Science and the Nervous System

Move along, nothing to see here!
daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Wed May 15, 2019 5:48 pm

How valid is the analogy between science and the human nervous system?

The nervous system appears to function as a "controller" for the human body. To what degree is "science" becoming the controller of humanity?

If anything has become apparent from psychological and sociological research, then it is the fact that humans are not very capable at making valid statistical inferences. The body is like an elephant; and the mind is like the rider. Extending this to the above analogy: science is a rider of an elephant it cannot possibly control. Alternativly, why would consciousness evolve if it did not serve some purpose? Perhaps science plays a role, but it appears to be vastly overplaying its position if this analogy holds.

To what extent is science being used to justify political narratives in modern society? Typically, the ground-level scientists who do actual research stay away from engaging in political affairs, but there are a handful of people with one foot in the scientific realm and one foot out reducing large-scale "problems" into "scientific" solutions. The heart of this matter seems to be fueled by a "battle" between biological reductionism and cultural holism.

Consider the perceptive where each cell in the human body is like a human cluster in society. The cells in each organ or organ system have slightly different configurations and perform different tasks. If science is the nervous system, then it is in some sense the most "aware" part of the whole. In a world where attention is nearly directly transformed into currency, information is more valuable than gold.

Is it really the case that the richest are also the most aware in the modern world? The nervous system is in some sense aware of itself and its embodiment, but it is also blind to the details of its own implementation. Human consciousness filters out the details so that attention is allocated towards what is "controllable". In this sense, both the mind and science are blind to their underlying dependencies.

All of this tribalism is quite ironic given that it is like groups of cells teaming up against other groups in the same body. The age of society has perhaps made it susceptible to tumorous growth. The differences between organs developed partly because of their symbiosis, but now the organs are attacking neighbors that appear different from them.

Also makes me wonder how well the stages of climate change grief match up to the process of a human accepting death. If knowledge is embodied, then to what extent does the structure/function of the human body determine the overall structure/function of society? Are we all just projecting it?
Last edited by daylen on Wed May 15, 2019 7:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Wed May 15, 2019 6:25 pm

The meta irony of this is that I am reducing culture to biological metaphor. Perhaps silence is the best option when not engaging in practical affairs.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Wed May 15, 2019 9:25 pm

Maybe being young is a good excuse for over-extending metaphors. :)

The number of "cancerous" cells is small relative to "normal" cells, but the influence of each cell is not normally distributed. The cancerous cells are disproportionately more intolerant, stubborn, and powerful (Pareto)(*). From the perspective of normal cells, the apparent "cost" of conforming to the desires of cancerous cells is low relative to the benefit of remaining "compartmentalized" and "comfortable". On a local level, cancerous cells may seem benign, but on a systemic level they are potentially fatal.

For the system to become "healthy", the normal cells would need to target and eliminate cancerous cells. This sounds like a genocidal nightmare. No individual cell/tribe is capable of understanding how other cells/tribes influence the whole so normal cells/tribes remain defense-less.

(*) I imagine that a cancerous mutation is like a tribe initiating the widespread replication of memes armed by reptilian instincts designed to target and infiltrate surrounding ideologies until they collapse under the weight of uncertainty and doubt.

---------------------------

The [false yet interesting?] equivalence between cells and tribes makes sense in the following way: cells are considered the "autonomous units" of biology, and the thoughts/actions of individuals in a tribe/herd tend to synchronize. This could be extended even further into Kegan territory where fourth order agents would select valid representations of a particular ideology (i.e. deep language, abstract system, etc.) for the third order agents in their herd. Second order agents would be tolerated/schooled/imprisoned with respect to a given cell/organ/organ-system, or else they would be exiled/executed out of the territory (much more common in the past).

