|Neurohacking Tutorial 8 - Imagination, Memory and Prediction|
|Neurohacking - Tutorials|
|Written by NHA|
|Sunday, 05 February 2012 12:46|
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Neurohacking Tutorial 8
Imagination, Memory and Prediction
(Updated: Feb 2012)
In this tutorial we’ll look at memory and prediction, exploring further the multiple roles of imagination. Once you have networks 1&2 nicely balanced, the fastest way of all to upgrade memory and learning both at once is by exercising or augmenting network 3. Therefore we are going to look at the core skills for memory health and improvement, and other possibilities for improving or augmenting network 3.
In Tutorial 7 we learned that the same process which directs the growth of brain hardware is later re-employed to direct concept formation (perception), the learning cycle, and the behavior of mind software. In this tutorial we will see how the process is employed in memory.
Follow the Right Habit
Let's take a moment to consider how you think of your memory in relation to your whole intelligence.
We can see how having a good memory is essential to learning, and that memory is a great deal more than this. Perhaps you think of memory like an historical record; enabling you to go back into the past and see what was going on ten minutes ago, a day, months or years. You may be aware that your memory is not perfect; that it is a reconstruction of facts and experiences with bits missing, and you may know how memory can be affected by however you feel at the time; when we are feeling happy it is easier to recall other happy memories, and when we are feeling sad we tend to recall other unhappy times.
You may also see how strongly association affects memory, so that a single particular sight, sound or smell can remind you of long past events or episodes. And you may see that memory is important for social reasons as well as academic ones.
In fact, even if you know all this, it is still only a tiny part of what memory is doing. Memory plays a major part in the congruity of our personality as we travel through life, and is, paradoxically, largely the same thing as learning! Memory and learning are a circular feedback system; each enhances and improves the performance of the other.
What is the earliest thing you can remember? If you were bonded as a child, you can probably remember incidents from around age two or even earlier. An unbonded child spends all its time in protection mode trying to establish a bond; there is little time or energy for building memory networks when biology still has no safe space to develop in, for all efforts must go to trying to establish that space. Consequently if we began life unbonded, we will not have many early memories of our life before about age seven, especially if we went to school. Most of us come somewhere in between; the average earliest memory for most people from western industrial societies is around age five.
Before conscious memory development, recall is automatic. Without conscious memory, there is cognition but not re-cognition. For example, it's obvious that memory must be needed for learning to walk and talk, yet most people don’t remember learning to do these things.
So how does conscious memory emerge from the type of simple automatic recall that's needed to control the body and speech, into the complex database of remembered life experiences and knowledge that we depend on every day?
The feedback loop between nature (your genes) and nurture (your context) allows epigenetics to constantly modulate the wiring of the brain, and both nature and nurture are necessary for optimal performance from memory. Your genes give you the predisposition for how to remember and learn, but it is life and experience in the context of the real world that show you what to remember and what to learn. This is true for all living creatures.
For example, almost all young animals are naturally alarmed by sudden, loud noises, but they survive and thrive better if they learn WHICH sudden loud noises mean danger and which do not. Any creature who has stored that information in memory is much better equipped for success than one who hasn’t. The information that is encoded and stored from experience improves our awareness, and hence performance, for the whole of our lives.
Memory is everything about you. Your awareness of who you are, what you are doing, what is going on around you and how to respond are all largely learned through experience and accessible to you only through memory. Perhaps you are beginning to see how complex a part of your intelligence memory is?
Most people have false ideas about memory, the most popular ones being that amnesia removes our ability to recall our name or identity, that memory notices everything regardless of what we pay attention to, and that memory works like a video camera, making a record that remains unchanged over time.
All these assumptions are wrong.
Many science-fiction stories have played with the idea of someone “having their memory wiped”, and almost all of them get it wrong. If your memory were totally wiped clean, you wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, or feed yourself; let alone think. You wouldn't even know when to go to the bathroom. We rarely see this kind of total memory failure except in extreme senility or serious brain damage, when people can no longer recognise anybody or anything or remember anything for longer than a couple of seconds.
If you consider this, you’ll realise that memory is what makes us aware and our lives meaningful. We recognise things only because we have experienced them before. Memory gives us our coherence, our ability to reason, to feel, to interact. Without memory, we are truly ‘disabled’. We do not even have in integrity of personality.
Looking after your memory, then, is obviously a good idea!
Memory research has fared better than imagination research in the past, but people still tend to make two mistakes when considering how memory works.
