PHILOSOPHY: It's All Shifting Patterns

David Musick (
Wed, 29 Jan 97 04:59:02 UT

Hal Finney said, about memory, "Memory is not exactly a process. It is more
like a database which the processes within our minds can access."

Actually, memory *is* a process, and it is not at all like a database. I
don't know all the details of how the brain works, and what I do know is too
complicated for me to explain right now, but memory is not like a database at
all. First of all, only *certain* things are remembered, and then even that
which is remembered changes over time. Memories are more like millions of
criscrossing footprints in a sandy beach. Paths which are taken more often
stand out more, and the paths can be follwed again much easier. But if they
are unused, they will become more and more disturbed by crossing paths and
random, wandering footprints.

Our memories are in the reinforcement of certain pathways and the signals
flowing through those pathways. Nearly all experiences are not remembered at
all. Look at all the millions of details of the scene around you; you can
take all this in with a single glance and be consciously aware of all the
millions of minute details around you, all the subtle shadings textures and
colors. If you close your eyes, you will quickly forget almost everything.
You may remember certain *general* things, but nearly *all* of the detail is
lost; you can no longer see the scene with the same vivid clarity that you did
with your eyes open.

Our memories are not *records* of the past, they are the ways we have adapted
to our past experiences.

Hal, commenting on my last post in this thread, said, "There may be patterns
at many levels, but I can still draw a line which separates the patterns that
make up my identity from those which represent culture and metabolism."

I think you underestimate the extent that your culture and metabolism
influence your personality, your ways of thinking and your current momentary
experience. You certainly have your own uniqueness, but *most* of what you
are is shared by everyone else. We all have the same basic metabolism, we all
operate according to the same laws of physics and our basic thought patterns
are all quite similar. We tend to focus so much on what makes us different
from each other that we don't notice how nearly identical we all are.

When you talk about the patterns that make up your identity, I assume you are
referring to the patterns which make you unique among humans. These patterns
are certainly important parts of you, but if I was studying you as a physical
process, I would look at all the other processes supporting your personality
too, such as your metabolism and your culture and the laws of physics.
Consider how deeply these things influence the way you look at the world. The
shape and movements of your body and all its requirements have had a profound
effect on your ways of thinking and on your self image. The laws of physics
and the sensory world around you have also had profound effects upon the way
you think and the way you act. The culture you developed within shaped your
mind in deep ways. All these things are part of *you*. There is no dividing
line between ourselves and our metabolism and our culture and the laws of
physics and so forth. If those things were different, we would be different

We are much more and much deeper than we typically think we are.

- David Musick

-- The familiar becomes difficult to notice. --