-----------------------------

If we assume that someday the whole system will decouple, then at what level will parts survive? Cells? Tissues? Organs? Maybe tissues are like cities or institutions, and both of these are highly dependent on global trade. I imagine that only some cells would survive along with many stranded organelles looking for an intact cell to call their "community". Post-apocalyptic community cells would have to be mostly independent and intolerant of intolerance. The coupling between any single individual and the whole community would be high enough that some degree of membership filtering would be required for stability (based on my understanding of history). For the most part, it would be volatile for a while until the recently emergent microorganisms built up into a collection of multi-celled organisms large enough to engage in foreign affairs.


TL;DR My attempts at making sense of the unknowable.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 4858
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu May 16, 2019 6:02 am

@daylen:

Science isn't that powerful even though technology is omnipresent. This is why thermostats which are "smarter" than their owners still maintain the temperature in alignment with "individual comfort" rather than "preservation of the species."

At this juncture, the human species is still absolutely dependent on nature (photosynthetic and decomposition activities of other species, water cycle, etc.) , but also absolutely dependent upon technology at current population, and the vast majority of humans do not know how either of these systems work.

The best analogy I can come up with is that the global equivalent of the "nervous system" of the human body would be the conglomeration of communications networks that co-ordinate shipments of vital goods. IOW, "When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation" by A.J.Friedemann might be like unto a book on the topic of recovery after major brain injury to the civitas.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 8:43 am

Right, so science is not the whole nervous system but just the parietal lobe. History is the hippocampus. The frontal lobe is information technology. The cerebellum and peripheral nervous system is the conglomeration of communication networks that co-ordinate shipments of vital goods. The autonomous nervous system is academia.

Powerful business players do not consult academia directly, but in the event that their "ethical" standards are questioned they create a counter-narrative by finding an academic that values money over honesty (or is delusional). Science does not really have direct influence unless a band of neurons (researchers) synchronize to counter-act a pervasive belief that just ain't so. Mostly, the extended-reach of scientific power is based on how the public perceives it as prestigious. Academic degrees are becoming less meaningful to "true scientists"(*) and simultaneously the ultimate authority to the general public.

In general, I think my intended point with all of this is to wrap my head around how each "part" of society is working in concert to maintain global order.

(*) By this I just mean researchers that value matching theory to reality as opposed to accumulating status in the nerd economy.
Last edited by daylen on Thu May 16, 2019 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 9:03 am

Sub-systems
  • Digestive: mining and intermediate economy
  • Muscular: migration
  • Integumentary: property boundaries and geographical borders
  • Lymphatic: medicine, health care, and pharmaceutical
  • Endocrine: seasons, macro-economic cycles, and disaster response
  • Nervous: academia, conglomerations, corporations, and information technology
  • Skeletal: construction and infrastructure maintenance
  • Reproductive: culture?
  • Respiratory: agriculture, food processing, and water
  • Urinary: waste management and pollution
  • Cardiovascular: transportation
So what is the body of society moving in? How about nature? For the system to work (in its current state) it must act as if it were separate from the rest of the earth. Natural resources are just potential commodities.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 4858
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu May 16, 2019 9:44 am

daylen wrote: For the system to work (in its current state) it must act as if it were separate from the rest of the earth. Natural resources are just potential commodities.
True, but this perspective is like that of a cocky teenager living in his mother's basement. For instance, in reality, the wilderness* ultimately still functions as the respiratory and urinary system of the global economy. Energy degrades and materials just keep cycling around and around.


*Of course, at this juncture, the wilderness is very much more the known-unknown. As Michael Pollan noted in his excellent "Second Nature", if you are standing on a human cut trail observing that which is clearly boundaried on all sides, and labeled "the wilderness" on a human drawn map, isn't it really more like a very big garden?

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 11:24 am

Ha, this image has crossed my mind in the past, but I did not look into it very deep. Globalization is like trying to find a lunch group at the middle-school. Teenager society is raging with hormones and very confused. It joined the football team and ended up breaking a bone (subprime mortgage crisis). The transition to the third order of consciousness can be rough; especially since there are no anthropomorphic peers to civilize with. The forest ecosystems are too alien. The kid is on a dunning-Kruger mountain with respect to how complex the "environment" appears. The environment is a known unknown that society has no clue how unknown.

