Monday, April 12, 2010

Communication and its role in Progress/Evolution

As we have discussed in the previous blogs... Intelligence is Organization. And in particular, the densest organization of intelligence in our bodies is in the brain. As a kid, I assumed that the reason adults were smarter than kids was because their heads were bigger and thus they had more brains than kids do. I think it is a natural conclusion albeit it is wrong! Children are born with the same number of neurons in their brain as they die with... unless of course they either drink too much, smoke too much, or do too many drugs. And of course, let's not forget diseases like Alzheimer's. All that aside, what causes the difference in size of the brains of a child and an adult is in the number of neural interconnections. Neurons are cells in the brain that are similar conceptually to transistors in a computer chip. Of course the more you have, the more you can use and the better you are... But growing additional brain cells is a process that has not yet been mastered... And if you could grow them, where would you put them if your head is already full? Maybe we can store extra brain cells in various parts of the body. Then I can imagine all the jokes that would arise from this... I am sitting on my brains. Joe's brains are in his xxxxx ! You get the picture.. But until then, we must learn to maximize the 100 billion or so neurons we have stuck in our skull.
Now, if you have ever seen a computer chip under a microscope you will see millions of lines that connect the billions of transistors. And there are many more you cannot see because they are under the surface on many different layers. Today's computer chips are interconnected in 3 dimensions. Well, so are our neurons. The highest levels of our thought processes are through the neurons that are on the outer layer of our brain called the cerebral cortex. And the thought processes are divided up in different areas of the cortex. Some processes like memories, and emotions, and understanding of emotional concepts ("emotional intelligence") is processed by the neurons in the front part of the brain. On the top of the brain is an area responsible for voluntary motor functions and is where we learn how to properly swing a tennis racket, kick a soccer ball, walk, use our hands to eat, and drive a car (aka "Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence"). I could go on and on, but this is not a course in Brain topology nor do I know enough about it to speak authoritatively.
Now let's take the example of the Tennis Player. What makes a pro tennis player better at tennis than an average schmo like me? It is because the pro tennis player has more interconnections and "finer tuned" interconnections between his neurons on the top of his cortex than I do. The secret of intelligence is in the interconnections between our brain cells!
A good course to study that would help you understand this concept would be Artificial Intelligence, specifically Neural Networks. I took a course in this back in grad school and it has been one of my favorite courses ever taken!
I am going to give a brief example of a neural network... Imagine we have learned through experience on the tennis court that if a ball is coming to my left side AND it is coming very fast AND the opponent player's racket dipped down after he hit the ball (indicating a top spin) AND I am at the back of my side of the court AND I am in a neutral stance with my racket also in a neutral position, THEN I should QUICKLY try to return the ball with a backhand with a hard top spin to counter the spin on the ball that is coming. Now this is a LOT of brain processing and it needs to be very fast! So to do this, we will have one neuron that is responsible for determining which side of my body the ball is headed towards. This neuron gets input (from the connections) from other neurons that are connected to the eyes. Another neuron is responsible for measuring the speed of the ball and it get's its inputs from connections to other neurons that are connected to the eyes as well. Another neuron is trying to determine the spin of the ball. He gets his input from other connected neurons that are also connected to the eyes. Another neuron determines if I am in the back of my side of the court. This neuron gets its input from the memory neurons and from the neurons connected to the eyes. Together with this data, he makes a decision as to whether I am at the back of the court. Then another neuron is responsible for determining if my racket is in a neutral position relative to my body. It get's its input also from neurons in the memory and probably from the motor cortex and possibly also from the neurons that determine my balance from the inner ear. NOW, let's connect all these neurons to a single OUTPUT neuron that makes the final decision on whether to use a backhand to return the ball. It looks at the inputs from all these other neurons. And if they are all TURNED ON then the OUTPUT neuron TURNS ON and it says "YES!!! Use a Backhand"! This OUTPUT neuron then is connected to the motor cortex which then has to figure out how to tell the nerve cells to contract and expand the proper muscles in the arms and legs in order to execute a backhand! It seems complicated, but in reality, it is very fast because there was NO MATH involved! No use of math to calculate speed, or position, or distance! It was all done through neural decisioning which is very simple and thus very fast. If our brains had to use math to calculate the speeds, distances, and positions of the ball, it would take WAY too long with our slow neurons! The ball would pass us long before we could figure out what to do!
Now imagine that in this neural network that determines whether to use a backhand, if I were missing some of the connections. If that were the case, then I would make wrong decisions to use a backhand at least some of the time if not all the time. This shows the importance of the neural connections! Better decisioning is done when a neuron is connected to more information. This is similar to the role of information in our lives. Simply, we make better decisions when we have more information.
Now, let's consider another example that is less technical. Let's imagine our stock broker trying to make a decision on whether to buy a share of stock in company ABC Inc. We know that the more information he has regarding ABC Inc and the industry that ABC Inc pertains to, he will make a better decision. HOWEVER, I could very well bring to this stock broker a STACK of data for him to read and digest about ABC Inc, and I could give him another stack about each of ABC's competitors, and another stack of information about the market conditions, etc. This poor stock broker might spend 2 weeks pouring over the information before making a decision. By that time, it may be too late, and the price of ABC stock rose sharply and already fell, missing the opportunity for profit. Receiving TOO MUCH information (information overload) can INHIBIT good decisioning. To make good and quick decisions, the stock broker needs to have the RIGHT pieces of information AND have it at the right time (usually as fast as possible). So what the good stock broker does is filter all the data he gets so that he gets what he needs to make a decent decision in the shortest amount of time possible. This is what I refer to as the "fine tuning" of the information. The stock broker has to tune the amount and type of information he gets in order to maximize his ability to make a decision in the shortest amount of time. Of course the more info he can get very fast the better decision, but the more info he gets also requires processing and slows down the response. So it is a balance between response time and amount of info. As this stock broker does thousands of buy/sell decisions, he becomes more and more expert and learns exactly what information is most important to look at and how to use it to make a decision. In the same way, our neurons need to connect to other neurons that give them the RIGHT or BEST information in the fastest time possible. And this only comes through LEARNING. As we learn how to broker stocks or as we learn tennis, the neurons in our head start interconnecting through small fibers called AXONS that join the neurons. What is still not understood by science is how neurons figure out how to interconnect. My belief is that it is a mixture of trial and error with feedback within the brain that allows it to interconnect in ways we want!
