Monday, May 28, 2007

Do We Muse In Multiple?

I read an article in Scientific American (6-2007) concerning "The Traveler's Dilemma" and the application of game theory to its solution, and found it of value as an an exercise in showing that the form of logic used by game theorists is - at least in this case - less than careful in guarding against false premises, as the assumptions behind the premises involved were themselves based on an inaccurate assessment of actual human behavior.

And to me, the greatest error in these predictions appeared to stem from a belief or assumption that human brains calculate from one or two premises or inferences that are complimentary and follow a linear or at best bilinear logical process to a hierarchy of possible/probable solutions.

We may receive that impression through awareness of a stream of consciousness that seems to rise from a single source or result from a common analytical process. But more than likely we are seeing elements from several thought trains as they intersect with our consciousness for a variety of monitoring purposes. And what we don't see is the final arbitration process in the emotional and otherwise unconscious brain areas.

Because it's fairly clear, in my view, that our brains operate from multiple suppositions, some complimentary and some antagonistic, and the "logical" processes follow multilinear and complex routes in both competitive and cooperative fashions to "solve" the same or different aspects of the same or different immediate problems. Survival needs for the here and now have not permitted us the luxury of doing one thing at a time, so to speak.

Why would I presume the above to be true, or at least highly probable? To me that's not the right question, as it's clear from recent brain-imaging experiments alone that there's more than one "module" of the mind acting at the same time to address the same given problem, but with different strategic parameters. But intuition should have told us that, if nothing else. The real question is the extent to which this is happening.

I would speculate this extent involves the need the brain has - and that certain individual's brains may develop - for the number of multiple processes that most efficiently deal with what have been the most urgent and pressing needs for solutions through each species' evolutionary "experience."

Perhaps the more deceptive and therefor dangerous the environment, the more need for separate "modules" and/or biological "algorithms" to operate concurrently to overcome these dangers and form a consensus as to the most trustworthy paths to take in each instance. But as we may find there are limits to the efficacy of decisions made by committee, there are doubtless limitations to these processes in each species' nervous systems and brains for the same general reasons.

Factoring in what scientists have now observed about the brain's structure, it would appear a viable proposition that any biological systems which could have developed such a multiple "algorithmic" mechanism would have gained a distinct competitive advantage. And because we're becoming more and more aware that the progress of evolution is fueled as much by need as by happy accident, what is both possible and valuable to that progression might well be probable.

2-20-2008: I regard the following item as offering a modicum of support for the above speculative musings:

Nature Reviews Neuroscience
March 2008 Volume 9 Number 3

"There is a growing consensus that different types of memory are mediated by multiple distinct systems, but how these 'multiple memory systems' are organized in the brain is still a topic of debate. Nature Reviews Neuroscience presents a series of articles that discuss recent findings and controversies regarding the neural substrates of different memory systems and their components, drawing on data from neuropsychological, cognitive, neuroimaging and animal studies."

I wish I had access to the complete series, but as of now, I don't.

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