So, the teen is committing a slow suicide right now with self-destructive habits. It is not nearly old enough to develop cancer; instead, micro-personalities are emerging into a frat party occupied by shallow emotions and impulsive desires. There is no maturity in sight unless Earth gets invaded by aliens or this kid takes some LSD. Maybe the kid will start negotiating with its future self via an environmental tax, but measuring the environment is about as accurate as a kid making career plans.

Possible causes of death:
  • heat stroke (climate change)
  • starvation (energy crisis)
  • asphyxiation (agriculture/water disruption)
  • fatal disease from lack of anti-bodies (epidemic from lack of antibiotics)
  • poison (pollution)
  • suicide (atomic war)
  • heat attack (major cities collapse on their accelerating treadmills)
  • age (tumorous growth)

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 11:55 am

Actually, the kid is home schooled, and the environment is his backyard/garden as you say. The over-protective parents do not seem real to the kid, the monocrop lawn is like deforestation, the neighborhood is the solar system, the town is the galaxy, and so forth.

Jean
Posts: 977
Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:49 am
Location: Switzterland

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by Jean » Thu May 16, 2019 3:51 pm

If you wan't to have your analogy to work for the whole of humanity, you need to compare it to a human body alone on some kind of desert island.
And it looks more like if you were considering nature as a part of humanity. Is it on purpose?

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 4:14 pm

@Jean The analogy could go that way. From a teenagers perspective, they are at the center of their universe anyway (them vs world, zero-sum game, yadda yadda). Humanity acts as if it is separate from nature, but there are no real boundaries anywhere (..or are there? :?). Who is to say that the collective consciousness of a forest ecosystem is not equivalent in some measure of complexity to "humanity"? From my own observations of the symbiosis between fungal networks, root networks, and small organisms I will attest to the idea that humanity is not the master of Earth but instead an overconfident bully of its peers.

Jean
Posts: 977
Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:49 am
Location: Switzterland

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by Jean » Thu May 16, 2019 4:24 pm

I don't see humanity as a relevant entity. Fungal networks and and trees from the same specie aren't usually competing with each others. Humans today are. More precisely, group of humans are. Politic is defining those groups.
I would say that in your analogy, science would be consciencousness. A tool to understand and try things in reality, instead of just reacting to it.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 4:40 pm

Perhaps a better word is civilization or "the collective consciousness of humans"? I wouldn't say that science is consciousness, because the attention of humans is not targeted towards figuring out what we do not know. We basically evolved to fool ourselves by detecting patterns where there are none. The parietal lobe seems like a better fit because it is where the sensory information is integrated (data analysis and error correction) and language is processed in part (theoretical formalization). It is the frontal lobe that filters out what it doesn't want from this region (almost always based on more primal desires) and runs with it. Information technology is shortening our attention span and over-fitting our association machinery to artificial "news" that keeps us conditioned for consumption.
Last edited by daylen on Thu May 16, 2019 4:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 4:43 pm

Our apparent reality =/= our actual reality

We see a highly selective portion of the electromagnetic spectrum because that helps us survive and reproduce. Not to uniformly sample the underlying event space and make inferences about the future. We look back in memory and convince ourselves that they "make sense", because under-confidence is not useful when initiative/will/drive/desire are the only things that stand between reality and our next meal.

Jean
Posts: 977
Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:49 am
Location: Switzterland

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by Jean » Thu May 16, 2019 5:00 pm

I maintain that counsciousness is to an individual what science is to a civilization.
Both works on what an individual or a civilization can percieve.
Both try to order those perceptions.
Both emerged very late in evolution of humans or evolution. Usualy, human learned by conditioning, and civilization by superstitions. They can be matching the optimal reaction as predicted by science or counsciousness, but it's a completly different process than counscious thinking or science.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 5:30 pm

Fair enough. The analogy is taking on a superposition of possible interpretations.

