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The New Era for The Brain: Guiding Your Own Evolution
One of the great abilities of the human brain is to boost itself into a higher function. No one can explain how this happens. By the time early humans discovered fire and simple tools like the wheel and lever, our brains were already the most complex structure in the universe. We then proceeded to use this structure in unprecedented ways. Somewhere in our DNA was the potential for higher mathematics, for example, even though Homo sapiens existed for 200,000 years without tapping that capacity.


The reason that we are able to accomplish huge, never-ending leaps needs to be solved. If it can, then a new era will open up for the brain. The key is not materialistic, to my mind. One needs to begin, in fact, by turning away from the brain, whose intricate workings have mesmerized researchers for three decades, ever since the development of feasible brain scans. Such advances are fascinating, but we run the risk of sitting around a radio as it plays Mozart, staring at how the transistors work while imagining that we are uncovering the secrets of music.

Once you stop staring at the brain and start exploring the music it plays — i.e., the richness of human thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations — a simple truth emerges. There is something more complex in the cosmos than the human brain: the process that makes the brain work. This process involves consciousness. It is our mind that is using the brain, not the other way around. (I would argue that the brain is a creation of the mind, a physical projection of consciousness. But that argument can be set aside for another day.) If we could understand the process that underlies the entire brain, instead of focusing in reductionist fashion on bits and pieces of brain function, doors would suddenly be flung open.

Let me suggest a beginning.

What we already know are a few fundamentals that apply to everything happening in the brain. Some functions are already confirmed by brain scans; others arise from deduction, working form observed facts to larger principles.

1. The process always involves feedback loops.

2. These feedback loops are intelligent.

3. The dynamics of the brain go in and out of balance but always favor overall balance, known as homeostasis.

4. We use our brains to evolve and develop, guided by our intentions.

5. Self-reflection pushes us forward into unknown territory.

6. Many diverse areas of the brain are coordinated simultaneously.

7. We have the capacity to monitor many levels of awareness, even though our focus is generally confined to one level (i.e., waking, sleeping, and dreaming).

8. All the qualities of the known world, such as sight, sounds, textures, and tastes, are created mysteriously by the interaction of mind and brain.

9. Mind is the origin of consciousness, not the brain.

10. Only consciousness can understand consciousness. There is no mechanical explanation that suffices, working from facts about the brain.

This list bridges two worlds, biology and philosophy. Biology is great at explaining physical processes but totally inadequate to tell us about the meaning and purpose of our subjective experience. Philosophy delves deeply into meaning but has made only tentative forays into the brain. Both worlds are needed to understand ourselves. Otherwise, we fall into the biological fallacy, which holds that humans are controlled by their brains, or the philosophical fallacy, which treats experience devoid of its physiological connection. Leaving aside countless arguments between various theories of mind and brain, the goal is clear: We want to use our brains, not have them use us.

I'd like to expand on the practical uses of the ten principles listed above — they would be merely intriguing if they remained abstractions but incredibly practical if they lead to the next phase of human evolution. That phase involves using the brain better, something that human beings excel at. We are driven to greater creativity, complexity, imaginative leaps, and unknown horizons. "Better" doesn't mean more efficiently, the way technology improves a computer. In fact, by giving technicalities over to machines, we left more room for using our brains outside technology. In a world where every sort of calculation is done automatically, at the push of a button or the stroke of a keypad, assigning the brain a more evolved role poses the hugest challenge.

In the following posts I'll suggest a new synthesis that takes the most basic aspects of brain function — feedback, self-reflection, homeostasis, and multi-dimensional consciousness — to show that the era of higher brain function has arrived, awaiting only how you and I choose to participate.

(To be cont.)


Published by The San Francisco Chronicle

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Comments

This is a very exciting time to be alive \"...the era of higher brain function has arrived, awaiting only how you and I choose to participate.\" To be cont. Yes, it never ends.
Insights Guy - September 24, 2012
Wow,months ago, while I was riding public transportation, on a random, mindful, conscious moment, I thought of exactly \"what will be the next phase of human evolution.\" And this post is very informative\n\nDear deepak, I am well aware of the pleasure given by being mindful, or being conscious. Joy and peace nonetheless can be achieved. But my ego, my ego is ruining it. I don`t know if it`s the ego or the id, but I can`t help but to be selfish about it. It`s like knowing a secret diet that truly works, but you never want anyone else to know it. I`ve worked hard to achieve this, I researched, I read books and invested a lot of time. My experiences in life brought me here. \n\nI want to share it, but isn`t this something people should discover for themselves? And you can`t really tell people to do this since you have to have intense motivation to achieve this.\n\nIf every individual here in the globe would achieve consciousness, what do you think will be the effect?
jegperez - July 5, 2012
Yesterday, or was it today morning, I dreamt that we make everything we want. At some point, it seemed to me that the present you/I are/am experiencing is a clue to the futures we already created in the past. And I found myself seeing how, in the future, I can make my past. According to the bible in Hebrews, Faith Is the evidence of unseen things hoped for. I felt like my present is a hint as to how my future already is, according to my exercise of faith. I know this relates to guiding my own evolution in some way, I know it is clearer ahead. At the moment though, I am appreciating the time/space limitations of my human experience while realizing that something in me is timeless and is tomorrow, yesterday and now.\n\nOne more thing: your thoughts on how technology enables/challenges us to tackle more creative and abstract frontiers relates a lot to an area I am quite interested in: Digital DJing and Electronic Music!\n\nPeace.
Raph_Out_Loud - May 30, 2012
hello
Raman - May 22, 2012
Fascinating thoughts.
Raman - May 21, 2012
PodrĂ¡ ser el mecanismo mas complejo, pero como marcha la humandiad podrĂ­a decirse que no funciona del todo bien.
Gerardo Felipe - February 27, 2012
Most of the time we feed the brain nonsensical fears and loops. If this is so then who is doing the feeding? There is consciousness, then there is the brain and there is me. If I back off and let consciousness feed the brain I guess a new result might emerge, building blocks possibly stacked differently?
sandeep - February 27, 2012
Left me wanting more...
Vicky Lynn - February 27, 2012
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