The brain runs in four dimensions?

Uptil yesterday, I used to think that thinking in 4 spatial dimensions is a purely analytical play (and “Time” as the 4th dimension never seemed intriguing enough anyway). But I just finished reading “The Möbius Strip” by Clifford Pickover, and now I believe I am actually able to mentally and somewhat visually integrate at least some key concepts. Now I not only accept, but also understand why two infinite planes which intersect each other in our 3-D world, could actually be non-intersecting planes in a 4-D world. The book has many other such amazing concepts explained with remarkable ease, and is highly recommended for the spatially inclined. If you are an origami aficionado, it is a definite must read.

There are theories out there that electricity, magnetism, gravity, and all the invisible forces are manifestations of the unseen 4th dimension. Sounds plausible enough. But String Theory is said to include 10, 11 or even 26 dimensions. Just like our 2 intersecting planes in 3-D can be made non-intersecting by adding a 4th dimension, it appears physicists keep adding an extra dimension to their theories to “get around” every new spatial incongruency they encounter in their thought experiments.

The inevitable questions..does “intelligence” have anything to do with all of this? Does it “emerge” by way of some unseen interaction in the 4th dimension. Is this why despite the hundreds of thousands of hu-man-hours spent pondering this problem, we have not been able to truly emulate a high form of intelligence? Does it mean that because of this extra-dimensional dependency, we will never be able to grasp the real mechanism?

I’m certainly not convinced that the brain’s functioning is somehow dependent on a 4th spatial dimension with a separate manifestation over and above the basic forces of nature (electricity, magnetism etc). I think “massive parallelism” is basis of the the complexity (quite a traditional view) that we are unable to overcome in our thought experiments. In fact, massive parallelism is the cause of the complexity in everything science is not able to do well today. The weather, fluids, the stock market, are all examples of systems where a huge number of entities comprise the system, and most of them are in turn dependent on even more other types of variables.

The problem in understanding our own brain’s function, I believe, also stems from some kind of innate capacity limit upon an intelligence trying to fathom its own composition.  For example, by my definition, to be called an “intelligence”, it must be “aware” of itself, or rather, of “something” that it perceives to be itself. What form that “itself” takes is the crux of the matter. If someone built a computer simulation of an intelligence which solves some problems given some reward/pain stimuli, imagine what it would look like if this intelligence suddenly understood its own construction! This would mean that it has become “aware” that it is a piece of software code which runs inside a computer. But get this, this would mean that it also understands what “software is”, and even what a “computer” is. This would imply that at the instant of its birth, it is pretty much as intelligent as the average hu-man!

For those that have pet dogs, I’m sure they appreciate the levels of emotionally complex and intelligent behavior these animals are capable of. They are all “intelligent” beings, and also self-aware. But does this mean that every dog out there primally understands that the seat of its intelligence lies in a glob of soft matter just behind its eyes? Certainly not. Even in hu-mans, most likely this knowledge is usually gained by virtue of the education system. To be a successful self-aware intelligence, it need not imply being aware of the low level physics of the awareness.

Imagine if a particular hu-man suddenly becomes fully self-aware. He can close his eyes, and look at his brain solve a mathematical problem, while solving it. Neurons are firing left and right for solving the problem, chemicals are rising and ebbing in tiny but significant portions, but at the same time this same brain is also looking at itself doing all of this activity. This act of “looking” would also cause various other neurons to fire, which would then need to be looked at as well. Sounds recursive, doesn’t it? I guess this is why I always get a headache whenever I contemplate this stuff too much.

A simple way to get out of this recursion would be to get a hu-man A to look at the brain activity of another hu-man B. As soon as A’s brain truly understands what is going on in B’s brain, it means A’s brain is able to simulate B’s brain to completeness, all the while still retaining the identity of A. This happening can only mean that A has a vastly more architecturally complex brain than B (not just higher IQ, but structurally more advanced). This means that the above scenario is not possible where A and B are both hu-mans.  To grasp why this must be generally true, think what would happen if while A is looking at the activity of B’s brain, B turns around and starts trying to follow A’s brain. Have you ever pointed a live video camera at the TV it is connected to? In summary, I theorize that:

a) To observe and understand an intelligence of complexity X, we would need another intelligence of at least complexity X^2. 

From which follows the corollary:

b) If an intelligence A is able to comprehend another intelligence B’s construction, it automatically means that B can never hope to comprehend A, no matter how hard it tries.

Where does all of this take us? I think it means that we will never be able to simulate human intelligence at the drop of a hat, or by turning on a computer and running a program, because only an intelligence vastly more complex than humans can do that.  A complete human like intelligence, if it has to run on different hardware than hu-mans themselves, will HAVE TO BE EVOLVED. And since we cannot replicate the hu-man hardware, the intelligence MUST EVOLVE DIFFERENTLY. As controllers of the hardware we will initially retain god-like status in controlling the direction of the evolution, but we will never know what lies next. Inevitably, one fine morning, a surprise will await us all.


2 Comments on “The brain runs in four dimensions?

  1. The example of a human looking into his own brain is awesome !!

    If that were to happen ever, then such a human would have the capacity to instruct the correct neurons to fire in the right direction so that the he arrives at the solution, no matter how hard that is. So theoritically, there is no problem that hu-man cannot solve.

    A software understanding what “software is”, and even what a “computer” is reminds of the movie – MATRIX

  2. I am curious: how does the proposed scenario account for the human brain’s mirror neural network? Perfect self-awareness would also mean perfect levels of empathy, undoing the dualism of A vs B, observed and observer.

    Given that one can only know others by knowing oneself (no small feat in itself!), intelligence A has arguably achieved the greater understanding as she is observing herself *and* intelligence B vis-à-vis her. From there, I can’t imagine that it would be all that difficult to understand B who has been looking outward at the expense of internal complexity/sophistication. Factor in time, and it would seem to me that intelligence B will be one step behind A — time in consciousness is not linear, whereas B’s observation of A must obey sequential logic.

    Just a few thoughts… I am enjoying your blog.

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