A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

What’s on your mind? Have you ever seen that line? Quite a few people have.

Have you given much thought to what that means? What’s on your mind? Baseball statistics (a pet peeve of mine)? Soap opera? If you’re a male of the species, chances are, that you’ve had sex on your mind in the last five minutes, and more than once. According to statistics, that is. If that’s not an accurate picture of your world, don’t be offended, just count yourself in the percentage that don’t think about sex that often (not that there’s anything wrong about it unless you lust after someone you shouldn’t). Do I think about how I could be a more loving husband and father? How I could be of assistance to someone around me who is needy? That question should perhaps bring to our mind lots of useful things.

Well, would you and I pass a Turing Test? If you’re too lazy to read the Wikipedia article I linked to, here’s a quick explanation: A Turing Test tries to figure out if you’re a human intelligence or a machine. For lots of computer transactions there are many motives of finding out whether you’re dealing with a human or a machine executing a script.

Does the idea that you might not be distinguishable from a machine bother you?

It should. What is our mind and consciousness? “I think, therefore I am,” said Descartes. I think of that often.

Our physical brain can apparently produce consciousness. How does that relate to my spirit and personality? How much are my spirit and personality limited and shaped by my physical brain? I know that my physical movement is shaped and limited by my body. I can dream of leaping over skyscrapers in Superman style, but I can’t do it. But I think that we’re approaching the time when and fMRI will be able to show certain areas of your brain activating in certain situations, and that will prove that a specific process is going on. As of now, the fMRI results just are a bit too vague and all over the map.

But wait! Isn’t mind something more abstract than an electrochemical organ? It has been argued, that mind is a non-physical entity. And if we think of Mormon theology, in Section 93 in Doctrine & Covenants we are told that “man was also in the beginning with God.” I take that to mean, that just as the Bible says that in the beginning was the Word (Yahweh/Jesus), the Word was God and was “with God.” I am not quite certain as to how to interpret that exactly — obviously we are not all gods as of yet, although we have godly potential.

However, that has lead me to speculate that there is a certain consciousness that we have, a personality, if you will, that we were, before we were born. This “spirit/intelligence” is not immaterial, it just is of a different order. Now we know that there is information that gets transferred over long distances without anything measurable being emitted/transmitted by anything. (i.e. plants can communicate that there is an invasion of bugs and start producing an acid that makes their leaves less tasty for the bugs or flipping quants over longish distances in a quantum computer — we don’t know exactly why they work the way they do, and how they transmit the information, we just know there’s certain predictability about phenomena we can observe).

And back to this material spirit, which resides in our body and on the one hand gives life to our body — there are scientist who say that certain chemical reactions keep us alive, but it has also proved an insurmountable task to produce such reactions in a laboratory despite having everything present that should do it. Don’t get me wrong; I have no intention of knocking down science, which is very important for our society and our well-being.

The question I’d like to ask is this: When the neurophysiologist sees an activation of a certain area in my brain when I, for example, pray and feel something spiritual or try to solve a Sudoku, we have a chicken-egg situation; does the thought/feeling produce the electrochemical reaction, or the reaction produce the conscious thought/feeling. (My guess is that influence goes both ways; it’s a kind of a tie.)

While you’re thinking about that, add to the equation the idea of leaping over tall buildings, again like Superman. Now change the image to you picking up a glass of water and drinking it. What exactly produced the movement when you picked up the glass? What originated the electrochemical reactions that actually made your hand move — we know that our central nervous system (CNS) is a very highly evolved organism that has automated many routine tasks like flexing this muscle and releasing that one, which eventually produces movement. Ask yourself why you can’t leap over the building, but you can pick up the glass (assuming you have at least one hand that works)? Your physical limitations come to play. Your physical reality limits what your body can do.

Can we transfer this analogy to how our mind works? Is that equation so difficult for me to solve because my brain lacks certain switches, that my intelligence could otherwise solve? (I understand intelligence to be certain ability to know (be conscious of) something and make some conclusions that lead to actions. I have no pretension to authority in this question.)

I don’t know the answer, I’m just asking the questions. I’m sure if I were to dig a bit deeper and pay money for publications that have the latest results I would know more, but there’s the time limitation, too. For example, S.Faux wrote here about this issue, and I’ll let you read that yourself. I’ll just comment on the idea that language is apparently a very important piece of the puzzle of the mind. One can’t solve an equation one can not describe to oneself.

