BRAIN

DEFINITION

Brain

That part of the central nervous system that includes all the higher nervous centres; enclosed within the skull; continuous with the spinal cord

That which is responsible for one’s thoughts and feelings; the seat of the faculty of reason

Let’s be silly and imagine for a moment that someone from another planet came to visit…

Shop assistant: Ah, so you’re interested in a brain, are you? This is our top of the range model. It is the “homo sapiens model 2000,” the ferrari of brains.

Alien visitor: Cool, looks great, What version is the software that it comes with?

Shop assistant: Version 1.0.

Alien visitor: Oh, I see. Thanks, but I think I’ll wait for the next version.

The brain. The lump of grey stuff that is responsible for me being able to type, drink tea, go to the toilet, make love, walk, and run. It’s an amazing bit of hardware, and we, the homo sapiens species are lucky to have acquired it. No other species in the known universe has a brain as complex as ours. We are definitely top dog when it comes to brains. Somehow, millions of connections are made and we see the world, interact with it, perform routine functions, and most of all, (and this is the best part) our brain gives us the ability to store huge amounts of data, retrieve it at will, and process it accordingly.

Psychiatrists, doctors, and philosophers have long tried to understand the brain, and unfortunately, we have divided it into two parts – the brain and the mind. The brain being the engine, and the mind the driver. But for the purposes of our discussion we will say that the brain and the mind are the same. After all, wherever the thoughts and feelings originate from, and whatever else is going on up there, it is all enclosed in the skull that is attached to our neck! The ability to think (and think and think) I don’t know about you, but I love thinking about things; but this ability hasn’t been with us for that long, if we believe we evolved from the apes.

Somehow after coming down from the trees, in what we now call africa, we developed a special ability .

Some say it is through switching from a nuts and berries diet to a high protein meat diet, but I have a problem with that theory, as surely that would mean that any animal, who through necessity, switches to eating meat could develop this ability! Lions eat lots of meat already, and all they seem to do is lie around in the sun, roaring occasionally.

Others say it is impossible we evolved from the apes, and that we couldn’t have developed these abilities, so we must have been created as we are, thinking brains intact. And until people gain more insight they probably will be arguing about this for many millennia to come. But our brain does seem to have evolved, doesn’t it?

Firm evidence for this is shown in the time it took us to discover fire, invent the wheel, develop agriculture, make tools, learn engineering skills, and finally build skyscrapers and nuclear bombs.

There is no denying that this must have been a process, otherwise the cavemen wouldn’t have been cavemen; they would have been sitting around playing computer games, drinking beer, and listening to cd’s. What do you think?

For about a million years, there seems to have been little progress, and then suddenly things start happening. Man’s brain starts making the connections, and the engine starts. After that there has been no stopping us! Unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that at all. Basic agriculture was invented only about 12,000 years ago, and up until recently – more specifically the dawn of the industrial revolution (the transformation from an agricultural to an industrial world), about 200 years ago – people were living simply with no tv, no satellite navigation, no cars, no electricity, and no junk food. In fact, many people over the world still live like this, so let’s not get carried away with ourselves, thinking we are so great, and our brains are so amazing.

We must also remember that for the last X thousand years we have been brutally killing each other in our quest for power and domination. Some brain, eh?

Do you want chips with that?

In fact, the fast moving consumer world we live in has only been around for the last forty years or so, and only really picked up pace in the eighties with the dawn of personal computing, when they finally got the silicon chips (invented several years before) down to a manageable size, and price, people could afford. So, it is the invention of the microprocessor chip that is really fuelling the fast pace of the world. Without it, we would be living a much different life. And if you don’t believe me, think about what applications the microprocessor can be used in; almost everything. So let’s remember that this is a new invention, almost as important as the discovery of the wheel; and thanks to the rapid development time of new software, we are bringing out more and more applications.

Aircraft, cars, military equipment, medical equipment, stock broking systems, ordering systems, delivery systems, media systems, and electricity distribution networks amongst others – they all have chips in them; and are all controlled by software, running thousands of lines of code a second. So, if you want to imagine a world without the microchip you better think back to how it was living fifty years ago, not a million years ago.

Computers help humans do tasks they couldn’t easily do (like fly fighter jets for example). Imagine trying to make all the adjustments necessary to the ailerons, the rudder, the flight path, the pitch and the yaw. Of course, we could do it in an emergency, but our minds would be so tied up with all the calculations necessary, we would be constantly on the go! Computers let us take the big picture view, so we punch in the co-ordinates and all the data needed to run the jet, and then let the computer take care of the dirty work, while we concentrate on more important things!

