Man has a limitation
on his nervous system which makes it impossible for him
to engage the world in a fruitful fashion; he is
unable to predict events and circumstances with enough reliability to
secure his well-being.
For instance, man is unable to guarantee himself a steady supply
of food. Hunger is still a fundamental problem despite the trappings of
civilization and all our technological
success of some at the enterprise of living, is merely an illusion. It
is at great cost to the
ecosystem and other societies that some societies are able to secure a
steady stream of resources for their inhabitants.
We engage in
philosophical theorizing in an attempt to come to grips with our problems
but it is not
enough. Man needs a way to deal with the particulars of the everyday.
It is on the level of the particulars of the everyday that man secures
from the world the necessities of living.
What is it then
that is missing? What is the cause of so much unhappiness and physical
suffering? I can specify precisely what it is. It
is an inability of the brain to utilize
more than a small amount of information from the outside world in the
making of decisions. When we are unable to
incorporate more than just a small amount of information into our
decision-making we misjudge reality and so act in ways which are foolish,
wasteful, and physically harmful. This
represents a fundamental defect of the brain; it is not amenable to education
Many of us live
in successful societies and are protected by those societies from the
harshness of reality. We are not battered
on a daily basis by the uncertainty of securing food, water, and shelter.
Even within so-called successful societies, however, there are many who
struggle to survive. For
homelessness and poverty still persist in the land
of plenty known as the United States of America. The struggles
of life are even more evident in the world as a whole. Across wide swaths
of the globe, hundreds of millions go hungry, basic hygiene is a rarity,
and disease and violence are constant realities.
many is a struggle, but why is it a struggle?
Has anyone answered this question to our satisfaction in 3500 years of
recorded history? Why haven't lifetimes worth of
Inquiry by the best minds of every generation yielded an answer? Our world
is filled with suffering and premature death but no answer seems forthcoming.
Could it be that our problem goes beyond mere intellectual endeavors?
I claim that our problem is a physical problem with
our brain. The physical operation of our brain is not
compatible with happiness. What the brain does is to assure the reproductive
success of the species; it does not assure any individual a reasonably
comfortable life. A reasonably comfortable life is an artifact of society
and at any one point in time it is the purview of only select societies.
It is up to us to
change the physical operation of the brain in order to make life worthwhile
We now have technology in the form of the computer
to help us elucidate our brain problem. In the apolitical,
amoral light of the laboratory, it has been shown that the brain has trouble
classifying the simplest of patterns. Why
is this important? Because in a complex world where no two situations
are exactly alike, the identification
of familiar patterns is the ultimate factor
determining our behavior. Any
situation presents itself as a pattern of
information which our brain must evaluate. It does this by comparing the
present pattern with patterns
from past experiences. The brain depends on matching the new pattern
with patterns stored in memory in order to
know what action to take. We act in pursuit of a bite to eat, a friendly
word, or a warm place to sleep at night. Success at securing our reward
depends on assessing new situations correctly. This can only take place
if the pattern from our memory we have selected
as a match truly is a match. The pattern
from memory must match the pattern represented
by the new situation in order that our action be guaranteed appropriate.
Since the problem,
as I see it, is an inadequacy with which the brain processes information
we need to augment the brain's ability to process
information. The computer presents
itself as an information processing device par excellence. In point of
fact, the computer is able to perform
information processing in a way that precisely complements that of the
nervous system. If we are to hope to increase our ability to process
information and thereby improve our ability to interact with the world
we need to find a way to link a computer to the
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