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maggie_simon's picture

Predictability and Scales

I would like to focus on another reason that the brain can be unpredictable and touch briefly on the idea of "focusing the lens" or thinking about a situation at different scales.  As I believe Caitlin said in the previous blog session, the brain is an example of emergence: it is made up of grey and white matter, but they interact in such a way as to give rise to thinking, reasoning, and feeling capabilities that we employ everyday.  Systems with emergent properties are unpredictable: you cannot take the building blocks (in this case the grey and white matter) and, using the properties of those blocks alone, predict what the final properties of the system will be.  At the scale of the building blocks, there is a large degree of uncertainty about what will happen when they interact.  However, at the scale of the brain, the uncertainty instead becomes what kind of an output, or type of behavoir, will happen when the brain interacts with its environment.  I would say at this scale, the scale of the organism and its environment, the uncertainty in behavior could still be a result of emergent properties in that the various inputs from the environment, and from internal sources (such as recollected memories or moods/emotions...  what else?), come together to create a complex system in which outputs are not always predictable.  Internal input/output boxes provide another scale at which behavior can be viewed, as well as more nodes to add to the emergent system of the brain.

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