Software (written programs or procedures or rules and associated documentation pertaining to the operation of a computer system and that are stored in read/write memory) runs the show these days, and it certainly makes running such a fast moving and complex world manageable. No longer do we have to worry about all the detail. As long as the software is programmed correctly, and we feed in the correct data, we can sit back a bit and enjoy the ride. Take for example, your humble cruise missile (an unmanned aircraft that is a self-contained bomb). It has a guidance system in the nose, and uses the global positioning network to hit a door many miles away. It’s hands-off war.

You design the microchip and software, and then all the operator has to do is tell it where to go. And go it does. It has no brain to speak of; it cannot reason, cannot change its mind, has no empathy, no compassion, no love, nor does it have ethics or morals; it just follows the instructions given to it by the human brain.

More and more, we rely on software to run our daily lives. It is the extension of our brain, doing tasks we either cannot do, or do not want to do ourselves. Just imagine how your life would run if it wasn’t aided by computers.

Do it now.

Imagine there are no computers in the world. Imagine what life would be like. Can you? Is it impossible to think of a time when we had no software control? Of course not. We got on fine without computers in the past, but we are building a society that relies on them; and that puts the hardware and the software companies in a very powerful position over us, don’t you think?

Some people have suggested that with the dawning of artificial intelligence, computers could one day run the world; but without us, they don’t exist, and cannot exist. Even people who predict that the machines will take over the world by “learning” how to make copies of themselves seem to forget that humans need to program them in the first place, and that programming skill comes out of the human mind – a mind so complex we don’t really understand the first thing about it. We are just the “users” of the software, not the programmers, so instead of concentrating on building a new brain (the computer) we understand, maybe we should try to understand our own brain first.

Who is the programmer?

Given the short space of time we have been starting to explore the world with our minds, I think it would be fair to say that we are on version 1.0 of the brain’s software. So we shouldn’t be surprised that we still murder each other, desire power and wealth, and spend most of our time in conflict with ourselves and each other. Let’s not feel too bad, we’re doing the best we can, given our limited insight and lack of an instruction manual! And that’s just it, isn’t it? We don’t have a “users guide” to the brain we can refer to, and make upgrades where necessary. It’s like being given the most complex piece of hardware and software available in the world, and someone saying “Get on with it.”

Or someone (like our parents, teachers, leaders etc.) saying “Yes I think this is how you use it,” without them having a clue either.

As you can imagine, it all starts getting pretty chaotic. And it’s not just one person; everyone wants to have a go at telling you how to use it! “No, do it this way,” “no do it that way,” “why don’t you try this?” “this is the solution!” It all seems a little bit ridiculous now, thinking about it! Imagine sitting in a factory at the mainframe with no idea what a mainframe is, and everyone telling you you’ve got to use it; except there is no instruction manual. Now all the other workers come in, and give you advice on how to use it. Would you understand how to operate it, or would you just be even more confused than before you sat down?

Think about it for a moment. You have the hardware. You have the software. No manual. And a thousand opinions. What’s going to happen? You’ve got it! Confusion. I don’t remember anything from when I was a baby, but I’m sure I made a lot of gurgling noises, wet myself often and made some nasty smells. My brain wasn’t even at version 1.0, it was probably in pre-beta testing (preliminary or testing stage of a software or hardware product). Slowly, but surely, it was given more instructions on how to operate, by someone who had gone through this exact same process themselves (still no manual). Over the years more and more software was added to the hardware to allow it to know what talking, going to the toilet, or having manners is, and finally at the age of eighteen, it is released into the world at Version 1.0. But where did the initial instructions come from, if we know that there is no manual? Surely, we must be able to go back to the beginning, where the first words were uttered, and find the manual; but there isn’t one, there never has been one.

Perhaps that is why so many people follow religions. Perhaps books like the koran and the bible are the user guide, and like so many software companies, god forgot to enclose the manual when he shipped the first product, and everyone had to wait thousands of years for it to arrive! Who knows?

I think it is fair to say that there was never a users guide to the brain.

Everyone just did the best they could, and muddled through life trying to make sense of everything, get enough to eat, have somewhere to live, and find a partner with whom to make a new member of the species.

It seems that nothing has really changed since our brains became developed enough to be able to process such complex information. Unlike the old mainframes, which have been replaced by new hardware and new software, we are still running the old trusty version 1.0 hardware and software.

We can’t blame people if they don’t live a perfect life and make mistakes. That’s just how it is.

This one’s faulty I want to exchange it

“We’re not happy with this version,” say some of you. “We want something better, we want an upgrade” and perhaps that’s what people think they are getting when they start following god’s user guide. But that cannot be the original, if we believe we have been on this planet in some shape or form for millions of years. After all, people who read these guides are still trapped by greed, power and desire. “Ah,” say you, “that’s because they haven’t been following the instructions,” and maybe that’s true.

