My World View – Free Will … A Revisit – Part 2

What follows is an opinion. You can like it or not. If you disagree, I’m open to new ideas or refinement of these. I like to think that this is based on observation and education, something I like to call a hypothesis. In part 1 I described how the human brain seems to work with an executive process, or what I’ll call consciousness.

That executive function has the same function as what might be described as the controlling process. It is given the identity of the system rather than each piece of the system being given an identity. You think of your computer as a single object.

Whether we call this a hive mind or multiple processors is not important. It is only important now to understand that the executive function is not in control of or monitoring all possible functions of the system. It has a management function rather than a controlling function. It does not ensure that your heart beats or that your leg muscles move correctly to walk. It is monitoring the executive level information about all of these things. It is your awareness of them.

In this way we ‘feel’ hunger, tiredness, soreness, weakness, sick, and so on. That is to say that feelings are like executive reports on the state of things. If we accept the model of 8 primary emotions, and assume that these emotional states are driven by chemical activation, there is some recent thoughts on how this can work.

From Wikipedia -

In 2011, Lövheim proposed a direct relation between specific combinations of the levels of the signal substances dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin and eight basic emotions. A model was presented where the signal substances form the axes of a coordinate system, and the eight basic emotions according to Silvan Tomkins are placed in the eight corners. Anger is, according to the model, for example produced by the combination of low serotonin, high dopamine and high noradrenaline.

The important part of this is that we can use chemicals to taint or weight how processing is handled in the brain. Just from this little bit of info we can deduce that people who are always happy, or always depressed might indeed have a chemical imbalance in their brains.

Wait A Minute. What Does That Really Mean?

Yes, I’ve just opined that emotions can be reduced to mere physical phenomena. We (our executive brain process) can’t easily quantify them because we have no direct measure of them, no direct sensory output as to their state – we just ‘feel’ angry or happy etc. What also needs to be mentioned here is that we don’t know what an optimal state is or that one can be achieved or should be. We’re pretty  damn lucky this far to recognize that these are possible.

When our brain is in a ‘happy’ state – that is to say that the chemical cocktail which leads to a happy state is in play – we adjust our reactions to the other data that we receive. In an irritable state, spilling coffee on your new shirt gets a big reaction but when in a happy state, the same mishap might only bring laughter at the situation. This is a basic explanation of the model, and basic examples of how this model can affect our thinking according to moods.

A person could go years and never be ‘happy’ or might go years being continuously ‘irritable’ because of the brain chemical cocktail. With this framework it is easy to see that this could possibly happen and when we compare this possibility to real experience it’s not so difficult to say that hey, that seems pretty good explanation. I’m not saying that is exactly how it works. I’m trying to cover some bases so that when I explain Free Will it will make sense. What I want you to understand is that our perceptions are not black/white cut/dried analysis. Cognitive activity is tainted by the chemical soup. This means that today your car may seem ordinary but tomorrow you might look at it and think what a nice color it is. The combination of experience and chemical weighting give us a perception at the cognitive level.

With the understanding that the chemicals can affect us, what makes the soup mixture up for us? Certainly we humans don’t walk around thinking “hmm, what I need right now is just a tad more dopamine”  to make the day right. This is where it gets all swooshy. When you think about things, say that bully that used to pick on you in school, your brain bartender starts remixing the cocktail. The new cocktail taints your perception of incoming data, and so on in a big feedback loop of feedback loops which are tied to pattern recognition engine outputs which are in turn monitoring pattern recognition engines for some pattern in their combined output. The data at some point causes cognitive effort and the cycling of bartender talents continues endlessly.

Give Me An Example, Or Sumpin’

You’re standing in your back yard enjoying a beverage and kind of appreciating the music currently playing. The bartender is working on a happy pill shot when out of the corner of your eye you notice something. In this 5 milliseconds many things happen that your executive is not aware of. It can take a couple hundred milliseconds for the message to get up the executive process. In the mean time your patter recognition roller coaster has started dumping dopamine onto the gray matter like it was on fire. This configures the communications in the various parts of the brain to ‘pay attention’ to some circuits/data more than others. This pattern of recognition from the vision system triggers the dumping of adrenaline to your muscles as well. About the time that the adrenaline floods your muscles your brain has hit the fight or flight panic button. Reflexively you jump. If you’re in shape this will appear as though you have dematerialized and rematerialized some 6 feet toward the other side of the lawn. As the executive function finally gets into the control room, it takes control of your vision and muscles. First job answer the question “what the fuck was that? What the hell is going on?”

