Posts Tagged ‘Time Travel’

Do Proponents of “Originalism” Have Healthy Memories?

February 6, 2017

Originalism refers to the notion that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written.  The first question is how can judges do this?  The judges need to accomplish both time travel and mind reading.  That is, they need to travel back in time and somehow understand what these now deceased individuals were thinking.

But even if this could be accomplished, is it desirable?  According to the Constitution at that  time, slavery was legal, but blacks were counted as two-thirds of a human being, and woman could not vote.  So what is the point of going back in time?  Textualists are judges who only consider  the words of the law being reviewed should be considered, neither the writers’ intent nor the consequences of the decision.  So words rather than their intended meanings and results are what is important?

Fortunately, these gross injustices were corrected by amendments to the Constitution. This was the result of the Founding Fathers realizing that there would be a need to amend the Constitution.  It seems clear that they viewed the Constitution to be a fluid document that would need to be changed over time.

So why do these concepts still prevail? Individuals who advocate these concepts are actually insulting the Founding Founders.  HM is certain that if Founding Fathers were asked about this mind reading task, they would tell people of the future not to try to travel back in time.  HM is able to make this assertion from the reading of the Constitution without having to take recourse to time travel and mind reading.

Unfortunately, these beliefs of originalism and textualism are litmus tests for some Senators in approving Supreme Court nominees.  HM thinks that any judge holding to these beliefs does not belong in Traffic Court, much less the Supreme Court.  This acceptance of originalism provides a key insight as to the break between the legal system and justice.

In case the reader has still not inferred the answer to the question posed in the title, the answer is no.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cognitive Science Should Be Taught in Elementary School

August 30, 2016

For a long time, HM thought that the study of psychology should be put off until college.  However, he has recently come to the opinion that certain parts of human cognition should be taught as soon as possible.  This would provide some insight for the students in to how they think and learn.  The importance of focus and attention, and the fact that bias is inherent to our thinking.

Students likely think of their memory as something they need to use to past tests.  What they need to understand is that their memory is a machine for time travel.  They use it not just to remember stuff for tests, but as a means of searching what they have learned and experience in the past, to decide what to do in the future.  In other words, it goes far beyond remembering stuff for tests.

Information gets into our memories from our senses.  What we perceive  is limited by what we can sense.  Color, for example, does not exist in the external world.  Color is created by what our eyes can sense.  People who have different kinds of color blindness are limited by the absence of specific color sensing sensors (cones).

Our brains process these inputs and create internal models of what exists in the world.  Optical illusions provide good examples of what we think we see may not be accurate.  There are also cognitive illusions when what we think does not correspond to reality.  Essentially learning is a process of building better and better cognitive models.  As the result of learning we are able to refine and correct our cognitive models.  But this requires thinking and thinking requires attention.  Usually when we do not remember, it is due to our not paying attention in the first place.  So, paying attention in class is important for effective learning.  Students would learn not only how we make decisions and solve problems, but also better ways to make decisions and solve problems.

They would also learn about Daniel Kahneman’s Two Process View of Cognition.  System 1 is called is called intuition and is very fast.  This speed is the product of learning and is bought at the price of biases used in System 1 Processing.  System 2 is called reasoning and is what we commonly think of as thinking.  One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 1 for errors

Our default bias is to believe new information.  This is called the confirmation bias.  If we did not have this as a default bias, we would probably never have survived as a species.  But it does create problems.  We tend to look for information that confirms what we believe.  Unfortunately, this carries the risk of failing to correct our biases.  Science is structured to look for information to disconfirm current theories or beliefs.
One of the biggest problems is correcting disinformation.  This is why the big lie is so successful.  If something is heard frequently enough, the tendency is to believe it, regardless of whether it is true or not.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Space-Time Theory of Consciousness

January 19, 2016

Back in March of last year in my blog post “The Future of the Mind:  The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind”  I promised a future post on Dr Kaku’s viewpoint on consciousness.   Somehow I became distracted and did not produce that post, so here it is.

