The Limits of the Mind’s Power

Straight off, I would like to say that all accounts of psychic phenomenon, telekinesis, clairvoyance, etc. etc. are the purest bullshit. That being said, I would venture the statement that the power of the human mind is far, far greater than anything the current psychologist would consider alarming. The exact nature of the ‘powers’ I would place in the hands of anyone who knew how to claim them are difficult to define, because we have only seen sporadic glimpses of them due to a select few individuals.

To begin, I would first explain my somewhat basic conception of the brain. The average individual is represented by a balanced mix of different abilities and skills such as pattern recognition, symbolic reasoning, spatial awareness, pattern recognition, a host of social skills, and an infinitude of other important abilities and modes, as well as such far-fetched powers as fractal visualization and whatnot. Esoteric abilities were weeded out in the evolution of humankind because they were not useful, but that does not mean they are less possible for that. Now, there are also even distributions of people who have both above and below-average facility in different areas. I will not speculate on the occurrences, the common skills, or on the assumption that an increase in one area necessitates a decrease in another and vice-versa, but the basic framework holds. We tend to sort individuals into a number of categories and, though I despise the practice, I have a point to elucidate and this type of demonstration helps. For example, great orators have a decided specialization in human communication. Conversely, into the group of the ‘socially inept’ we place those who have a sub-average faculty for it. As a significant but unrelated sidenote, ‘intelligent’ individuals are those who have a particular faculty for the skills commonly associated with intelligence. Meaning, those who perform best on supposedly objective measures of brainpower. I find it unlikely that they actually have more mental real estate with which to operate; they are simply better adapted to do test-based math and english problems. Compare those skills to those necessary to be a professional mathematician or writer, and you’ll see my point. Whatever your position on the IQ scale, you probably fall into this field of average people.

However, some individuals have a large proclivity to significant specialization of their brain areas. Einstein, Mozart, etc. fall into this category of gifted individuals. Their brains are fantastically suited to a specific discipline or use. And, most of the time, other critical areas such as social skills are left with sufficient grey matter to function satisfactorily. Lastly, there are the autistic brains. People with autism exhibit an extraordinary degree of specialization, to the point that other critical skills are deficient. Because social skills are such a complex bundle resulting in very subtle behavior, there is a sharp median between the critical mass of utility, and uselessness. As a result, the most common affliction for autistic people is social ineptitude. It is important to note that, if other skills were to be only marginally underdeveloped, leaving social skills intact, there would be no apparent deficiency. Or, if one unnecessary skill were to be completely omitted and the grey matter devoted to a special, useful skill instead, then it would appear like a ‘free’ positive gain. In any case, their brains are so fantastically suited to some other area that they can have superhuman powers. There are many examples of this, such as the human camera, this Englishman, and these savants. I would like to make a slight clarification here, that one of the miscellaneous savants’ abilities manifested only after being hit in the head by a baseball. This is perfectly reasonable because the brain is a self-organizing system, and is capable of reforming its basic structure as needs require it. After sustaining some damage to a nerve center over what must be an unused or unnecessary skill, since he didn’t mention a deficiency in another skill, the remaining neurons of that center were reformatted to perform a different function. In his case, associating exactly the date with the weather on that day. Though this skill doesn’t seem to be particularly useful, neurons determine their usefulness by how frequently they fire, and since those neurons are programmed to fire whenever his brain deals with a date, their connections would become quite strong.

So now that we have established the remarkable powers that our grey matter is capable of wielding, depending on how they connect to one another, the question is how come not everybody has those powers? The answer to that should be fairly obvious; not all of us have our neurons wired up like they do. My next point, therefore, should be relatively predictable for those who have studied the brain at all. Neuroplasticity is the alteration of neuron structure in response to experience, which is the fundamental purpose of the brain. Human beings learn from experience, and use that knowledge to make predictions about the future, resulting in a clear survival advantage. All human endeavor is derived from applied predictive intelligence. The root of this intelligence is the self-organizing nature of the brain. When neurons are used more, such as a certain pattern being viewed repeatedly, then those connections grow stronger. As they are less used, the connections dwindle as neurons are reorganized and used for other, more active, purposes. A good example of this is a familiar location, such as the inside of your house. Each time you see it, that pattern is impressed a little bit more on your neurons. The more it is driven home, the longer it will take to lose resolution and then to forget what the inside of your house looks like. In many ways, it is the perfect system to maximize the efficiency of the grey matter you have. Apply this to any pattern, and the strength of a prediction increases directly with the quantity of inductive evidence you have observed to support it.

