I’ve been a little bit obsessed with the operation of the brain over the last few months. It blows my mind on a day to day basis that a complex network of neurons provides us with the faculties to perceive the world around us, to analyze our existence, to love, laugh, and lament all in a single thought. Nonetheless it all comes back down to interconnected neurons receiving impulses from our five senses, our I/O interface with the universe around us. Where does the soul reside then, if we do in fact have one? What happens when those neurons fire their last impulse and the world goes white around us? I have my theories, and I’ll attempt to explain some here.
I’ve been having a discussion on the great milenko for a bit now on the brain and it’s complexity. It’s a fascinating topic, but first some basic facts:
There are 100 billion (or so) neurons in an average human brain. Each one of these neurons is connected to up to 10,000 other neurons. This gives our human brains around 1 quadrillion (1 thousand trillion!) connections – more than there are stars in this universe! That’s a lot of connections, and although we still don’t know how these connections form our consciousness, our emotions, our memories or personalities, we do know that they physically exist and they are the root of our existence. Somehow the brain takes impulses from our five senses, processes them and stores the relevant information while discarding all the rest. Think about how much visual information your brain takes in at any given time, and think about how much you remember. So much useless information is discarded – I guess you could call it information pollution. 🙂 However our brains are smart enough to sift through the garbage. There’s intelligence at work at so many levels there people! But I digress.
So basically our identities (you could say souls) reside in a complex pattern of interconnected neurons. This structure is what defines who we are, and each structure is unique in this world. However we live in an infintely sized universe, probably one of an infinite number of universes. Infinity squared! 😛 With the infinite nature of existence there is an infinite number of possibilities for nature to create life in some form or another, and herein lies what I believe is the truism of reincarnation – that complex pattern of connections is bound to manifest itself in some form another again and again for all ‘time’. Be it amidst interconnected roots of some alien rainforest to the complex interactions of noble gases on a Jovian type planet, the pattern of complexity that defines who you are will manifest itself repeatedly. In essence, your individuality is nothing but a pattern, but a pattern that has always existed and will always exist.
Now that there is some crazy-ass talk, but you know what? It helps me sleep better at night. I believe that I have always existed and will always exist, in some form or another. It is kind of comforting if you think about it. Whether it’s true or not, well of that I’m not certain. I have no way to really test my theories, but I can’t help but blurt them out anyways. I’d love to be proven wrong, and anybody is welcome to do so in the comments section or if they’re really ambitious – I do have some forums set up. Although they were narcissistically set up to discuss my thoughts, I’d love to use them to debate my theories as well. 😉
21 thoughts on “The brain and complexity”
Mmmm… I agree with you this is an interesting topic, the brain. It is something everyone has and few seem to use. I doubt we will ever really figure out how is really works but over all those are some impressive numbers about the brain. Good stuff, Chef. I was with you until that stuff about the alien rainforest, which at that point I found myself trying to gouge out my eyes. Always got to throw some weird hippie stuff in there, don’t you….hey it is 9 o’clock. Why are you not in here at work yet??
Um, I’d hate to not comment on one of your discussions, so I’ll say I agree to a certain extent… but you totally lost me when you said that we will become part of an alien planet… what exactly are your assumptions… how will the pattern of our neurons exist outside this earth if we die on this earth? Do they just randomly dissappear into thin air and “instant transmission” ( la DBZ) to somewhere unkown?
ok check this out…. I believe the thoughts and memories in our heads are directly linked to TIME TRAVEL!!! ehe! ehe! how about that!…………. .. or maybe I’m just a dumbass on crak?!
Yeah, I sort of jumped the gun there on an explanation.. But basically I believe the pattern and behaviour of ‘neurons’ will manifest itself again and again… I think if you look at the evolution of life on earth it’s been leading to greater and greater complexity of the brain. This can’t be just coincidence, I think that networks of connections is a universal phenomenon of life and if it’s just a pattern of connections, then it will be repeated again and again, albeit in each iteration a different form. Remember this is all based on the assumption of a infinitely sized universe amidst an infinite number of universes… Therefore infinite possibilities.
hahahah ‘McP’ you may be onto something… Or perhaps you’ve been talking to the kitty too much. 😉
I still don’t follow you. The assumption also includes that the neuron patterns of your brain were designed by nature, or by your experiences? I vote for experiences. In that case, each experience in the universe will have a different impact on the pattern your neurons take. … um, I lost myself. I don’t get it. Is there some kind of analogy you can give us?