Now that executive is in full control, you’ll be well aware of what is happening. The recognition that you had stepped toward an old bit of garden hose is now fully in your conscious mind. At this point your brain turns off the alarms, shuts down the adrenaline pumps, and the bartender goes back to work remixing the cocktail. They may all take a bit to realize the alarms have been turned off and the danger is passed, but it will happen. The heart always seems to be the slowest to go back to normal… it’s busy supplying energy to all those systems that sprang into action before the executive guy could even figure out that he needed to do something. Your executive process is examining the old bit of hose, studying it a bit more. The pattern of attributes is now committed to memory and in 20 minutes when you see it again there will be no panic.

Of course, if you were stoned and the bartender was going heavy on the joy juice shots, there would have been no panic to begin with. The effects of the chemical soup having been modified by whatever recreational activity you were recently involved with.

Hopefully this has simplified a bit of the cacophony of data exchange in the brain and given some semblance of a sequence to it all. More examples would be better, but I’m running out of room here. This does not detail how love works or jealousy etc. I’m simply trying to explain the basics of the mechanisms by which they do work.

In this garden hose example we’ve looked at how and why the brain functions must work separately and communicate together in varying ways and to varying degrees in order for us/we/the executive to process billions of bits of data per second, or faster. The basic pattern similarity between a snake in the grass and an old bit of garden hose triggered autonomic responses in the non-conscious parts of the brain. This faster reaction time provided by not requiring the executive function to do everything means that you are now safe from dirty brass fittings and possible external contamination by way of water drops. You, your body, all the parts that make up the trillions of cells working together to be you recognized a pattern, made a decision, orchestrated a response, executed the response – then the executive finally shows up to write the TPS reports.

Wait, don’t  you have some kind of test I can do? Sure. The picture below: what is it and how do you know that. When did you know that in relation to the other facts that you know about it. Comments with answers are appreciated.

What parts of your brain do you imagine where just involved in that exercise? No, there is no ‘well duh’ part of the brain.

The point of this is that you think with the thing you’re thinking about in mechanical terms. If I’ve explained myself well, there should be no question about when does the magic of cognition happen. You might even have been aware of collecting attributes of the image one at a time then putting it together to either confirm your hunch or make a decision on what it is.

What do you remember of the experience of identifying the item in this picture.

If our brains are just mechanical or materialist in nature, why don’t they fail more? They do. Have a look at this. We have learned to adapt and learn quickly. Evolution theory says that those animals that adapt and learn quickly are more likely to survive.  It is no surprise then that we are quite adept at these skills. Note that autistic children are not so good at them. Some people can’t see colors. Some people can’t hear low frequencies. Some people can’t walk. Some can’t talk. Our brains adapt and learn. Stephen Hawking is a prime example.




Author’s Note:

This has been a long trek so far. What I hope we have understood here is a basis for understanding the brain as many small systems working together where there is an executive function that we call consciousness.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below…

  1. I am going to have to read this again when I have taken my ADD meds. I caught the basics. I’ve always known my chemicals are off. Like me.

    • Some day soon I envision a pace maker like setup that helps regulate the chemical soup in our heads so that we can create enough of what we need and not too much of what we don’t but also doesn’t drag us down when we need to punch up the volume …. I have hopes.

      • I wonder if I would be the same person. Would it rob me of my passion? Is anger always a bad thing? Is the line between chemicals and reactions that area where play is born?

        • I think that a fixed adjustment to the chemicals would be bad, but I imagine a devices that functions like the part of your brain that should regulate the chemical(s) better and adjust the brain to do it’s thing naturally.

          Our brains allow for us to combine data and patterns in novel ways. This is what we do when we solve puzzles. When the world is looked at like a puzzle, those novel combinations can be cause for hilarity – hence humor and play.