My position still makes more sense to me. Science often works with very indirect methods of perception. Particles and black holes do not lend themselves to direct observation. The words "order" and "perception" can be given just about any definition that is desired. Perhaps the precise "kind" of consciousness emerged relatively recently, but there is no way of knowing if much simpler systems have a form of consciousness.
They can be matching the optimal reaction as predicted by science or counsciousness, but it's a completly different process than counscious thinking or science.
Not entirely sure I know what you are saying here. The conditioning and superstition link is interesting, but I am not sure how optimization or prediction come into play. Maybe we have non-overlapping views of what science is precisely? This is likely given that my lexicon is highly idiosyncratic.

Jean
Posts: 977
Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:49 am
Location: Switzterland

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by Jean » Thu May 16, 2019 6:10 pm

It's like when for a research project and you need to produce something. At the begining it doesn't work, at the end it does, but you cannot say what you're doing differently. This is the non scientific, uncounscious way of getting better at thing. Science it when you try to consciously reproduce your faillure from the begining.

The way neural networks work is uncounscious. Cousciousness is when the neuralnetwork gets able to look at parts of himself and try to influence the input to widen the range were its output is correct. I hope it's clearer.
Conditioniong is why you don't touch a hot plate, counsciousness is how you predict that thing you've never seen might be hot too. Superstition is banning sick people because they bring bad luck, science is finding out how they get people around them sick and how to prevent it.
Thanks for the topic. I'll be back.

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Thu May 16, 2019 6:41 pm

Ah, now it makes sense. An antithesis is that often scientists (or curious people in general) are consciously trying to test one thing and end up discovering an unknown unknown. Normally, people are not really looking at the world around them carefully, so the signs go undetected. When people do try to look closely they often have a sub-conscious motivation (confirmation bias), but sometimes they can end up finding something completely puzzling. Their pattern-recognition software (neural nets) cannot fit to the new observation in a straightforward manner so they doubt it.

My view is skewed by my belief that there have been very few major scientific discoveries. Most "science" has been preoccupied with interpolating, retesting, and representing these discoveries. The "sciences" outside of physics, chemistry, and basic biology are like 75% debate (hand waving), 20% classification, 4.9% experimental design, and 0.1% experiment. Those figures are non-scientific and heavily skewed by social science (in more ways than one 8-)).

intellectualpersuit
Posts: 39
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:23 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by intellectualpersuit » Mon May 20, 2019 5:51 pm

The composition of a human is analogous to the composition of the globalized world, but are humans fractals of the globalized world? Perhaps only in one or two "superpositions", or not.

human
city
country
world

daylen
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Science and the Nervous System

Post by daylen » Tue May 21, 2019 10:30 am

The world could be thought to contain numerous fractal dimensions. The fractal dimension of a network/graph in a topological space is a measure of roughness or information. Our vision inputs a set of light-rays onto our retina and outputs an [apparently] three-dimensional representation of our surroundings; in some sense, it is adding depth to the image by recognizing how familiar networks scale. If all humans are a point on the surface of Earth with edges connecting them, then the picture would contain information about how they cluster across scale. A typical graph would have one topological dimension, and the fractal dimension is typically somewhere between one and two.

In reality, the fractal dimension is hard to measure and therefore lacks application relative to its ubiquity. It even appears to be related to the holographic principle and black holes where.. "the informational content of all the objects that have fallen into the hole might be entirely contained in surface fluctuations of the event horizon.". It is related to the idea that the physical state of a system can be described with an amount of information proportional to the surface area of that system (this seems bizarrely counter-intuitive). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_principle

Our reality appears to be centered at the individual human to make decisions (and sometimes small groups). The individual is the point of infliction between the internal and external realities. Our minds/bodies are in some sense a mirror image of the environment; as our consciousness develops, the asymmetry weakens and the locus of control shifts. From another perspective, perhaps the asymmetry strengthens as the known unknown territory expands.

Post Reply