But let’s move away from religion for a moment and have a look at this operating system ourselves. We know we can’t go to the shop and get a new one, so we’ll just have to “fix” what we’ve been given. By fix, I don’t mean just add more software; we need to go deep inside the mainframe and examine the code, line by line, to see where the fault lies; and from what I see around me in the world, there definitely is a fault.

In a way, when I have been writing, and you have been reading all the topics in this book, that’s what you and I have been doing. We have been examining the code like diligent programmers, and making adjustments where necessary so we don’t have any more faulty instructions like:

1. Want even more territory than have already

2. Decide how to get it (run subroutine) (a) take by force or buy i. If buy then end ii. If take by force then goto line 3

3. Assemble army

4. Kill everyone to get it

5. End program

Please excuse my coding skills, but hopefully you get the point! You see, there is a core operating system which is running all the tricky processes, like breathing, and pumping blood around the system, but the rest is up to “us,” the people who attempt to control the software by trying anything out to see how it works. If it does work, the software then runs by itself every day without us even being aware of it running; do you understand?

I see that when I get angry, people are scared of me, and they will do what I want them to do, so the software program is then put into the ram (random access memory) and is used on a daily basis. It is only when an engineer (who is us also) notices that this program isn’t functioning correctly, that the code can either be deleted or fixed.

Some of the more technical amongst you would argue that the program is running perfectly well, as it has no errors in it, and what I am talking about is purely philosophical.

Maybe I would agree, because you see, if the brain, or the mind, is the seat of everything we are, and we are part of the whole, the indivisible, then the label I see on the software box is

“Brain: Operating system keeps species alive. Added bonus: Also contains the whole suite of compassion and love programs built into the operating system.”

But maybe we should get back to our main discussion!

For a moment, let’s imagine that love and compassion are already built in. “But then, if that is so,” says you, “why do we still cause ourselves and each other such misery? Surely if you are saying that love and compassion are part of the operating system then they should influence all the other programs behaviour?” Unfortunately, as with all operating systems, there can be glitches, and the software we install can also affect the operating system adversely, or contain trojans (a program that appears desirable but actually contains something harmful), or viruses (a software program capable of reproducing itself and usually capable of causing great harm to files or other programs on the same computer), and we have to remember that even though the universe is the whole, and we are part of the whole, there is no such thing as perfection; that is merely a human idea (a perfect embodiment of a concept). Everything has flaws, that’s why we are looking through the code!

Oh my god! I’ve got a trojan in my brain!

If we look at desire (the feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state, An inclination to want things), it all looks good on the surface.

I desire a new car to make me happy, so I buy it, take it home, and feel happier. Only very soon, I start to desire more things, as I am now unsatisfied again. If I had never run the program “desire,” then all would have been fine, but I did, and I now have to pay the price for running it. I am now constantly in an unsatisfied state, and as with other unwanted programs, we have to find a way to (a) find them and (b) delete them. Once we have deleted the program “desire” we won’t have the same problems with the operating system; but if you load it again, you will be back to square one.

Unfortunately, some of these programs cleverly hide themselves, and have code to self-launch again.

So by initiating the “awareness” program, which is like a sentry to guard against unwanted intruders, we stop it from launching.

If awareness is like an anti-trojan program, then compassion and love must be the anti-virus programs.

Some virus programs, like “hate,” for example, can be destructive to the whole operating system, and can affect other computers as well. These programs are so deadly, that once found must be cleaned immediately, otherwise they cause the entire system to break down – and we don’t want that, do we?

So far so good! I hope my computer analogies aren’t too boring for the less technical out there, but hopefully you understand what I am trying to convey to you.

I am the programmer

I don’t want to get into a discussion about who “I” really is here, that is for another topic; so for now we will just have to agree that “I” is the person who is in charge of the brain (or is the brain in charge of itself?), and we have to remember that “I” decide to pick up a cup, “I” decide to cheat on my wife,” “I” decide to hate someone because of their colour. The person who is physically in control of the muscles in the body, also has the ability to program the brain, but we all must remember, that everyone else knows you don’t have an instruction manual, so they will try to help you program your brain. You must not let that happen. What do they know? They didn’t have an instruction manual either, so how can you know that the code they are giving you is correct? I do not want you to believe me when I tell you that love and compassion, are built in programs, I want you to test it out for yourselves, by allowing the awareness, love, and compassion programs to run!

Soon you will find that the bad code, the trojans, the viruses, and any other faulty instructions that have been fed into your brain will start to be deleted one by one. I have tested it for myself, and boy did I have some dodgy programs lying around; and some seriously nasty trojans!

But I have to say, my operating system seems to be running smoothly now.

It is time for an upgrade.

Upgrade yourself to version 2.0.

What? You didn’t just think you could jump to version 9.0, did you? After all, life is a process. What about all those bug fixes you have to do along the way?

A human brain version 2.0 – I want one!

No, I don’t need a manual, I’m going to write my own.

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