Predictive Powers Built Into The Basic Mammalian Model?

I was reading this article on how researchers have analysed the neural circuits of mice as they walk and figured out how they ignore the sound of their own steps while retaining the ability to hear other things at the same time. Like the sound of a cat sneaking up on them.

It’s really quite neat and it relies on the brain being able to generate predictive information that the brain’s listening circuit then uses as a filter to filter out that sound with good accuracy.

And they think it will lead to a better way into understanding how people do this same thing while refining activities like speaking and playing an instrument.

In the last paragraph I read something that resonated with a favourite theory of mind of mind.

“By figuring out how the brain normally makes predictions about self-generated sounds, we open the opportunity for understanding a fascinating ability — predicting the future — and for deepening our understanding of how the brain breaks during disease.”

To me, and my theory, the ability to predict the future in the behaviour of another creature is a milestone in our development. One which we would not exist without our ancestors evolving it.

Think of it: until that moment the thinking processes in a creature are relatively confined to a model of self within a model of the world outside the self. (that is a very simplified version)

The moment you evolve the functionality to predict some future event, process, action, or reaction the brain has expanded it’s capability in a stupendous way. Then the extension of that power to being able to predict what some other creature might do leads to a mind being able to imagine another mind within it. And have that captive model mind work well enough that it’s behaviour correctly predicts the actual creature’s behaviour. That sounds like a simple thing but step back for a moment and let it sink in. A mind is an open-ended, near infinite, thing. Moving from biology to mind is one step. moving from one mind to more than one mind within the same ‘mind’ is a qualitatively different thing.

A predator that cannot do this goes hungry, starves and dies. One that can eats, reproduces and passes on this capability.

Could this neural circuitry found in the research the article is about be part of the basis at the root of predictivity?






Bacteria Busy Buzzing In Your Body

Apparently there are more electricity generating (electrogenic) bacteria around that we knew. And a whole bunch are living inside you. And me. All of us to some degree.

politics social commentary

Working with victims of disaster

Nearly 4 months ago we were hit by a devastating flood – the worst in our history. It’s left large areas of our city unoccupied and in question of restoration.

During this I heard the experiences of those affected, saw the way things worked or didn’t.

Suggestions to those who have to work with the victims of disaster:

  1. Put yourselves in the places of those you are helping. If you can’t envision what that is like go to where their losses happened, usually their houses or businesses, and spend some time with them there. If you think you know everything there is to know and haven’t visited their disaster then go visit because unless you’ve done this before you’re fooling yourself.
  2. Do Not Assume you have thought of everything they are facing – details you missed could be devastating to them.
  3. If you’re processing applications and see a pattern that leads to failure of applications then when you are working with someone who fits that pattern address the issue that might result in failure first so you don’t push them to put in a lot of difficult, unnecessary, and possibly expensive, data gathering for nothing. They won’t hate you as much.
  4. Don’t hide the truth from them because you think it will be hard to take now. Think about how hard it will be to take down the road when they’ve committed to a fruitless course and / or spent all their available resources on a dead end.
  5. Don’t give them vague guesstimates that you think might be wrong but don’t want to say I don’t know. It’s better if they get as much data as possible early so they can make informed plans for their future.

These few points are some of the things I’ve learned by watching how the disaster of our historic flood has unfolded. The reasoning behind my suggestion I expand on below.

1 – a few weeks after the flood the extra police were sent home. The EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) still had a security firm patrolling the Ruckle area but a week later the contract was cancelled. Why? The EOC thought that by now people were back in their homes so it wasn’t needed. But no one was back in their homes. No one from the EOC had come to the area to see first hand that simple fact. So theft and looting happened.

2 – After the flood waters receded people were in their houses and ripping out all the water and sewage damaged items, appliances, furniture, wall-board and flooring. When this was taken to the dump these people were faced with huge tip fees even though everyone knew that these would all end up being paid by some level of government. For a few weeks it was business as usual at the dump. Busy though.

3 – many businesses have been turned down by their Insurance because they did not have flood insurance. And then turned down by the DFA because they did not have flood insurance.  I just heard of a small owner / proprietor who this happened to but they didn’t learn about it until after they’d paid their business accountant hundreds of dollars to assemble the financials going back 5 years for the application. The person dealing with it could have saved them time and money by asking them that simple question up front. But they didn’t. And now that business owner is poorer and even more dejected.

4 – the people in Ruckle are facing a possible buy-out. So their houses can be flattened and the land rezoned as non-residential. But the advice they are getting is to keep working on their places, keep spending their money on fixing them up because winter is coming.
What if these people would rather use the time and money they have to try and do the best for their family and find a new job and place to live, even if it’s not here? A year or two down the road when they have to move because there’s no where for them to live, or that they can afford to buy, they will be missing all that money they spent fixing up a doomed property.

5  – My friend was given a guesstimate of 2 months before she’d be back in her place of business. It’s past 3 months now. The landlord says they don’t know when the store will be available. I know that nothing has been done for weeks and I’ve learned that nothing will be done until an engineer or geo-tech gets in to look at it. Which might not be for months. Every month that goes by my friend loses 12 to 14 thousand dollars. If she’d known this months ago she might have made alternative plans for the interim but now she’s out of pocket over $20K and it goes up (or down) every month she’s not back in a store.

There might be more lessons learned but those are the ones most pressing to my mind.