I think it’s a combination of both – there must be parts of the brain that derive their base structure from your DNA, whereas there are other parts that are created out of you experiencing. I also think that there may be some patterns in the complexity of the connections, and these patterns could be defined as you, your soul. I think these patterns of connections can then be reproduced in other settings in other universes so that while parts of the entity that makes you are fundamentally different than our form today, in the rest patterns of functionality are the same and are just as much ‘you’ as in your current self.
Crazy, eh? It’s just a theory I know, and one I don’t properly understand, it’s just that I know that all our brain is doing on a higher level is creating complexity – and this complexity allows our consciousness to manifest itself. It seems logical to me that complexity in another form but the same pattern would produce an indentical entity: you.
An interesting theory, one that is sure to spark many convoluted discussions and one which begs the question: so what? How does this new revelation change your outlook on life and your role in it, other than to provide you with a nicer night of sleep(the benefit of which cannot be ignored I agree)
First of all, it’s just a theory – one that I’m sure will get shot down. Secondly, if it is true, then maybe one can stop worrying about death as the end of existence. Perhaps it can give one the same peace of mind that a fervently religious person gets, but without the bullshit.
I don’t know, like I said, it’s just a theory.
Well let’s not jump to conclusions here. While recent theories speculate that the universe may be a finite size, where do you get finite time? As for the existence of other universes, well until I see more science to backup my claim I’m just going to have believe as a matter of faith.
I’ve been noticing more and more lately that as I go through life, memories of past experiences are constantly “flashing” into my mind for no apparent reason. I guess this happens to everyone, and is normal — I just never noticed it before. I think you can see in the random “flashing” of these memories (which is what dreams are made of) a glimpse into the working of the brain. Perhaps in one particular neural connection in your mind there lies the memories of your 9th birthday party. Normally the memory just sits there frozen in its neural connecton, but every couple of years it has to be “cleaned out” or given some exercise or something, so the neuron fires, and all of sudden you experience that memory (whether as a dream if you are sleeping, or a sudden reminiscence if you are awake). In fact, one of these random memories just flashed in my mind as I was writing these words: I remembered walking down a street in Australia in 2000, passing a bank. Somewhere in my mind that memory is stored, along with billions and billions of other memories.
As for your theory — it sounds interesting, but I am not convinced. Even in a universe of infinite possibilities, there is no guarantee that the same pattern will crop up twice. That’s the paradox of infinity! Take fingerprints for example. Or snow crystals. No two are ever exactly the same.
Maybe then the quality of the complexity (IE your ‘goodness’) gives you a greater chance of coming back…
Where were you in Australia in 2000? I was there from May 2000 to June 2001 – I spent the majority in Sydney (July 2000 – April 2001).
Hmm..Number 10 marbles and put them in a bag then pick these marbles out of the bag without looking in order and the probability of this is just u could say almost impossible..Now you say the brain has 100 billion (or so) neurons in an average human brain. Each one of these neurons is connected to up to 10,000 other neurons. This gives our human brains around 1 quadrillion (1 thousand trillion!) connections – more than there are stars in this universe!
What is the probability that all these came by chance..
This is just the brain..Imagine the eyes, the nose, the feet, the seas, the animals, 100 billion or so galaxies with each galaxy having its own 100 billion own stars perfectly swimming around in its orbits, the sun how it gives light reflected off from the moon, the earths 7 layered atmosphere protecting us from harms from radiation etc, Every animal having its own perfect features and adapts to its own habitat..and we could go on for ages…
What I’m getting at is this evolution you are talking about is virtually impossible and to think that it isn’t, is fairly foolish in my opinion..This is why i have discovered Islam whereby i strongly and truly believe that some supreme being of some sort has created this PERFECT system and that this didn’t at all occur by chance. So i worship him and i hope you can find the effort to read about the religion. Out of his Mercy, he has bought down the Kuran as revelations to a messenger who before receiving the Holy Kuran’s revelations didn’t know how to read or write. So how could someone who doesn’t know how to read and right write 1 of the most sophisticated pieces of literature ever produced..This is just the beginning..Many facts in which have been just discovered recently through the technology we possess these days have been already stated in the Holy Kuran ~1400 years ago..Eg it mentions about the Universe and how it expands, the sky’s full of paths and orbits, about how the baby develops in the womb of the mother, about the finger prints and how they are unique, about the mountains and how they act like pegs, about the 2 seas that have a barrier between them due to surface tension and we could again keep going…Now how could a man that couldn’t read or write, living in the desert possibly have known all this without getting revelations from God……Think about all these points openly and please act on what i have been saying and at least get a translation of the Kuran to read or find a muslim who will be gladly to help you out. I say this before it might be too late..Since if this supreme being can create all of what you see and i believe he has created all this you can imagine his punishment if you don’t obey him..