Now the more we LEARN, the more our neurons interconnect. It is through the interconnections of the neurons we UNDERSTAND CONCEPTS! In other words, it is through the interconnections that we gain Conceptual Intelligence (please see previous blogs regarding Conceptual Intelligence).
Now that you (hopefully) understand the role of the interconnections of the neurons in our intelligence, let's branch off in a slightly different direction with this.
One of the problems we have in meetings is that the participants of the meetings spend most of their time trying to get others to UNDERSTAND their viewpoints. This requires time to explain, time to ponder, and patience for all involved for everyone to understand the viewpoints of everyone else. IMAGINE if we could interconnect all the brains of everyone in a meeting such that everyone could see the thoughts, hear the words, and feel the emotions of everyone else in the meeting without words even needing to be said! HOW MUCH TIME WOULD WE SAVE???? An hour meeting could be over in a matter of seconds! A debate could happen and a final decision could be made within a minute! Someday, this may be a reality, but for now, it is just a dream.
Today there are more scientists than their ever was before. And an advantage of being a scientist today versus years ago is the amount of available information. Indeed, this is the "information age". Also, scientists can interconnect (ie. communicate) between themselves through new communication mediums such as the Internet, web conferences, telephones, television and radio. And through this ability to share information, new discoveries and inventions is happening at a record pace. A key to this rapid progress is the communication that occurs in the world today.
Here is concept I want to communicate to you. A key to the progress and evolution of a society is the communication capability that society has. The more and faster mediums of communication that a society has, the faster it will progress on all levels. What application does this concept have? Well, for one, when looking to determine where we should spend allocated government monies, we should give great value to communication. Improving communication in a society is like improving the interconnections of the neurons in a brain. Adding more forms of communication and ways to transmit and receive communication is like adding more interconnections in our brains. Improving the speed of that communication is like improving the speed of thought in our brains. This is the main concept I was trying to build up to in this entire blog posting. It was probably way to lengthy of a discussion, but hopefully you learned a few things along the way.
Now that we have a new concept... let's follow this concept mixed with a few others we have already discussed into the future and see where these will lead us as a society.
As a society, we are getting smarter and smarter because of the added means of communication between all of us. We are seeing more interrelationships between all aspects of our society than ever before. The more we progress, the faster and better this intercommunication becomes. 150+ years ago, we had newspapers and books. 70 years ago we had radio which is a faster method of communication. 60+ years ago we gained telecommunications (phones) which allowed individuals to communicate. 50 years ago we gained television which involves sight as well as sound, thus making mass communications more effective. 40 years ago, we gained satellites that improved television and telephone communications. 20 years ago we gained email as a new faster method of communicating written material. 15 years ago, we gained em masse, cellular communications (cellphones) that allow us to speak to others at anytime and anyplace. 10 years ago we gained internet which allows us to do both mass communication and individual communication cheaper and more comprehensively than ever before experienced. Now with the Internet as a backbone, we have social networks, and other forms of social communication such as Twitter allowing us to communicate whatever we want instantaneously to millions of interested individuals. All of these new forms of communications are helping us as a society to progress and evolve faster and faster. What will we see in the future?
As scientists crack the code of how the brain works, we will see more direct connection of communication devices directly to the brain. This will help us in minimizing the brain processing required in verbal and visual communication and maximize the communication of ideas, thoughts, memories, and emotions directly without having to rely on words and eyes. You will have everyone talking to each other without ever making a sound and without ever being physically in proximity. This will speed up the progress of society even more.
If you read one of my earlier blog posts titled "Everything has Intelligence", you will learn about the intelligence that a society has. When all of our brains are interconnected in the same way that our neurons are interconnected, we as a society will become MUCH MUCH smarter than any individual. If you want to know what my idea of a GOD is... it is much like this... the total system of interconnected individuals all sharing thoughts, ideas, and emotions between us. The power of this is GOD-like! Connect this system to a database of all known information and this would be a GOD that is ALL-KNOWING! It would also be a GOD that is EVER PRESENT and IN ALL LOCATIONS and WITHIN US AT THE SAME TIME!
If you ever wondered about the mystery of the trinity of the Christian God, namely God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Ghost, then herein is the key to understanding this mystery of how they are three and yet one. If they happen to be three distinct individuals but had the ability to intercommunicate with each other as I suggested we will have in the future, then at any point in time, the Son (Jesus) would know the will of the Father and the will of the Holy Ghost. Likewise the Father and Holy Ghost would know the will of the Son. And all three could have a meeting to discuss options and come to a decision in the matter of seconds. Then are they NOT ONE GOD? They would then be ONE in thought (mind), ONE in decided upon actions (might), and ONE in emotions (feelings or spirit).
Can humans ever acheive GODHOOD? If so, an important key to progressing (or evolving) to this point is improving our inter-communication!
I consider myself already assimilated!


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