[Paleopsych] why I need you and you need me

HowlBloom at aol.com HowlBloom at aol.com
Sat May 7 00:01:19 UTC 2005

Thanks to your input and to the energy you give me I've been mapping out a  
theory of the extracranial extensions of the self.  One part of that theory  
says that when I get upset about a fight with my wife, I need to run to you  and 
blurt out my tale.  Why?  On the surface, in order to calm myself  down.
But there's another reason.  Groups with the nimblest collective  
intelligence outcompete groups with lame collective brains.  When I  have trouble in my 
trek through tough emotional terrain--like the  terrain of a relationship--I 
bring my report on that problem to a friend, to  you.  You calm me down.  In the 
process you follow Alice in  Wonderland's rule:  "How do I know what I'm 
thinking until I hear what I  have to say?"  You think out solutions that are 
useful to you and are  useful to me.  In fact, you wonder when you've finished 
delivering your  wisdom, why you could do this miraculous problem solving for me, 
but you  couldn't do it for yourself.
My problem and your solution, if  we’re all very lucky, can do something 
remarkable.  It can become a metaphor that helps us  understand other relations 
that ride on shifting sands—from understanding how  particles behave or how 
America has to deal with our Chinese trade deficit to  understanding what a 
business needs to do next or to puzzling out the patterns  of signals we get from a 
probe on the moon of a distant planet. 

If the tale of what I've been through makes for a really good story, and if  
your solution to my problem is a triumph, too, you get excited.  What  happens 
to us humans when we're excited.  We need to share the excitement  with 
someone else.  We need to blurt, to vent, and to brag.  So  you, having helped me, 
call your spouse or a friend and send the tale of my  dilemma and your 
solution out on the seas of the grapevine, out on the seas of  gossip, out on the sea 
of collective information processing, collective  intelligence, and 
collective memory.  In the process you and I help the  groups and subgroups we belong 
to smart.
If we lived in a culture that forbade this sort of confession, this  constant 
conversation about intimacy, we'd be a lot dumber.  Which my  explain why I 
no longer want to write What the Nuclear Knights of Islam Want  From You: The 
Osama Code.  Reading books on the history of Islam's founding  fathers, the 
Companions of the Prophet, has worn me out.  How?  I'm  still trying to define 
it, but these books dry out my brain.   They stop me from thinking.  There's no 
introspective depth.  It  is very, very hard to kill my curiosity, but the 
aridness of these Islamic  source books has managed to do it.
Is that because the culture within which these books have been written is  
deprived of the cross-talk that takes place when we Westernizers run into  
problems--especially problems that whack us with the whips and paddles of  
confusion and insecurity?
Meanwhile, my limbic system--and probably yours--needs to resolve its  
problems with my cortical consciousness not by sending a signal a mere four  inches 
or so through the brain, but by going the thousands of miles it  takes to get 
to you. Then you explain me to my self--you complete a loop from  the turmoil 
of my emotional brain, my limbic system, to the somewhat  semi-calm of my 
talking, thinking, and writing brain, my left frontal  and pre-frontal cortex.
If I read Jeff Hawkins' right, he says that this sort of loop creates a  
memory that allows us to see the patterns of the immediate past and use those  
patterns to predict the future.  And memory of this sort is a vital part of  
collective intelligence.
Here's Hawkin's quote (once again).  See if you think it  applies:
auto-associative memories in neural nets.  "Instead of only passing  
information forward...auto-associative memories fed the output of each neuron  back 
into the input....  When a pattern of activity was imposed on the  artificial 
neurons, they formed a memory of this pattern. ...To retrieve a  pattern stored 
in such a memory, you must provide the pattern you want to  retrieve. ....The 
most important property is that you don't have to have the  entire pattern you 
want to retrieve in order to retrieve it.  You might  have only part of the 
pattern, or you might have a somewhat messed-up  pattern.  The auto-associative 
memory can retrieve the correct pattern, as  it was originally stored, even 
though you start with a messy version of  it.  It would be like going to the 
grocer with half eaten brown bananas and  getting whole green bananas in return. 
...Second, unlike mist neural networks,  an auto-associative memory can be 
designed to store sequences of patterns, or  temporal patterns.  This feature is 
accomplished by adding time delay to  the feedback. ...I might feed in the 
first few notes of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little  Star' and the memory returns the 
whole song.  When presented with part of  the sequence, the memory can recall 
the rest." Jeff Hawkins, Sandra  Blakeslee.  On Intelligence.  New York: Times 
Books, 2004: pp  46-47.

Howard  Bloom
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the  Forces of 
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang  to the 
21st Century
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York  University; Core 
Faculty Member, The Graduate  Institute
Founder:  International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic 
of Evolution  Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The 
Big Bang Tango  Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American 
Association for the  Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, 
Academy of Political  Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International 
Society for Human  Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; 
executive editor -- New  Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology  Project, see: 
for two chapters from 
The Lucifer  Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, 
see  www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of  Mass Mind from the Big 
Bang to the 21st Century, see  www.howardbloom.net

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