Dr. Kaku’s definition of consciousness is as follows:  “Consciousness is the process of creating model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time, and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food shelter).

The lowest level of consciousness is Level 0 where an organism is stationary or has limited  mobility and creates feedback loops in a few parameters (temperature, for example).  Each feedback loop registers “one unit of consciousness,” so an organism  with a single unit of Level 0 consciousness would be at Level 0:1.

Organisms that are mobile and have a central nervous system have Level 1 consciousness, which includes a new set of parameters to measure their changing location.  An example of Level I consciousness would be reptiles.  They have so many feedback loops that they have developed a central nervous system to handle them.  A reptilian brain would have perhaps one hundred or more feedback loops governing their sense of smell, balance, touch, sound, sight, blood pressure, and so forth.  Each of these contains yet more feedback loops.  Eyesight alone involves a large number of feedback loops as the eye can recognize color, movement, shapes, light intensity, and shadows.  Of course the reptile’s other senses, such as hearing and taste, require additional feedback loops.  The totality of these feedback loops creates a mental picture of where the reptile is located and where other animals are located as well.  Level I consciousness is governed mainly by the reptilian brains, which can also be found in the back and center of the human head.

Level II consciousness involves social animals with emotions.  These organisms must create a model not only of where they are in space but also with respect to others.  As  the number of feedback loops explodes exponentially it moves to the next numerical ranking.  Level II consciousness  coincides with the formation of new structures in the brain in the form of the limbic system.  .  The limbic system includes the hippocampus (for memories), amygdala (for emotions), and the thalamus (for sensory information), all of which provide new parameters for creating models in relation to others.  Consequently, the number and type of feedback loops change.

The degree of Level II consciousness is defined as the number of distinct feedback loops required for an animal to interact socially with  members of its grouping.  For a crude approximation, Level II consciousness can be estimated by counting the number of fellow animals in its pack or tribe and then listing the total number of ways in which the animal interacts emotionally with each one.  This includes recognizing rivals and friends, forming bonds with others, reciprocating favors, building coalitions, understanding your status and the social ranking of others, plotting to rise on the social order, and so forth.  So if a wolf pack  consists of ten wolves, and each wolf interacts with all the others with fifteen different emotions and gestures, then a first approximation is given by the product of the two,. or 150, so it would have Level II consciousness.

Level III Consciousness, our level of consciousness, involves simulating the future.  Dr.Kaku contends that humans are alone in the animal kingdom in understanding the concept of tomorrow.  “Human consciousness is a specific form of consciousness that creates a model of the world and then simulates it in time, by evaluating the past to simulate the future.  This requires mediating, and evaluating, many feedback loops in order to make a decision to achieve a goal.”

As the healthy memory blog contends, memory is a machine for time travel where we can travel back in time to travel forward and predict possible future outcomes.  In terms of species, plants are at level 0, reptiles are at level I, Mammals are at Level II, and humans at level III.  With respect to relevant parameters, temperature and sunshine are key for Level 0, space for level I, social relations for level II, and time (especially the future for level III.  The primary brain structure is none for level 0, the Brain stem for level I, the Limbic System for level II, and the Prefrontal cortex, for level III.

Dr.Kaku states that self-awareness involves crewing a model of the world and simulating the future in which you appear.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Review of The Brain

November 12, 2015

The Brain is a book by David Eagleman.  The subtitle is “The Story of You.”  I gave the book 5 stars in my review on Amazon.  I wrote, “Anyone with a brain should read this book.  (Knowing) how the brain works is essential for the individual.  It also provides the basis for more effective government.”

The brain is the most important organ of the body (even though Woody Allen said it was his second favorite organ).  It informs us who we are.  Growing the brain provides us with additional knowledge and know how.  This much should be obvious.  However, when I see the problems we have, many of them are due to a lack of knowledge as to how our brain works.  That is what I meant by writing, “provides the basis for more effective government.

