In other words, it doesn't matter what kind of information is exchanged between the particles as long as it takes time to travel.
Thanks, Raymond, for taking the time to explicate your ideas. I think there's a lot of value in them.
Do you know complexity theory? The idea that complex macro processes are self-organized via underlying simple micro processes. For example, neurons firing is based upon relatively simple ion transfer processes, but give rise to thought and invention.
My own take on complexity theory is that self-organization is based upon 'fit'. Electrons fit with protons, atoms fit together to make molecules, which fit together to make protein chains, and so on, up to life. And natural selection is based upon fit: how well does the organism fit into its environment? I like the concept of 'fit' because it is much more reasonable to say that electrons fit together with protons than it is to imply that they 'want' to be around each other. It builds the universe out of something like geometric necessity, rather than volition.
Evolution is possible, to my understanding, based upon two equal and opposite forces/tendencies in the universe. One is the tendency for things to fall into patterns, i.e. to 'fit' together, and the other is entropy, the tendency for patterns to fall apart. Without entropy, we would have no mutation or death, both which are needed for natural selection. And without the tendency toward pattern-formation, we would have no structures, no life at all.
So, too, this is probably also true of our world-views and belief systems. We are born with loose systems, but our early training builds up a pattern of interpreting the world, which may define us our entire lives. It is only entropy, or as you say, randomness, which allows us to re-shape those early systems. It may be the randomness of having an outside person or force that shifts one's view, or it may just be the randomness in one's brain that allows room for new ideas to come in or out.
In fact, I think we probably all have more innovative ideas than we're aware of, but because we don't even give our own outlandish ideas opportunity to mature, many are probably hindered by the rigidity of beliefs.
So, yes, I think you're probably on to something. The only push-back I would give is in one of your examples: you talked about pushing atoms, and their resistance being mass. But most of the time, the dominant resistance in atoms is probably electromagnetic, rather than mass. But that's small and technical and unimportant to your main point, which I think is good.
I didn't have the time to look at Buzsaki's work yet, but I love to talk about my theory, so here it is in gross. It is about the way two atoms of the same molecule would behave if we could punch them with a small device, considering that the information that links them would not travel instantly between them. While I was trying to find ways for atoms to use doppler effect for their own purpose, I realized that without instantaneity, one of the atoms would necessarily move before the other was aware that he did, and that this way, the information exchanged between the atoms would then suffer doppler effect. The first atom to move would produce blueshift on the information it is actually sending towards the second one, and it would also produce blueshift on the information it actually receives from the second one, so the second one would move when it has received the information not to produce blueshift, and the first one would resist to the punch also not to produce blueshift.
The delay the information takes would thus produce the motion of the whole molecule only after a while: it would produce the motion of the second atom after a while, which would produce redshift on the information sent back to the first atom, which would produce the motion of that first one after a while too, and so on as long as the atoms would exchange information. But the way the first atom resist to the punch in the beginning is nothing else than resistance to acceleration, which is nothing else than what we call mass, so after a while, I realized that the same mechanism was able to explain inertia, which is at the root of the relativity principle. Later I realized that the same thing was happening to us when we exchange ideas: it also takes time for the information to travel between us, and we also curiously resist subconsciously to others' ideas.
Again later, I realized that there had to be a reason why we could still change our mind while resisting to do so, and since I already decided to apply my idea to anything that changes, I new I had my answer when I applied it to the evolution of species. If species could change by chance, then it could also be the case for any change, wether it would be the acceleration of atoms or the change in ideas. This way, the randomness that we observe at the quantum scale could be due to atoms trying random directions or speeds during their acceleration, and our own imagination could be due to a random process affecting our mind. With those ideas in my jar, I then went fishing on the forums, and I wasn't surprised to observe that the fishes were resisting to change their minds about their minds. :0)
Thanks for your comments.
About hippocampally-damaged patients: I have scoured the literature on this patient population, but some questions don't seem to have been asked yet. For example, I have found no references to whether they have 'language thought/inner speech' at all. They are definitely missing vivid image thought; that was established in 2007. And evidence strongly suggests that they are not able to buffer speech internally. But my hypothesis that the either do not have language thought, or that it is very different than 'neurotypicals' is so far untested.
They do have normal ability to speak out-loud, which reflects that their language areas of their brains are still quite intact. But the ability to speak is separate from the ability to reflect internally on what one is about to say. The former just needs the speech cortices, whereas the latter takes a memory buffer.
I wish I had deeper insight into intuition and idea-generation, so I could comment on the other part of your theory. I don't think there is a very developed science of intuition, because it's such a hard thing to test. But what you are saying sounds reasonable to me. Mutation and natural selection is a very powerful explanatory tool for evolution, which suggests that it is core to the way organisms operate. It would not be surprising to see similar mechanisms work in the brain.
I understand you may feel reticent to share more about your theory of motion. But if not, I'd love to hear more.
Hi Matt, thanks for answering! I am a layman in the field, but I have a personal theory on motion that helps me understand how things may develop, and it applies to anything that changes with time, so it applies to the way our ideas develop too, or to the way our neurons produce them. I'm actually trying to link it to the data we have on mind, but it is so large that I can't decide where to begin, so I hope your knowledge will help me. Thanks for the info on Buzsaki's lab, I found it.
