We Are Multitudes


How many brains do we have?

I am running on a tough mountain trail. It’s full of rocks, roots, drops, holes. A misstep, and my foot will get caught: I will fly, head first, into rocks, bringing much reflection to a sorry end. What then, and how come, is my higher mind doing, thinking about relativistic momentum, and the conceptual mistake Feynman and many others made about so-called “relativistic mass”? Yes, there is no such a thing. As relativistic mass. Feynman got big time confused. I am getting confused by all this terrain going too fast now… Yes, more rocks zooming by, getting steeper, speed too high considering the more difficult terrain, and my higher consciousness orders to slow down and to concentrate more. So my muscles brake harder, my visual system interprets the terrain more carefully, looks more at the complicated ground, and the anticipation system tightens up. 

Lack of concentration and hubris is how falls generally happen. I fell twice above 12,000 feet recently, going down from a peak: slippery shoes (changed since) but also lack of concentration, inexcusable after the first fall and before the second, which drew blood, and could have resulted in a very serious tumbling. 

OK, higher concentration back on, where was I with relativistic momentum, why is it from a division by infinitesimal moving time? Why should that be obvious? That’s not in books, but there should be an obvious reason…

Big deal is made about octopuses and their many brains, nine of them, eight of which in the arms, and the central one, shaped like a torus… But we humans are quite a bit the same. We have thousands of neurons in the gut. 

This octopus lives at great depths and is mostly known as stomach content of larger predators. It illustrates well the fact that we are mostly an architecture of light, it is Quantum Physics which gives us substance…

It was discovered in 1991, that the heart has its own “little brain”, just like the gut, and with a similar number of neurons.  This “intrinsic cardiac nervous system” has approximately 40,000 neurons that are alike neurons in the brain. The heart communicates with the brain in many methods: neurologically, biochemically, biophysically, and energetically. The vagus nerve, which is 80% afferent, carries information from the heart and other internal organs to the brain. Signals from the “heart brain” redirect to the medulla, hypothalamus, thalamus, and amygdala and the cerebral cortex. The heart sends apparently more signals than it gets. Moreover, when the heart starts to exercise extraordinarily, it sends its own signal, within a couple of minutes, directly to the kidneys to shut down… to preserve water, a hot runner adaptation.

One has to remember that a neural network composed of three neurons can create apparent free will.

Now consider the human spinal cord: it would have 69 million neurons (latest count, 2017; around 25% of those neurons are in the lowest, lumbar region). Very few animal species have more than 69 million neurons. (Mice and crocodiles have roughly that many neurons.) So our own spinal cords are brainy animals of their own, and probably we should treat them as the brainy pets they are… instead of ignoring them.

The basic running system in a human is pretty much automatic, autonomous, with a mind of its own: it gets perfunctory input from the visual system, with rare interventions from the conscious system, such as jump off far from that trunk or rock, to avoid possible rattlesnakes hidden below [1].

I run in the wilderness without headphones. I used them for many years until I realized that what I had occasionally taken for cicadas were rattlesnake warnings… and I had even mistaken mountain lions or bear warnings for sounds coming from birds. (I had long known about the bears as I had, with my family, an oral fest once with a European brown bear, in Iran, of all places… aka grizzly… I had an adventurous youth, courtesy of my parents…

We Always Kill Two Birds With One Stone:

Birds are astoundingly intelligent, yet their brains are small. Those brains are built in a smarter way. Corvids and some parrots’ cognitive feats are comparable to those of great apes. How do birds achieve impressive cognitive prowess with walnut-sized brains? Well, by packing more neurons. A fascinating twist is that they have no corpus callosum. Birds have no corpus callosum, so avian brains are made of two, they can be seen as ‘natural split brains’. How do birds cope with situations, when both hemispheres are brought into conflict? Well that conflict can happen in birds and launches what is called “meta-control”… Which is something we could profit from studying more, as it certainly affects us too… In any case, we always kill two birds with one stone, birds are always two.

