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bpyenson's picture

Many Brains, Many Minds

The most astonishing fact I learned about in the past week was the diversity of nervous systems, based on the box model.  Specifically, in humans alone, Dr. Grobstein argued that, due to the different pathways and variety in input and output and the sheer number of neurons, nearly every nervous system can be uniquely different from another.  From this observation, Dr. Grobstein implied that all of the minds that are connected to those nervous systems have the potential to maintain that kind of uniqueness also.  Indeed this creates an 'every man or woman is an island' scenario for understanding the mind.  Could the 'truth' be something less elaborate and predictable, however? 


Maybe, in spite of the diversity of nervous systems, there are less corresponding mental states/minds.  I began to think this way when thinking about these observations in an evolutionary context.  Specifically, with other trends in evolution (e.g. ammonoid suture complexity, bauplan diversity), the fossil record and molecular genetics suggest that although higher complexity is achieved, as shown by a diversity of different kinds of a feature shown in different species, often this diversity narrows over time, due to evolutionary and ecological constraints.  I'm thinking of Steven Jay Gould's argument in particular, where he cites that the diversity of organisms is not some teliological attempt towards more complexity, but in fact is a desire for more simplicity, which will then allow one more flexibility to adapt to an environment.  I'm throwing all these observations on the table simply to acknowledge that perhaps our incredibly diverse nervous systems may not give rise to equally diverse minds, and that maybe we're striving towards more uniformity than more diversity?


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