First, they think of memory as our ‘conscious knowledge’, but both learning and memory contribute to our personality in unconscious as well as conscious ways. Unconscious aspects of memory affect all the functions of our mind and behavior just as much as conscious memories do, (and conscious memories in fact depend on them.)
Conscious memories could be looked on as “the details”, while unconscious memories provide “the basics” of many of our abilities. Unconscious memory, for example, gives every animal the basic ability to learn how to communicate with sound, but conscious memory enables each to learn the details of a specific language. If the unconscious memory is wiped (say, by a stroke), the conscious mind remembers very well all the details of what it wants to say but the mouth and the muscles cannot remember the basics of how to speak.
The second mistake people make in considering memory is assuming that it only uses one brain network or one brain area, when in fact it uses all of them. Particular networks do particular memory tasks, but not in an isolated fashion; just as neurochemicals all work together to achieve the dynamics of an overall ‘state’, so memory networks integrate together and connect all areas working in synergy.
Likewise there is no ‘individual’ network for storing long term memories. Your memory uses network 3 for many of its complex tasks including learning, but our memory storage and access system spreads throughout the cortex of all networks; all over the surface area of the brain.
There are two sensible reasons for this, the first reason is time -the same practical reason it saves time if you keep a puncture repair kit with a bicycle; not in your bedroom. Memories of things and events are stored right on site of the networks that control the mental tools and functions (processes) the mind is most likely to need to interact with those things and events. This saves processing time and improves performance.
The second reason is space. There's a lot more room on the cortex of the brain, because its all scrunched up like fractal origami. Neuroscientists reckon that if we stretched it all out and pinned it up, it would cover half your front door (but quite why anyone would want to do that is beyond our comprehension.)
different kinds of memory
As you read the sections below, you’ll notice that there are different kinds of memory referred to.
If you look up 'memory' online, you will get almost as confused as if you look up 'imagination'. Terminology is horribly mixed up, with some researchers calling spatial memory procedural memory, some calling procedural memory a type of declarative memory, and a myriad other terms such as implicit memory, nondeclarative memory, explicit memory, photographic memory, episodic memory, visual memory and so on until even the brightest of inquiring minds concludes, “WTF?” It's a real mess.
The bad news is that while these are all genuinely well meaning attempts on the part of researchers to classify memory coherently and some are really pretty good, no overall model that explains the system of memory as a part of the big picture of mind processes currently exists as far as we know, except this one here.
The good news is that this one here is simple, and it works (that is to say, it offers a congruent explanation for the known facts, and enables accurate predictions about the behavior of memory). If you come across a better model, let us know. In the meantime, we'll make our definitions as clear as we can to enable you to translate the terms in other articles. So don’t worry! You don’t have to remember all their names, as long as you are able to understand what different types of memory do and why they are all important.
Memory needs congruent association
Making memories and increasing knowledge (both as ability and information) are virtually the same thing. The releasing of the chemicals that memory needs is triggered automatically by allowing the natural learning process to unfold. In augmentation of memory we work with this process to provide optimal conditions for growth and development.
We are approaching memory improvement from the bottom up, and supplying networks with the right chemicals to enable memory is obviously important. By changing bad habits of thought and behavior into beneficial ones we can produce the right chemicals to remember things better, store them properly, and recall them faster during and after learning.
Simply, good habits of memory trigger optimal neurotransmitter release giving optimal memory performance, and a lot of good habits are achievable by mental exercise and input control.
The main habit we’re aiming to adopt here to boost memory and predictive skills is that of congruent concept association. Good association aligned with reality is vital for clear perception and reliable memory, as well as a host of other abilities.
It’s obvious that we will remember things better and learn them faster when they make sense in the context of everything that we already know. If our association map is incongruent, new things and ideas tend not to make sense to us unless some other, contradictory associated memories are suppressed or ignored. When we do remember something, it's often wrongly weighted and difficult to recall.
With incongruent association, ideological dilemmas arise (for example –“Why on earth does doing x or y feel so good/bad if it’s supposedly ‘bad’/'good' for me?”) Or we find ourselves feeling ‘in two minds’ (cognitive dissonance) about issues and events, and unable to make clear decisions because we feel as though we can never really see the 'big picture'.
When life does not make congruent sense, most new information brings more confusion rather than more clarity and understanding. If this sounds like you, fear not; we can improve our overall clarity and our powers of decision as well as our memory very quickly by improving congruency of association (and as a cheeky bonus side effect, this improves our confidence and self esteem).