So what is consciousness? A supervisor, an examiner, a captain, philosopher, mathematician scientist… But most of the mind’s activity is routine, so below consciousness steady gaze… Including dreaming, which prepares tomorrow’s mind. To come back to the mountain running example, when mountain running a vast part of the brain, including the visual system, the equilibrium system, the cerebellum, and most of the motor control system is involved. Call that the MRS, Mountain Running System. The MRS is a mind of its own, and the beholder is conscious of it. But that consciousness is dual with the rest of the mind, including the parts pondering hefty concepts such as relativistic momentum. This is all supervised by even higher but fuzzy consciousness strategizing about the state of the environment in general and that of the trail in particular at, say, ten meters, three to four seconds away. If the fuzzy strategist notices something special, laser like consciousness intervenes, calling instantaneously all means. Branches or roots across looking like rattlesnakes are frequent, breaks in the trail terrain, much more so [2]. The point is that there are then a minimum of three streams of consciousness running (!) simultaneously, and generally talking to each other only episodically [3].  

The multiverse, a fashionable figment of extravagant fantasy physics, cannot exist. But our minds are indeed a type of multiverse, and yes it says something about, and from, Quantum Physics. And yes, they practice a sort of rambunctious democracy inside!

Old fashion majesties called themselves “We”. In the latest fashion, some want to be called “they”. Well, we are we and they, and always have been.

We are multitudes.

Patrice Ayme

***

[1] Consider maximum human running speed. At ten meters per second, legs cover twenty meters, and control has to be of the order of ten centimeters. That means a reaction time of the order of less than one hundredth of a second. Large-diameter, myelinated neurons that link the spinal cord to the muscles can travel at speeds ranging from 70-120 meters per second (m/s). Now the most important running, and walking muscles are the quadriceps, the biggest muscle group in the human body, located a fraction of a meter away from the spinal cord. One sees its reaction time under proprioception is of the order of less than a hundredth of a second if the neurons of the spinal cord are in charge.

Now if one considers much lower running speeds in the wilderness, precision has to augment, down to a few centimeters, proportionally to the speed.

If the brain were systematically, constantly involved, reaction times would be multiplied by a factor of maybe ten (considering both the distance of the brain, and the complexity therein)… So roughly we could run at only a tenth the speed, and we would be dinner instead of making it, prehistorically speaking… 

***

[2] I have become an expert at running in places and weather conditions which minimize snake interactions (after many close calls in the distant past). Also there are more raptors now, so fewer snakes. However I had a very close call with a gigantic rattler at 8,000 feet (probably of its own subspecies from the lack of a blotched pattern on the back, characteristic of all ten other species of rattlers in California).    

***

[3] I knew a theoretical physicist named Alvarez. He started a running program, but then asked me :”How do you do not to get bored?” I explained to him he should not run around a track, first of all (last I ran track I was in high school in Africa). So then he tried (very mild) trails, and he was still bored. I told him I was using running to approach my usual subjects in a different neurohormonal and neurological state, and that provided me with insights. He looked at me completely baffled: “You, what?” It turned out that, when he ran, he could only think about running. So the ability of developing several streams of consciousness is acquired! I have always run: the first time I nearly got killed mountain running cross country, in face of the Cervin/Matterhorn, I was not even ten years old… Life is good, charmed life is even better…

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3 Responses to “We Are Multitudes”

  1. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ Says:

    Dear Patrice,

    I enjoy reading your newest post. Thank you.

    Apart from many mammals and birds, octopuses and squids are also very intelligent, for they possess ecological intelligence as opposed to social intelligence found in mammals and birds.

    I wonder whether you fancy taking an intergallactic trip with me, as described by my Flying Away One Day as a “Stranger from Milky Way” at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2021/06/03/one-day-well-fly-away/

    Happy mid-July to you!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks dear SoundEagle, I will rush ASAP to your intergalactic essay… The immensity of the universe… You know galaxies used to be called “univers iles”, “island universes”…

      Octopuses do not have CULTURAL intelligence as far as we know… Although, like snakes, they can live in colonies… Cultural intelligence, hands and intelligence made us what we are. Octopuses have the latter two, but not the former. At most the largest, the giant Pacific octopus, can live 5 years… Not long enough for serious culture…

      So I distinguish CULTURAL ANIMALS, a subset of SOCIAL animals. Even hyenas, lions, are cultural… and chimps heavily so…
      Happy summer to you to. So far no giant fire in close proximity yet…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Patrice Ayme Says:

    We are multitudes. Consciousness is the captain, considering the worst problems, when they arise, but then there is the rest of the crew, busy and out of the way (of the captain). Octopuses have neurons all over, making their arms somewhat intelligent… but so do we… So the mind-body problem was always an illusion https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2021/07/15/we-are-multitudes/

    Like

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