“Cogito, ergo sum.” — at least I hope so!

And I try to keep these posts under a thousand words…

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Posted in Computers, Mormonism, Religion
6 comments on “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
  1. Kathi says:

    I find this subject fascinating. How do you think prohecy could be explained by scientists? How does the brain activity of a dream that foretells an event get explained?For example, I had a dream once about an aquaintance that I hardly even knew. She was unable to have children and in my dream she was in the hospital having a baby girl and I was holding a baby girl. I told her of the dream (I felt seriously prompted to do so) and a few weeks later, she told me that her doctor was in shock because she was 6 weeks pregnant. She wound up having a baby girl on the same birthdate as my daughter (which explained me holding a baby girl.)
    I’m just wondering. Thanks for your post ;o)

    • velska says:

      Thank you for sharing that.

      I think that we should develop a new kind of scientific vocabulary and way of measuring things — there must be a way to do so?

      Anyhow, we can not observe spiritual phenomena in a “laboratory” because life is not controllable. We can’t say that one thing always leads to another; it’s not predictable like that.

      Let’s say we become aware of some sin that we are able to abandon when we realize it’s hindering our spiritual progress. Is there an exact recipe for how to go about it? No, because we are individuals, who are unique. Not everyone who checks out an x-rated website becomes addicted to it and so forth.

      What I’m saying is that this could at most, as far as I can fathom, be a “soft” science like psychology where lots of basic research has to do with population statistics, not individual predictions.

      You apparently dreamed about your acquaintance when she already was pregnant? Or was this before that? Anyhow, the Lord told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son, when everyone knew she was barren and beyond fertile age. Rachel didn’t feel favored, either. But “the Lord remembered Rachel”.

      But that’s the thing about faith and spiritual phenomena that you can not form individual predictions. Although we can predict many things fairly accurately, they are statistical more than individual.

      Anyhow, it’s another question altogether, but how does prophecy about future mesh with freedom of choice? I get the Nineveh thing; I get that the Philistines, Assyrians etc. were given an edge so they could “chastise” Israel on the Lord’s behalf. But the Lord also makes it clear that the heathen kingdoms will not stand in the end.

      Is that because he knows that some will come, who will be righteous; who have already shown that they will do the right thing no matter what it costs them — in the mold of Jesus, Joseph, Moses?

      Is it a blessing or a burden to know some things? That is the most difficult question for me to answer.

      Thirtysomething years ago I was asked how I could know that I’d want to be a Mormon after twenty years or so (it sounded like a long time then!), and I said, “I don’t know but if it starts feeling stale, I can walk out as easily as I walked in.

      Turns out it’s impossible to walk out. This is where my head and heart brings me. I have a genuine witness from the Spirit about Jesus, First Vision, stuff like that. And I realize full well Joseph was not perfect, he had several wives — which sounds weird I know — and stuff like peepstones (so he needed a prop in the beginning). So Moses was not a perfect man, he had some pretensions about his authority and was chastised by the Lord.

      I don’t really have words to express it fully. I just know. Go figure.

    • velska says:

      I hope nobody thinks I condone pornography?

      No, I just mean that we should be truthful about it. Not every marijuana joint leads to a heroin OD death or every teenage boy who checks out an immodest site gets sucked into a vicious circle of abuse. But using “mind altering” drugs (anything, really, starting from mild alcoholic drinks — I’ve seen so many people totally wasted on beer, and have been myself) is addictive, you can take it from me. Everybody doesn’t need to make the same mistakes.

      That’s a soapbox issue for me. We need to be very honest with our kids, for example. If we tell them too many fairy tales as truth how can they know when we really mean something. (Don’t even ask me about Santa! No, really don’t!)

  2. Edde says:

    Hmm… quite thought-provoking. I think it’s healthy to ask questions… goodness knows I have plenty! The hard part for me is when I start to let doubt creep in and try to make me forget what I’ve felt through the Spirit… I’ve struggled with that a bit. I want to know EVERYTHING and when I don’t get a clear answer, I freak out. That’s where faith comes in for me… Something I’m still working on. 🙂

    • velska says:

      You’ll have to keep working…

      Questioning is healthy, IMO, and the only way to learn. That is why we shouldn’t be afraid of asking sincere questions or giving truthful answers.

      There are times when I remember, for example, visiting a place and being surprised. “Was I really there?”

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