« Patients with intact DMN but without hippocampi can still imagine, but not create vivid images and other sensations as part of that imagination. »
What about language? Can they talk in their minds like us? How could they talk with us if they can't talk with them?
« Unfortunately, a big part of your question falls outside of my research, and so I can't give an informed answer as to how randomness allows for innovation. I know that it does, however, as the HST appeared to me first as a hunch, a sudden aha moment. »
I think you understood the important part of my point, the other part is to understand that it works like the evolution of species: our ideas would suffer mutations, and those mutations would survive if they can transmit themselves, exactly like species do. It is thus our environment that would select our ideas, wether that environment would be social, intellectual or physical. What your hippocampal simulation would do is try to figure out if the idea will be selected or not, for instance if I imagine that I can fly without wings, the next thing my imagination should do is imagine what will happen if I try to jumps off the window without a parachute, and it should reject the idea if it can imagine it will hurt.
How we can see or hear things in our mind is another important part of my theory on mind, because it is about conscience, and it is also based my theory on motion. What we would need to detect is change, because what is usual or normal would be accounted for subconsciously, but there is two kinds of change in our minds: the one that comes from the environment, which grabs our attention when we drive and something unusual happens, and the one that comes from the mutations our ideas suffer, which grabs our attention when nothing new happens on the road. So when we are conscious of something, we would always be seeing or hearing what we may be trying in the future, and if we could anticipate thus simulate that it will work, we would try it. It is thus pure speculation to do things this way, so of course, most of the time it wouldn't work, but it wouldn't matter as long as we have the time to try something else, and it would be so useful when it works that the environment would have selected the genes that produced this behavior.
Most people don't like the idea that they think randomly, and you seem to do, so I'm really happy I found you. Next pleasure would be that you would find useless to simulate a known situation, so that you could integrate randomness in your hippocampal simulation. I'm going to take a look right away at Buzsaki's work to see what he has discovered.
Thank you for your comment, and sorry for the delay in answering.
How familiar are you with the "default mode network"? The DMN is the intrinsic network (as opposed to the 'extrinsic' neocortex, which is concerned with sensing and interacting with the outside world). It is in charge of imagination, especially future planning, theory of mind, daydreaming, and extrapolating beyond the current scene. This is the anticipation engine of the brain.
Of course, the extrinsic neocortex is also involved in prediction, but it's concerned with predicting sensation only 100-200ms ahead. The intrinsic DMN, by contrast, tries to predict seconds to years ahead.
Big decisions (like voting, as you mentioned) or whom to marry, are on that longer term prediction scale. But most simulations are much shorter term, like "what will this person I'm talking to say next?" "What is going on in their head?" "Will this other driver let me in?" "What will happen if I pull out this jenga block?" All those short-term predictions of cause and effect.
And yes, the DMN has a very intimate relationship to the hippocampus. Just as the hippocampus cobbles together a memory experience out of the sensation data that arrives from the extrinsic neocortex, so too the hippocampus simulates experiences for the intrinsic DMN. That's the source of my 'holodeck' metaphor: when we close our eyes, most of us can build a visual scene out of our imaginations, because of the hippocampus. Patients with intact DMN but without hippocampi can still imagine, but not create vivid images and other sensations as part of that imagination.
This common pathway through the hippocampus means that both the extrinsic neocortex and the intrinsic DMN contribute to the formation of a new episodic memory. That memory may be of the act of driving, if the driving task is demanding enough. Or, it's possible that the extrinsic neocortex can be involved in the act of driving, while simultaneously the intrinsic DMN is using the hippocampus to create a daydream, replay a memory, rehearse a conversation, or some other simulation. When that intrinsic activity actually crowds out the extrinsic information from becoming part of the new memory, we have "driving mind", the lack of any memory of the driving task.
Of course, "driving mind" is something we do all the time, even when not driving, but it's only notable when we drive, because of the inherent danger. In fact, imaging studies show that our brain toggles back and forth between intrinsic and extrinsic prefrontal control every couple seconds. The whole reason why the DMN is called the "default mode network" is because when subjects lie in a scanner, and are not assigned a task, their imaginations automatically kick in to keep them entertained. The network was assumed to be the "default mode" of the brain (by Raichle) but further studies have show that it's really the imagination network.
I hope this helps illuminate the 'anticipation' part of your question. Yes, the hippocampus is involved in anticipation, including supplying useful past memories (via field CA3) to inform what will happen next, but the real cognitive power in anticipation is provided by the DMN. If you're interested in more information about the DMN/hippocampus nexus, we wrote more about it in section 3 of our published paper.
As for randomness, yes, that too is built into the system. One of the hippocampus experts I interviewed for the movie, Gyorgy Buzsaki, specializes in randomness in the brain, and what role it plays. You can find his papers via a Google Scholar search including his name and the words "noise" or "noisy" (which is what he calls randomness in the brain).
Unfortunately, a big part of your question falls outside of my research, and so I can't give an informed answer as to how randomness allows for innovation. I know that it does, however, as the HST appeared to me first as a hunch, a sudden aha moment. It was only after that aha that I started researching the anatomy, to test my hunch. Now I've done literally thousands of hours of research on the hippocampus, which has confirmed my original speculations, but at the time, it was just a random spark.
So, on that alone, I encourage you to nurse your hunches. Test them, of course, and be willing to let something go if it doesn't work. But by all means nurture and develop your theories, because they are counting on you to make it into the world.
I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have further questions or comments.