Remember, associations happen like acts of learning: If there are not enough points of similarity between known patterns and the unknown new thing, or if the new contradicts the old, we cannot understand it and our seeking for input continues. When there ARE enough points of similarity between the known and the unknown, we can start to classify each ‘new’ thing by simple ‘same/not same’ criteria and build up a congruent understanding of it, and make accurate and congruent memories.
For You and Against You: Congruity versus Incongruity
The unconscious mind knows that if there are enough points of similarity between two patterns, it can associate one with the other and from their similarities and differences gain a more complex understanding and control of the result. This is what learning IS. It is also what congruity is.
Your unconscious mind is attracted to congruent associations because it knows they are your greatest resource for survival and success. They have developed for its evolutionary needs. Unconsciously, in real life you learned more about physics through congruent association when learning to walk, swim or play ball than you ever did in anybody’s physics class. Congruity is a natural, whole-body knowledge and so comes to you as obvious without direction or interference.
When learning to walk, all you started out with originally was your intent to master an ability, your attention and concentration (with no interference from the conscious mind), and you built your own memory of how to walk from trial and error feedback of which movements took you closer to your goal and which ones didn't; right from the bottom up, you achieved a fine-tuned memory of a procedure and strategy of movement that involves synchronizing some 200 muscles; burning that memory deeper every time you got it right, fine-tuning coordinates every time you got it wrong.
The excitement of getting closer and the exhilaration at getting it right motivated you to further effort (although you may not remember this –most of your memory would have been tied up with processing and reproducing those muscular movements.) You didn’t stand around and predict where each foot should probably land with mathematics; you moved with deliberation because unconscious memory could imagine from experience where it was likely to land much faster than anyone could cognitively work it out. This is pure natural learning about the real world and it gives us knowledge as ability. That's important because knowledge as information can only be built on top of congruent knowledge as ability (experience), and abstract knowledge can only be understood in relation to concrete experience.
If you doubt this, imagine encountering an intelligent spherical alien who lives in deep space and asking her to balance your accounts. How do you explain what the word 'balance' means without doing a concrete demonstration? She has no concept for up or down, right or left, no experience of gravity, scales, weights and measures, tightrope walkers, or all the other concrete things you and I have as concepts for relating the concept of 'balance' to. You would first have to demonstrate the concept of balance itself, before abstracting the concept.
What if she had an incongruent concept of balance? Say, for example, that to her, 'balance' already means “everything has to be kept permanently the same on each side”. In this case, you would have an awful amount of trouble teaching her to balance accounts. It wouldn't make sense. What you are suggesting doesn't have enough points of similarity to her previous experience of the meaning of balance. The percept doesn't match the concept, and learning will be slow and difficult. She may think she's understood it and proceed to change all the figures in your accounts to be exactly the same on each side!
Most of us have some incongruity of association that makes it harder for us to relate to some subjects that we then find difficult to comprehend. For some it's maths or physics, for others it's poetry and art, for some spirituality, for others building, languages or navigation. With congruent association we are able to use the same inner model to learn any subject, but if association is incongruent we are unable to imagine how some subjects 'fit in' with our familiar concepts of reality and these areas are blocked. Sometimes we cannot even imagine what on earth anyone would want to learn them for, as they can be so meaningless to us.
We communicate abstract ideas in metaphor that relates directly back to concrete experience in the real world. You'll learn more about that in tutorial 10; for now just remember that conscious memory and conscious knowledge always rely on unconscious memory and unconscious knowledge.
Unconscious knowledge is at once a child’s and a shaman’s knowledge of the world; innate, primal, automatically self-improving and ultimately more useful than any other kind of knowledge because it is the memory of knowledge-as-ability; the knowledge that gives us the ability to interact with the world and apply beneficial behavior that yields beneficial results (such as the ability to balance when learning to walk). We KNOW about balance; in a very intimate, personal experiential way, and we know what happens when we lose it. For that reason, we can understand the abstract concepts of 'emotional balance', 'a balanced personality', 'unbalanced moods', weights and scales, and 'balancing your accounts'. Of course those concepts come with different details, but the basic underlying principles remain the same -going too far one way or the other way takes things out of balance, and we have to practise retaining balance when pushed in either direction.
Only when imagination has enough experience of the concrete reality of balance can it accurately predict how the same concept can be applied abstractly. There is no complex reason for this; it is a simple matter of brain networks being unable to form in the first place without sensorimotor experience. It must be obvious that we have to do those activities which make a network grow before we can do those activities which use it, but you may be surprised at how many students take a while to understand this.