However some of his names are:
The Most merciful
The Most beneficent
The Source of Peace
All the way up to 99 names
However you could see with these names what a god we are talking about…
So please don’t listen to the media and what they say about Islam since the very name of Islam is derived from the Arabic root “Salema”: peace, purity, submission and obedience. So we don’t Condone Terrorism and strongly denounce it.
Ok I think I’ve said enough.
Thankyou for reading this and I wish that God (Allah) may guide you to the straight path.
And know that Submission to the good will of God, together with obedience to His beneficial Law, ie, becoming a Muslim, is the best safeguard for man’s peace and harmony.
Peace be with you all.
Heres a website for more information:
I’ve had many conversations about Islam on TGM and have come to this conclusion: it is a static system of values and choices that have helped maintain peace and order for many centuries but is now unable to cope with the new dynamic reality of today. The only hope I have in Islam is that there is a surah which says that a non-believer can add to the Quran if they write prose that is of equal sytle, elegance and merit as that of Mohammed. I figure that’s one reason for me to learn arabic. 😉
Well there’s 2 ayat (proofs, sign, revelations etc) in the surah 2:23 and 2:24 in english translation of the holy kuran that quotes: “And if you are in doubt concerning that which we have sent down to our slave (Mohamad SAW) then produce a Surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful.”
“But if you do it not, and you can never do it, then fear the Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.”
This all sounds much better in arabic ofcourse 😛 but yeh..
What does this actually mean. This means that even if you got all your friends together and actually tried to produce a surah of the like thereof that you will fail so don’t even try to start to learn arabic to compete. jk 😛
“it is a static system of values and choices that have helped maintain peace and order for many centuries but is now unable to cope with the new dynamic reality of today. ”
So what your saying is if you do righteous good deeds, be patient, be very good to other people, giving money to the needy, not to be arrogant and not to have even a mustard seed worth of pride, and being obedient to the one that gave you life is a static system. This system you are talking about if implemented will actually in my opinion create peace in the world, decrease depression etc. However the Islam you are perceiving in the world today is unfortunately not the Islam that is supposed to be implemented and thus world chaos is occurring or will occur. Again, if we are to change what’s written in the Kuran it’s as if we’re saying we know better than Allah The All-knower of everything. So every letter or word in the Kuran is written for a purpose if people truly analysed it properly.
I encourage you to actually to talk to people about Islam but am afraid that opinions may get the better of the people that are preaching and not facts from the actual Kuran. Thus i strongly recommend reading the actual Kuran, if you can’t read arabic then get a translation at least.
The kuran is such a book All the news related in it have proved to be true and facts that no-one that could ever have known at that time were renounced in its verses. Certainly this provides clear evidence that the Kuran is not the word of man.
In a verse god remarks on the kuran (translation of 4:82):
“Do they not then consider the Kuran carefully? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much contradictions.”
Not only there are no inconsistencies in it but every piece of info it contains reveals the miracle of this divine book more and more each day.
In another verse God calls out to us “and this is a book we have sent down and blessed so follow it and have fear of god so that hopefully you will gain mercy”.
But yeh..I’m only a warner and do not force anyone to practise islam. But know that there’s a severe punnishment if you don’t ..
Thankyou for allowing me to express my views and Goodluck with your quest to find the truth about the true meaning of life.
Peace be with you all. 🙂
“But if you do it not, and you can never do it, then fear the Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.”
My interpretation of this is that if you try and don’t succeed at convincing the majority of Muslims that you’re right then you’re doomed to damnation. While I chafe at the inflated repurcusions I can appreciate the weight Islam places on changing the status quo. You must be certain or don’t try at all.
“So what your saying is if you do righteous good deeds, be patient, be very good to other people, giving money to the needy, not to be arrogant and not to have even a mustard seed worth of pride, and being obedient to the one that gave you life is a static system.”