          • I don’t like feeling as if I am always set on medium. Paxil did that to me. I hated it. It’s not a bad idea; I just wonder if our little quirks are what make us interesting, within acceptable parameters. But who sets those parameters? Maybe your perfect medium rare is someone else’s “send it back”.

            I had a different kind of play in mind.

            • I might know the play you thought of, and yes, that play would happen in the interaction of the chemicals, the electrical signals, the magnetic interplay and so on. The patterns we see and feel/sense are all a part of these interactions and a result of them.

              The next post or so in this series will deal with the fact that we have two universes in our heads… the one that our senses inform us about and the one that we have strictly for modelling what those sensory data might mean. We have the ability to imagine that inner universe in any way that we wish and mix it with sense data from the real world in ways that don’t always make sense to everyone else.

              The color purple might ‘taste’ good to you, or maybe hyaena taste prickly to your brain. Perhaps heart shapes sound mellow to you. This is synaesthesia. Where our senses data gets mixed up in the interpretation.

              Feeling always on medium is bad. The thing I envision helps to regulate but does not force a medium setting… just prevents the low setting or the high setting from being to much or being on too much whatever the problem is… but still allows you to go with low, medium, and high as you desire and need. An actual cure.

              • It would be a relief to live my life without being ruled by anxiety. I don’t think it’s all chemicals. I think there maybe some faulty wiring in there too.

                • it’s possible. I think that it’s fixable though. We know how to grow new brain cells, new nerves… new body parts… I still have hope

                  • On that note, I am off to take a hot bath. You have your hope. I have anxiety. Nice chatting with you.

                  • I feel much better now. Baths are the most wonderful things. I am not surprised the Romans built their culture around them.

  2. This series has the outlook of being very interesting

    • I thank you. If my guess is right, there are at least three more posts to go…. sooner or later I have to talk about free will LOL

      • Make it sooner

      • Free will… i want to see that one sooner, too. A lot of discussion swirling around that of late.

        • I’m hearing that. So am trying to move right into it. Just one last thing as basis for the opinion…. thanks for reading and commenting John

  3. Re: your test – this is what I thought when I studied it. At first I noticed the colors as black and blue and I thought it was some kind of animation drawing. Then I studied the parts and saw the number 99 and began to get the idea that it was a futuristic car’s dashboard computer. Then I looked closer and saw “power” with blue circles in a row along the top so I thought it must be important since it was on the top. Then I noticed the battery icon and the gas pump icon and realized it must be the dashboard of a hybrid car. This took less than a minute.

    Did I identify it correctly? I looked for patterns that I could compare to patterns that I had knowledge of even though I have never really seen something like this before.

    • I forgot that I quickly took in the icon of the car with the door open which helped a lot.

    • As I studied and identified each part the whole thing came clear to me. How much as conscious and how much not, I don’t know. It is a fun test though.

      • You can do this all the time. At night with a strange object in the yard or street, something off in the distance. If you are mindful you’ll see all the ways that you analyze to figure out what the object is. I find that by being aware like this, as a general rule, I am more aware of what is around me. I notice when a cushion is out of place, or something is moved in the garage etc. It’s an interesting thing to see changes in work or home environments that happen in very slow time but your memories of it piece together as if it was stop-motion film.

    • That was exactly right. The very same thing that everyone does. Analyze the scene looking for patterns and colors, working to identify what you are seeing. When you recognized enough patterns, the purpose of the entire thing was made clear. The exercise was to show/see that this what we do. In normal daily life we see many of the same things and recognition comes nearly instantly, so we often don’t think of what we’re doing or what is involved.

      Thank you for commenting. It is appreciated.

  4. I think science is valid and valuable to human understanding. I value the scientist even when I think he/she has blinders on. These are my thoughts about what composes those blinders. Scientists are really only in elementary school when it comes to knowledge of reality. How could this not be otherwise when science is so young? Give humans another 10,000 years and see how far we get in understanding reality. Having watched the video about the big bang I have a couple of arguments for the possible existence of a creator or a being of first cause.