Now apply this same concept to brain function. If memory, patterns, etc. are derived from the same self-organizing neurological structure as skill-based intelligence, it makes sense to posit that the more a certain skill is used the greater the quantity of grey matter dedicated to it, and the greater the resulting facility with that particular skill. This manifests itself in practical experience, and with neurological data, such as brain scans of monks. So human beings have the power to consciously control how their own brains develop. From that vantage point, the question becomes “How rapidly is it possible to alter the brain’s structure?” That is a difficult question that, in all probability, nobody can answer satisfactorily as of yet. But it seems to me that the only real physical limitation to the reformation of the brain’s structure is the rate at which neurons can physically move through space. If you have 100 billion neurons, with 100,000 connections per neuron then even a very small capability to rearrange connections can produce a huge effect applied over such large numbers. If dedicated practice can produce enhanced capabilities in some areas of the brain, why not increased ability to control your own brain?

Returning again to a base model of how the brain works, your actual grey matter contains far more integrated memory and processing power than you can actually consciously access. For example, consider a simple skill such as tying a knot. You don’t need to consciously remember how to tie the knot until you are about to do so. And, for very familiar knots such as tying your shoes, perhaps not even then. This ability to have a conscious field is quite important for a primitive hunter-gatherer, since such a massive amount of useless information will clog and cripple the ‘express lane’ processor needed for survival reactions. This means that at any given time your conscious mind is like a keyhole you can look through into your mind as a whole. Regardless of its necessity for hunter-gatherers, in modern times, this simply results in annoying lapses in memory because neuron connections cannot be reinforced unless they are focused upon and used consciously. And if it’s not in your conscious mind then how are you supposed to remember you need to know it? Catch-22. So, the practice of enlarging your conscious mind to encompass as much of your mind as possible gives you more ability to control your own mind. At the extreme end of this spectrum, probably impossible, is the ability to restructure large areas of your skillset at will. This is not to say you forget some skills and create others from thin air. I mean that different configurations of neurons are simply better suited to certain tasks than others, like dedicated computer circuitry being more efficient at its specialized task than generic Turing components. In this way, if you needed a photographic memory akin to that of the Human Camera, Stephen Wiltshire, then you could temporarily allocate a sizable portion of your brain and produce a dedicated photographic memory architecture. Though this statement is extreme, the fundamental principle is already known. If you practiced recalling a different picture each day by viewing it for a certain period, waiting a while, and then attempting to draw it, then over time you would become more skilled at it. At some point you would likely be able to do it perfectly, or you might graduate to more complex pictures, etc. After years of practice, you might even match Wiltshire’s amazing powers, although the effort involved in that particular endeavor might be prohibitive.

So theoretically, your grey matter can give you superhuman powers whenever you want them, you can control your own thoughts, memories, beliefs, abilities, and personality as easily as solving a math problem, and you can control your own brain’s functionality and specialization. Grey matter is pretty awesome stuff then. Unfortunately the prevailing theory is that you are born with about 100 billion neurons, and, after that, you never receive any more of them although they do grow in size and number of dendrites (input connectors). When you hit your head badly, some neurons die, when you drink alcohol or do drugs, lots of neurons are destroyed. Fortunately, since you have many effectively unused neurons due to memory storage and unnecessary skill centers, they can be destroyed and little harm will come to someone who is not tapping their brain to the limit. And, should necessary centers be damaged, the unused neurons can be reformatted to take their place, resulting in a more or less flat observed performance level. However, the loss of neurons is a tragedy of lost potential. Still, you have 100 billion of them, which is more than you will ever be able to tap out completely. Not to mention the incredible amount of protection that muscle, skull, tissue, blood, and glia cells provide for your precious neurons.  Even getting punched hard in the face is probably not enough to do significant damage to your brain, barring whiplash. Brain damage is not exactly something to be paranoid about.

There are, in summary, very few limitations on the power of the human brain. There is so much power to control yourself, your thoughts, abilities, and anything else that can be produced by the complex interplay of neurons that there really is no limit. So. What stops you from changing yourself? Why not simply decide one day that you are going to be a different, better person? What exactly makes that a difficult thing to do? And the next day you think to yourself, “you know, I’d kinda like to think like Albert Einstein for a day.” You might fail to change your thinking by dramatic sweeping, and end up making only incremental wigglings all over the place, but every time you exercise this godlike power over your own sentience, your facility only increases. You may start small, you may go for the whole hog, whatever you think is possible is, in fact, feasible. We’re talking the free and easy manipulation of information here, not a drastic impinging on the laws of physics. I can write 3 = 5. It’s easy, and perfectly within the laws of physics.

The limit is imaginary. The limit is a negative placebo effect; it’s there because you think it’s there, and is no less real for that. Push it back.


One Response to “The Limits of the Mind’s Power”

  1. celpjefscycle Says:

    Thanks for information.
    many interesting things

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