Practicing the concrete behavioral skills that develop N1, 2 & 3 lays the foundation (builds the hardware and stores the data) that N4, 5 & 6 need later for abstract procedural skills.
N1 has the same relationship to N5 as N2 has to N4. The rear networks deal with concrete concepts and the frontal networks deal with abstract concepts.
Because N2 supports N4 in this way, damage to it or the connections between it and N3 can result in problems for N4, especially in coordination of timing and accuracy of movements, and making long-term changes (learning) to improve these skills .
It may also occur to you that this is another explanation for why biology tries to (and why we need to) develop networks in a certain order.
This is the true meaning of ‘intuitive’ knowledge; not “a funny feeling something might be going on”. The whole of life should make the same beautiful kind of automatic sense to us; our core associations with reality as we know it applying on any level to show us “the story”; the essence of a situation, place, person, pattern or thing, and predict what to do next. Development should be a simple task of making sure we play with and practise beneficial 'stories', and learning how to direct any deleterious ones into more beneficial possibilities by using our creativity.
Solving problems or learning new things becomes a straightforward jigsaw-like challenge of putting the right pieces (of behavior) into place in the right order at the right time. That's biology's recipe for a thriving organism.
On your side in the endeavor to build associations expedient to memory and coherent perception is the whole of biology. Natural association is universal across cultures, times and places (and even many species, because the laws of physics and chemistry hold throughout.)
Wiring up Network 3’s association maps densely is crucial, not because they cannot be developed later (as used to be believed) but because their degree of development becomes the foundation for the whole of the rest of our memory and cognition.
All of our later executive skills are developed by making new memories from adjustments of existing associations, because although learning is a process that creates new memories, making new memories is dependent on past association too. We therefore need a densely connected database of congruent concepts to compare all of our experience to and make sensible decisions about how to interact with the world.
As you go through this tutorial and learn more, start to get into the habit of thinking of things in terms of their core associations. It’s a good game, a good memory exercise, and it makes a lot of other things easier later on.
Working against you are false associations that lead to memory and learning problems, but no worries! –We can get rid of false associations very easily just by developing our awareness of the true ones. For example, in my youth we were taught that a fat baby means a wealthy family and better health, and that god would make us go blind if we put our hands down our pants. We dutifully made those false associations but had no trouble dropping them when evidence to the contrary was in front of our nose.
Anxiety about our own animal nature and about nature itself will also get in our way. Whether we like it or not, unconscious association modulates everything we do, and is deeply connected with essential animal behaviors and humanity's early primal awareness of the world.
Also, anxiety about our own ability to make decisions or judge things will hold us back. This problem is usually based on past wrong input -if we're repeatedly taught incongruent associations, or told that things which don't make sense are correct, or that things which do make sense are wrong. Having your own likes/dislikes ignored in early years can also cause anxiety about decision-making.
! Snapback warning: Those with sparse or unbalanced rear nets and/or problems with N4 may have difficulty coming to terms with unconscious learning (and often, coming to terms with the fact that any of their mind is unconscious at all).
If you find yourself struggling with anxiety when learning congruent association, remind yourself that what you are studying here is the mind's inner model of reality; not reality itself (which sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology and geology study). The unconscious mind doesn't use words like 'energy' or 'time' in the same way our conscious minds do in relation to academic reality. Those concepts are way too complex for the unconscious to grasp, and we don't understand them until we develop our frontal networks. Life experience starts right away, years before we have the equipment to understand scientific terminology, so for working out what is going on in the meantime, the unconscious mind uses simple concepts related to personal experience and evolutionary experience because that is all it can do (apart from beat your heart and keep you breathing and do all that hormonal stuff without you having to bother thinking consciously about it.)
Science is our conscious, abstract explanation for phenomena the unconscious knows through experience but cannot explain, because it cannot talk -it doesn't think in words, it thinks in images.
DO IT NOW
Imagine a real live tiger!
...Did you imagine a large one or a small one? What was it doing? Where was it?
Now consider WHY it was anywhere doing anything. We never asked for any context; your unconscious mind made that up all by itself. It pulled out the nearest associations with 'tiger' and filled in the missing information around the tiger. What it pulled out depends on your association, but that's a simple demonstration of how the unconscious composes images.
Now, if a tiger had eaten one of your friends recently, or if you worked in a zoo, you're going to have very different associations than if you just look at tigers occasionally on wildlife shows. This is environmental conditioning, we are all susceptible to it up to the point we learn about input control. So the details of your tiger associations will depend on your own personal experience.