I’m not saying that all of Islam is wrong. Of course there are good ideas in Islam. There are good ideas in Christianity, there are good ideas in Judaism. Wally and I often discuss religion and he figures that Judaism is spirituality 1.0, Christianity is 2.0 and Islam at 3.0 is the latest release. It also means that Islam may have some bugs. Take pride. If your primary goal in life is to add to the world, wouldn’t your trade or specialty be the conduit of that increased complexity? Is not pride a source of motivation in achieving excellence? I’ve always felt that doing a high quality job is of paramount importance to self development. If I have no pride in my work how do I push myself to progress?
My other issue with Islam, Christianity and Judaism is their definition of God and the afterlife. I like to ask the most fundamental believers of these religions what they think the afterlife will be. Is it this paradise garden where everything I’ve ever wanted to do is a choice I’m afforded the opportunity to make? That may be not be such a bad thing, but the meta-physics of explaining such a concept are baffling. That is my fundamental ground; science. I have faith in evolution. This faith conflicts with current religious belief, and as such invalidates them all in my eyes.
“In another verse God calls out to us “and this is a book we have sent down and blessed so follow it and have fear of god so that hopefully you will gain mercy”.”
This is the kind of circular logic that infuriates me when I talk to Muslims. There’s no way to argue out of that trap. If you believe this it will be very very hard to change your mind. If you don’t believe this is the truth then you’ll be punished as a non-believer. So everyone believes.
Faith in a higher being is such a pervasive force in our society. It is only recently (over the course of history) that people have started to question the validity of this meme in it’s current incarnation. It’s such a hard question to answer though because you can never know either way, thus the faith. Maybe though there exists a God in another form that we’re unaware of? Perhaps we got it wrong? That’s why I always question the work that we have done, why the understanding that nobody is perfect means we constantly have to question our assumed laws. We could have got it wrong in the past but it takes an open mind to digest new ideas, so not much is taking off. Ah well, all in good time.
“This is the kind of circular logic that infuriates me when I talk to Muslims. There’s no way to argue out of that trap. If you believe this it will be very very hard to change your mind. If you don’t believe this is the truth then you’ll be punished as a non-believer. So everyone believes.”
I’m not a believer only because there’s punnishment involved, i believe because the signs of the Kuran are so great that a god must of produced it which in-turn leaves me no choice but to submit. Not only this but the whole universe as a whole and all mankind, animals, plants etc how they are created in such style and perfection..are all signs that this couldn’t have come up by chance.. Thus if you choose to ignore all these signs then you will subsequently be punished (but ofcourse i’m not a judge and Allah knows best)..
“My interpretation of this is that if you try and don’t succeed at convincing the majority of Muslims that you’re right then you’re doomed to damnation. ”
Well you can try but even a non-muslim arab will tell you that you don’t stand a chance since they too know that the Kuran can not be matched or bettered..You can actually give the Kuran to a non-muslim arab and see how they see it; immediately they will love its style.. As I’ve known this to happen..
Know that you’re not doomed to damnation by trying to better it, you are doomed only if you ignore all the signs and if you didn’t consider the Kuran carefully.
Since 2:23 says:
“And if you are in doubt concerning that which we have sent down to our slave (Mohamad SAW) then produce a Surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful.”
So only if you are in doubt concerning that which we have sent down to our slave (Mohamad SAW)..
Anyway you can have your own individual belief and i will have mine.
Peace be with you all..(And Allah is the best of Judges)
The only difference between your perception and mine is that you see the Universe, nature, mankind as perfected by Allah whereas I see this perfection achieved through chance and probabilities. Yours is inteligent design, mine is evolution. Yours was created through pure thought as an explanation for the world, mine is created through observation of the world, acceptance of science and the understanding of the time that the universe has taken to create us. Fiction versus Fact.
As i said earlier the probabilty is so low of occurring by chance and probability that its virtually impossible to have this perfect system occurred all by chance.
Mine is also created through observation of the world and acceptance of science since as i explained earlier Many “facts” in which have been just discovered recently through the technology we possess these days have been already stated in the Holy Kuran ~1400 years ago.
Not too sure were u got fiction into it..
Anyway this is up to you..
Peace be with you all.
But you see if you accept that the probability for the development of life on this planet is so incredibly high against us it will make you appreciate your life on this planet all that much more. If you put your faith in God and an afterlife then it becomes justified to blow yourself up (not that the vast majority of Muslims believe this, but still it is a problem). ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS. To believe that we haven’t overcome almost infinite odds to be at this point is to be oblivious to the fact of our own wonderful achievement, as representatives of life on this planet.