Eagleman writes, “Your brain is a relentless shapeshifter, constantly rewriting its own circuitry—and because your experiences are unique, so are the vast detailed patterns in your neural networks.  Because they continue to change your whole life, your identity is a moving target;  it never reaches an endpoint.  Eagleman explains how the brain develops and why the teen brain is set up to take risks.  Moving from childhood into adolescence, the brain shows an increasing response to rewards in areas related to pleasure seeking such as the nucleus accumbens.  In deems this activity is as high as in adults but activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, which is important  for executive decision making, attention, and simulating future experiences, is still about the same in teens as it is in children.  In fact, the prefrontal cortex, which is important for executive decisions, dos not mature until the mide-twenties, which provides adequate time for ruining our lives.  The brain continues to change physically as we learn new skills and information and memories themselves change each time they are summoned.  Memories are highly fallible and can be easily changed, which are facts not generally recognized by courts of law.

Eagleman includes a study of nuns who are willing to provide their brains for study after they die.  The nuns are tested while they are living and then autopsies are provided after they die.  They have found brains that are wracked by the defining neurofibril tangles and amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s, but these  nuns never exhibited any of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and remained mentally sharp until they died.  The nuns are not unique, other autopsies on other populations have resulted in similar findings.  The nuns interacted with each other, they had growth mindsets, and the meditated with prayer, presumably continuing to develop a cognitive reserve.  Yet Alzheimer’s research is focused on finding drugs to destroy or inhibit the growth of these physical symptoms as well as tests to detect the early development of these symptoms.  There are no drugs that can cure Alzheimer’s, and there are knowledgeable scientists who believe that there never will be such drugs (See the healthy memory blog post “The Myth of Alzheimer’s).  All that drugs can do is to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.  In my view all this does is to prolong the suffering.

People need to understand that reality is an illusion.  True there is a real physical world, but we learn of this world via our senses, which are used to build up mental models.  Moreover, each of us has different views of this world, one that changes, or should change with experience and learning.  People who fail to understand this are naive realists, and one of the reasons for the problems of the world is the existence of these naive realists.  Eagleman explains how this learning takes place.   He notes that the brain is like a city.  When one looks at a city one sees buildings, roads, structures and so forth, but to find out where businesses are and how the city actually functions, it is due to interactions of different parts of the city.  The same is true of the brain.  It is a complicated structure that operates by intercommunicates among the different elements.  Most of these intercommunicates are unconscious, but some raise to he level of consciousness.

It is interesting to note that the visual system has some connections that feed forward and others that feed backwards.  What makes this interesting is that the ratio of connections feeding backward are ten times those of feeding forward.  This provides a strong indication how much we know bears on what we actually see.  Expectations weigh heavily on what we see.

Our brain is a storyteller.  It serves us narratives that bear on what we believe.  Ascertaining truth usually entails the critical thinking about different narratives.

We are unaware of the vast majority of the activity in our brains.  It remains below our level of consciousness, so one may well ask, who is in control.  A good way of thinking about this is to regard our consciousness as an executive office that makes important decisions.  There are some who believe that our conscious minds are only along for the ride, but I am not one of them (see the healthy memory blog post, “Free Will”).

The healthy memory blog argues that the memory is a device for time travel and Eagleman agrees.  It is a device that travels back to the past to plan for the future.  This involves generating scenarios for what might happen in the future.  The same parts of the brain that are involved in remembering are used in imaging alternative  futures.

Eagleman writes,”Although we typically feel independent, each of our brains operates in a rich web of interactions with one another—so much that we can plausibly look at the accomplishments of our species as the deeds of a single, shifting mega-organism.”  A subsequent healthy memory blog post will expound more on this topic.

The final chapter is titled “Who Will We Be?” and addresses the possibility of our transcending our biological selves.  This is an interesting chapter, but we might be constrained by our limited levels of attention.  We can only consciously attend to several items at once.  We become skilled or fluent via many hours of practice.  Can this bottleneck be transcended?  This question is key to the answer to the question of whether we can transcend our biological selves.