Environmental conditioning is fine when it comes from the natural environment that we are meant to be functioning in symbiosis with, but students often ask about social conditioning, and how likely they are to be affected by it.
"Conditioning" is one of those terms that gets bandied about in psychology in various contexts; all you need to remember for NH is that classical conditioning involves automatic or reflexive responses, (involuntary behavior); and operant conditioning deals with the modification of voluntary behavior (operant behavior). Classical conditioning uses coincidental input (such as a bell ringing and dinner arriving) to exploit the fact that 'cells that fire together wire together' and form an association. Operant conditioning uses punishment and reward (such as a carrot or a stick) to coerce changes of behavior; the two things that don’t motivate people very well -- the promise of rewards and the threat of punishment, because both are forms of coercion. (The trick to real motivation is to know the intrinsic reward in what you're doing and to enjoy it).
When people speak of 'social conditioning' or indoctrination, they are usually referring to operant conditioning because they are not usually aware that often both are taking place (involuntary chemical changes occur in sync with voluntary behavioral ones).
Your susceptibility to conditioning depends on both your initial and current rate of development and your adeptness at input control.
“Conditioning” is just another way of saying “establishing habits”, and the habits we establish depend partly on memory, partly on feedback from our surroundings in the here and now and partly on feedback from our own imagination (since these furnish perception).
For example, if you are slapped every time you pick your nose or belch up wind, two outcome possibilities result:
If you are NOT sufficiently developed to achieve an overview and do it in secret, you’ll be conditioned to get out of the habit of doing it altogether (and pay the price of a blocked nose and flatulence) until you develop further.
If you ARE sufficiently developed to see the ‘big picture’, you’ll just get out of the habit of doing it in front of people who might slap you; and do it in private or out with your mates.
The more aware and intelligent you are, the more you are able to work around unhealthy coercion and directives that don't make sense, such as 'masturbation is evil', but unfortunately this is often at the cost of having to deceive dumb people. This in itself can be very stressful, especially if you are stuck in a situation where you have to live with them. The same rules hold with being punished for drinking, smoking, swearing, drugs, sex, technology use, mock fighting, being homosexual or dancing on the sabbath. By the age of sixteen, many intelligent people are accustomed to living two lives. In one, Mr Anderson is a software engineer for a respectable company...and so on.
Susceptibility to conditioning is that simple. Coercion always results in either damage or deceit, and deceit can make us feel guilty until we start to see the reality of our extraordinary situation, grow some courage, and break free from other people's anxious nonsense.
Your ability to achieve a sane overview depends on the development of your frontal networks, which is why young children or those with sparse connections at the ‘front end’ are more gullible, easily fooled and susceptible to conditioning than those with well developed frontal nets. Rearloaders want to believe in things that don't exist, and Frontloaders want to disbelieve in things that do, just as urgently.
We have ALL been conditioned to some extent to behave like anxious idiots in certain circumstances and believe a load of nonsense, simply because we were raised in a society replete with anxious people who themselves believe a load of nonsense. IT DOESN'T MATTER. The fastest (and the only permanent) way to get rid of the bad habits is to ignore them and make energetic progress in the good ones. Trust your intelligence, show it the best evidence about reality that you can, and bad habits WILL go away just by themselves.
Let's do a quick short memory test to see strengths and weaknesses (then we don't have to waste any time exercising parts that are well developed already).
DO IT NOW
Quick memory check: See which of the following you find easiest and hardest:
Write down as many people’s names beginning with the letter A as you can remember in five minutes.
Make a list of all the people you can remember knowing when you were ten years old. This will include relatives, friends, and acquaintances, as well as strangers whose names you knew.
Try to remember whom you last spoke to on the phone, whom you last sent a postal letter to, and where your last email was sent. Can you remember the ones before that?
These are testing (in order) your working memory (N6), eidetic memory (N3), and declarative memory(N5). Which did you find easiest?
To test your procedural (N4) and spatial (N2) memory:
Without using any diagrams, write down instructions for someone to do ONE of the following: (a)change a tire (b) change a baby (c) change a printer cartridge.
Draw from memory a map of the way to your nearest Post Office for a person travelling on foot. Try and keep it close to scale, and put in the directions –N/S/E/W. Check it against a real map –how close were your estimates?
Before we continue, write down in your captain's log which were the easiest memory tasks in the exercises above, because later you can use strong areas to help improve weaker areas.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 30 September 2012 14:19|