Uniformly distributed utterances

I came up with the above title while on the bus. My initial thoughts were about how to start writing this as a manifestation of my thought stream. Instead, I opted for a more liberal capture-as-you-go style, in other words simply saying what comes to mind.

Thinking back to the title, “uniformly distributed utterances”, I begin to wonder how uniformly distributed this piece of writing is. However this position quickly recedes to how dull a topic this would be. I could analyse various facets of this piece, for instance how often the word “I” is used, followed by an analysis of the author’s intonation and style in writing.

A period of silence follows, with my head grasping for ideas from thin air. The motion of car wheels induces an image of free body diagrams describing the centripetal forces in operation. As I write this I begin to doubt this statement, but I manage to reassure myself. “Remember”, I tell myself, ” this is simply an exercise in writing”. An idea filter would merely serve as an unhelpful blocker of my flow.

At this point several ideas develop in my head. As I struggle to develop all these ideas in writing, I realise that whilst writing may add a further burden to the thinking process, it is not the root cause. The way we think is, in fact, linear. By this I do not mean that ideas flow chronologically or in some other logically organised way – they clearly do not. Rather my intention is to point out that we are unable to develop thoughts in parallel, we think serially, at least when it comes to conscious intelligible thoughts. I do not believe this to be due to our oral speech constraining the way we think, as we do also think in terms of actions without resorting to a language-based manifestation of these thoughts.

I found this limitation of serial thinking to be a gross one. Why should our brains, at least the conscious persona, be unable to run parallel streams of thought? Playing devil’s advocate for a position supporting the superiority of the brain, one may postulate a utility for this – it’s not a bug, it’s a feature! It is useful for the conscious mind to be presented (or perhaps, present itself?) with a simple interface to the underlying complexity of brain signals and activities, and serial thinking may be a part of this interface. I do not find this convincing, however, as surely an interface enabling parallel thought, despite the complexity, is far superior and more useful.

As I contemplate whether the above “devil’s advocation” was merely a straw man, I conclude that this generally can only be determined by engaging in discourse, where opposing thought criticises these ideas and develops counterarguments for them. Wondering whether a parallel thought stream would mitigate this necessity for external debate, I conclude that this would require a further flexibility in the human mind, being able to passionately hold opposing views. People often hold, or at least consider, opposing thoughts and opinions. These may be all genuinely instilled in their mind simultaneously, or they may be simply held for reasons of internal or academic debate. However, people lack the ability to have strongly driven views which clash directly with each other. I suspect that conflicting thoughts described by cognitive dissonance would not be strongly driven thoughts, at least only a maximum of one would be. Multiple personality disorder and similar also come to mind. Should we possess such an ability, then combined with the ability to think parallel thoughts, humans would be able to perform true internal debates that are much more effective than their lighter “internal conflict” form which people do come across. Such a development can help break our brain’s self-confirmation feedback loop and reduce cases of confirmation bias. If these parallel thought streams are able to exhibit independent associated emotions too, an interesting side effect would be the modulation of emotions such as anger, which would be diluted by the other competing thoughts.
An interesting aspect to consider is that thought streams may also be cooperating (à la cooperative threads in computer science), though I cannot think of examples of this. Perhaps thought streams related to prediction and planning would be a suitable application of this.

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2 thoughts on “Uniformly distributed utterances

  1. Love your post, keep them coming!
    However, when you say “Should we possess such an ability, then combined with the ability to think parallel thoughts, humans would be able to perform true internal debates that are much more effective than their lighter “internal conflict” form which people do come across. “, why do you think these debates would be much more effective? Do you think (truly) holding two conflicting positions at the same time can be possible without believe both of them are true? And if you do, then at the same time you have (apparently) insurmountable (at least by yourself) evidence to believe that the one is true, and insurmountable evidence to believe the other is true. Them being conflicting makes this a logical impossibility, as then you yourself believe p ^ ~p . This would make Aristotle quite angry indeed. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_noncontradiction)

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  2. > why do you think these debates would be much more effective
    When having an internal debate, my hypothesis is that you are to some extent biased towards one viewpoint, the one from which you are examining an idea.

    Think of a chess player as an analogy for this. You typically examine the board from the viewpoint of your pieces. You would of course also examine it from the viewpoint of your opponent, but it is more difficult to do so because of our serial-thought nature. You can exert an effort to try and consider both viewpoints equally, to overcome the bias, but it is difficult.

    With parallel thought streams, you are more naturally able to consider multiple viewpoints, rather than simulating it by switching between considering one viewpoint and another (the analogy of multiprocessing on a single CPU versus true parallelism on multiple cores comes to mind here). Hence I think these debates are more effective.

    > Do you think (truly) holding two conflicting positions at the same time can be possible without believe both of them are true?
    I think so. You are able to immerse yourself deep into a thought or idea which you disagree with, by placing it in your focal point and following it through and analyse it. You can do this without believing in the idea necessarily. Therefore you are able to apply this exercise to two ideas on parallel brain cores.

    > And if you do, then at the same time you have (apparently) insurmountable (at least by yourself) evidence to believe that the one is true, and insurmountable evidence to believe the other is true.
    Not necessarily, as I explained above holding an idea does not necessitate believing in it (which would happen as a result of possessing and thinking through sufficient evidence to convince you of it). In any case, I think it’s less about having the evidence logically necessary to reach a conclusion, and more about giving an idea its due thought and consideration.

    > Them being conflicting makes this a logical impossibility, as then you yourself believe p ^ ~p .
    You make the assumption that the human brain is incapable of logical impossibilities! 🙂

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