There is a PBS series based on this book, that I strongly recommend.  I recommend both reading the book at watching the series multiple times.  Understanding our brains is of paramount importance.

Today I Enter the 70th Year of My Life

May 6, 2015

Meaning that today is my 69th birthday.  My first thought is, where has all the time gone?  Time not just flies, it flies supersonically.   I can use the marvelous time travel machine in my brain, my memory, and almost instantaneously travel back to when I was four years old or to any other specific time in my life.  The purpose of memory as a time travel machine is for us to use what we have experienced and learned in our pasts and project it into our future plans and actions.  It is here that memories can disappoint.  Too often I have failed to use information from my past in the future.  That is, I have failed to use lessons learned.  I have no idea how much longer I shall live.  It is highly doubtful that it will be for another 69 years.  I have already outlived my father and my brother.  My mother made it into here 100th year.  Unfortunately, she was plagued with dementia for the last several years of her life.

It is my goal to avoid dementia and to continue to grow cognitively the remaining years of my life.  Recent research, which will be posted in the next healthymemory blog post, found that “Crystalized Intelligence,” a measure of accumulated knowledge, doesn’t peak until people are in their late 60’s or 70’s.  Now these are average data.  There are individuals whose crystalized intelligence either peaks later or when they die.

So how can this potential be enhanced?  That is the question to which the healthymemory blog is devoted, and the first answer is not to wait.  Regardless of age, engage in the practices and advice of the healthymemory blog.  There is an overwhelming amount of advice and number of practices, so choose those with which you are compatible and continue to read this blog.

Perhaps first and foremost is the importance of ikigai.  Ikigai is a Japanese word, which roughly translated means “the reason to get up in the morning.”  In other words, have reasons for living.  Knowing your purpose(s) in life is important to your well being.  Research has indicated that having a regular job  decreases the probability of suffering from dementia.  Consequently, I continue working at my regular job.  Still I need to consider whether I am better off continuing at this job, and getting up extremely early in the morning, or pursuing other activities that might be more beneficial cognitively.  In doing so, I need to draw upon my time travel machine, my memory, to be sure that I am not ignoring any lessons learned when making my decision.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!

November 25, 2014

We, homo sapiens,have much for which to be thankful. I often question whether we are worthy of our name. Nevertheless, we have much cognitive potential for which to be thankful. I believe that the best way of giving thanks is to foster and grow this potential throughout our lifetimes.

Consider our memories, which are de facto time travel machines. We travel into the past and into the future. Actually we travel into the past, to retrieve what we have learned, to cope with the future. We have both experienced and remembered pasts (see the Healthymemory blog post, “Photos, Experiencing Selves and Remembering Selves”). We can go back in time before we were born via our imaginations and transactive memory. Similarly we can go forward into time via both our imaginations and transactive memory (transactive memory are those held by fellow humans and by technological artifacts such as books and computers).

When human minds are put to best use via creativity and critical thinking, tremendous artistic, scientific, engineering, and cultural feats are achieved. And we each have individual potential that we should do our best to foster and grow throughout our lifetimes by continuing to take on cognitive challenges and to interact with transactive memory (our fellow humans and technology). We should not retire from or give up on cognitive growth. And we should assist our fellow humans who are in need to grow their individual potential. This is the best means of giving thanks!

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Time Travel: The Ultimate Purpose of Memory?

October 28, 2012

Most of the time we think of memory as being a place of historical storage where old information and experiences are kept. But another way of thinking about it is as a vehicle for time travel (see the Healthymemory Blog Post, “Human Memory: A Machine for Time Travel”). You are able to travel to times long before you were born using what you have learned and your imagination. You can also project yourself into the future with science fiction or your own imagination. Actually we do quite a bit of projection in our daily lives, imagining what it will be like and making appropriate plans. Brain images of people when they are remembering the past and imagining the future show a great degree of overlap in the areas of the brain that are responding.