    1) Scientists talk and work from the assumption that the only thing in the universe is energy and condensed energy or matter. These are the two things that at this period in history are what humans can detect. Not too long ago humans didn’t even know that free energy existed. The discovery of “invisible” energy is recent. So extend that idea. What types of things are still to be discovered? What new discipline will take us there? A new kind of science? Our knowledge is limited like our eyes. The range of visible light waves is pretty small. There could very easily be spiritual matter that the human body cannot perceive with its 5 measly senses and the instruments created to extend those senses. But I believe consciousness can detect that reality. It’s fine to say “I don’t believe in a creator”, but for a person to say they know what the universe is and what is in it, makes very little common sense. I have even heard of the possibility of a multi-verse which would make all existence into the stuff of a dream.

    2) Scientists seem to find the realities that are unexplainable in terms of matter and energy as unimportant such as consciousness and personality. Scientists have not explained these two crucial elements of human experience satisfactorily. Where do they come from? The video takes cause and effect back to the big bang. How can consciousness and personality be explained in terms of first cause? Do they also come from nothing? I doubt it.

    3) Scientists (generally) are not too willing to see individual metaphysical and supernatural experiences as valid and to take on the task their investigation. These are labeled “anecdotal”, meaning worthless. Why? They cannot figure out how to test them using the method. So strangely, these types of things are set aside as unworthy.

    I am a lay person full of curiosity, not a scientist. But I do devise experiments when I need to discover something. Some of those experiments involve the supernatural and I trust their outcomes. Some of these involved dream interpretation. Others involved finding if I am connected to a creative force or being and what power that brings me. I experiment with prayer. I seek wisdom wherever I can find it. That is why I like your blog. You have information that peaks my interest and I hope I can learn something new from you.

    I would like to know what your spiritual background is. Were you raised to hate some religion like so many were and are? We need to begin to separate dead religions from living spirituality. Perhaps then scientists who are atheists will turn their sights on those who live their lives in both the visible and invisible worlds and find out why they do this. I think it would be a truly worthwhile investigation.

    You have explained well the workings of the brain and how we experience it. I also am interested in how the brain works. I am familiar with the chemical components of the brain and how they affect emotion and reaction etc. All that makes sense. We are made of matter. We are affected by matter. But we are also more and I absolutely believe that the universe (or multiverse) must be also.

  5. 1 – There are things that still need explaining. “Science” has never said there were not. It is not claimed that we know all there is to know of the universe, the claim is that ‘this’ is what we know and what we can infer from it and here are the tests we’ve done to disprove or prove those hypotheses. It is not a supposition. The multiverse idea is not borne of ideal fantasy, but as a possibility of what we have found out.

    2 – Consciousness and personality are two things I’m explaining in this series. Stay tuned. First cause explanation is not needed to explain them.

    3 – “Scientists (generally) are not too willing to see individual metaphysical and supernatural experiences as valid and to take on the task their investigation. These are labeled “anecdotal”, meaning worthless. Why?”

    You are correct. The one way that we can assess with great reliability is by shared experience. Each of us on our own is capable of misunderstanding what we see or sense, but shared experience confirms with multiple senses and multiple people. Religious experience relies on anecdotal evidence and tricks which are easily explained in simple terms of psychology. To be real metaphysical supernatural effects, they need to look like something other than nominal effects of being a human with a human brain. There is no need to postulate supernatural explanations when physical ones are sufficient.

    I do not blatantly discount ‘spiritual’ things or things which have not been yet explained and are currently linked to ‘spiritual’ ‘forces’. I do reserve my conclusion in waiting for evidence. I have seen things that need explanation but even spiritual answers do not yet explain them. I’m exploring that type of thing in this series of posts.

    I was raise pentecostal evangelical Christian. Yes, I was taught that some religions were false and all their adherents were going to hell. The invisible world, as you call it, cannot be invisible if it is able to interact with the ‘visible’ world. Science will find a way to test it.

    On the matter of being more than matter… wait for the next few posts in this series. It’s going to get deep fast… but I’ll try to explain it simply.

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

  1. April 2nd, 2013
  2. April 20th, 2013

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