From: "Henry van Eyken" <email@example.com>
During Session 8B, Jon Bosak the question, where does meaning come
I believe it is important to introduce here a modicum of psychology
and I do so under the authority of one of the grand old men of
"classical" psychology, Michael Gazzaniga. Here two IMPORTANT
paragraphs copied from something I wrote for Fleabyte and in which I
paraphrased some of what Gazzaniga wrote in a small, popular book,
"The Mind's Past." Here goes:
The word Past in The Mind's Past refers to what brains do before we
ourselves get involved. Gazzaniga links our mind's past to our self
with a device he calls interpreter. The interpreter functions
somewhat like a computer's central processing unit. Neural
computerese goes in, awareness comes out. "After the brain computes
an event, an illusory we (that is, the mind) becomes aware of it,"
writes Gazzinga. "The brain, particularly the left hemisphere, is
built to interpret data already processed. Yes, there is a special
device, which I call the interpreter, that carries out one more
activity upon completion of zillions of automatic brain processes.
The interpreter, the last device in the information chain in our
brain, reconstructs the brain events and in doing so makes telling
errors of perception, memory, and judgment."
The interpreter, in other words, looks at what has been wrought by
our brains and then -- experimenters have timed it to be about half a
second later -- takes full credit by acting as if it itself made it
all happen. The interpreter is the treshold to our conscious selves.
The interpreter fools us into thinking that we are in control. The
interpreter serves our self-assuredness. Our interpreter helps us
maintain our mental balance. Telling it like it is, the truth, and
nothing but the truth, is not the interpreter's top priority. Its
priority is to make sense of the data it receives, even when fed with
outrageous nonsense. Like our intestinal tract, the interpreter works
hard to make do even with junk food.
[The Fleabyte page, referred to above, gives an example of what
lengths the interpreter will go to make "objective truth" palatable.
Gazzaniga tells us of an intelligent lady who suffered from a
malfunction called reduplicative paraamnesia. "The standard
interpretation of this syndrome is that the patient has made a
duplicate copy of a place (or person) and insists that there are
two." He interviews her in his office.
"I started with the 'so where are you?' question. 'I am in freeport,
Maine. I know you don't believe it. Dr. Posner told me this morning
when he came to see me that I was in the Memorial Sloan Kettering
Hospital and when the residents come on rounds to say that to them.
Well, that is fine but I know that I am in myhouse on Main Street in
Freeport, Maine!' I asked, 'Well, if you are in Freeport and in your
house, how come there are elevators outside the door here?' The
grand lady peered at me and calmly responded, 'Doctor, do you know
how much it cost me to have those put in?'
"The patient had a perfectly fine interpreter working away trying to
make sense out of what she knows and feels and does. Because of her
lesion, the part of the brain that represents locality is overactive
and sending out an erroneous message about her location. The
interpreter is only as good as the information it receives .... The
interpreter tells us the lies we need to believe in order to remain
in control." Better change what one believes than find onself at a
So far my paraphrasing Gazzaniga. If I remember correctly -- how I
wish I had a DKR to help me be accurate and up-to-date -- many, many
years ago it was demonstrated that information entering the visual
system of the brain can travel along, basically, two pathways to
parts of the cortex: one that leaves the travelling info
unadulterated by emotions, the other along which emotional
Off hand -- how dangerous to say things off-hand! -- I am inclined to
think that a DKR preoccupied with nuts and bolts will by and large
(but not altogether) get along reasonably well with people's
interpreters. But what about a DKR in the public domain concerned
with the origins of the Universe and the species in it and zillions
of other subtle things that guide our demeanor? Maintained through
CoDIAK and OHS. The kind of public DKR that, I am so naieve to hope
eventually come to guide an educated, general population in
contributing to decisions made on their behalf by democratically
I am tempted to now write scenarios and vignettes about the effect of
an authoritative, "nothing-but-the-truth" DKR full of holy books,
Joseph Campbell's interpretations of myth, vengeful prophets,
lessons from evolutionary psychology, you and your lover's follies.
&c., &c.) on the mental balance of people. Right now, people can
argue things out in Kansas, but what then, when the time between
confrontation and judicial resolution is shortened from months to
minutes? "Oops," says Doug. "Surprise!"
BTW: Do yourself a favor, buy that magnificent little book.
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