The distinguished memory researcher Endel Tulving found an unfortunate individual with amnesia who could remember facts but not episodic memories relating to past events in his life. When this person was asked about plans, be it for later in the day, the next day, or in summer, his mind went blank. Brain scans support this idea. When we think of a possible future, we tear through our memories in autobiographical memory and stitch together fragments into a montage that represents a new scenario. Our memories become frayed and reorganized in the process.1

So it appears that the ability to project ourselves forward in time, using what we have learned and experienced to guide the projection, might be the ultimate purpose of memory. Gestalt psychologists believe that in both the processing of information and its memory that laws were operating to create order and make information more meaningful. Emergence was an important concept in which new ideas emerged from the information at hand. These processes help us deal with the future.

Although our brains are working from the time we are born (and there is data indicating that they are working before we are born) to understand and make sense of the world in order to cope with it. In the early stages of life we are preoccupied with mastering language and moving about our environments. Consequently we rarely remember specific events before the ages of 2 or 3, when our autobiographical memories begin to develop And they develop slowly as it is difficult to remember much before our sixth birthday. We are also developing a sense of identity. When we are able to recognize ourselves in a mirror, we have achieved a critical stage of development. A child’s ability to imagine the future seems to develop in tandem with autobiographical memory. Obviously our culture and our families have a profound influence on these memories and our preparation for coping with the world. Our autobiographical memories continue to mature when we leave our parents. A ten year old can rarely relay a coherent life story, but a twenty year old can ramble on for hours. There is a “reminiscence bump,” where we are able to recall much more information that occurs in late adolescence.2 Consequently we are prepared or semi-prepared to assume responsibilities just in the nick of time.

1Robson, D. (2012). Memory: The Ultimate Guide. New Scientist, 6 October, p.33.

2Weir, K. (2012). A Likely Story. New Scientist, 6 October, 36-37.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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July 15, 2010

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How Much of our Brain Do We Really Use?

November 16, 2009

 The brain, an organ that weighs slightly more than 3 pounds, is divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. The left side is specialized for processing verbal information and the right hemisphere is specialized for processing spatial information. This specialization is usually reversed for left-handed people, and, as will be seen, the proportion of contribution of each type of processing by each hemisphere can change. This will be discussed in later blogs.

 The brain is way too complex to discuss in any detail here. So only portions of the brain key to memory and attention will be discussed. These are the frontal lobes, the prefrontal cortex is especially key. Then there is the hippocampus, which is a small horseshoe shaped structure deep in the inner or medial parts of the temporal lobes. The temporal lobes are found on the left and right sides of the brain. These brain structures are found in both hemispheres.

So how much of our brain do we actually use? You will hear figures like only 10 % or 5%, but it is good to ask where do these figures come from? How are they estimated? They certainly do not come from physiological measures of brain activity.

It is interesting to note that although the allocation of blood flow changes within the brain, the overall amount of blood flow and oxygen uptake remains the same. Whether we are engaged in intense mental activity or are daydreaming or engaged in some other type of reverie, the amount of blood flow and oxygen uptake remain the same. It is also interesting to note that whether we are recalling the past or imagining the future, the same regions of the brain are activated. So are minds deal with the past, present, and future using the same structures. Our minds are like time travel machines. It is estimated that the average person spends about 12% of waking hours are spent thinking about the future. This is not idle daydreaming, this is important as our survival and fortune depends on our ability to anticipate and prepare for the future.[1]  Still there is the requirement to recognize what is real and what is imagined. As has already been discussed (see the blog. “Seven Sins of Memory”), this requirement often fails.

So the bottom line is that our brains are always working, even when we sleep. So the problem is not the use of the brain, but rather the effective use of the brain.


[1] Marshall, J. (2007).  Future recall, New Scientist., 24 March,  pp.36-40.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.