Throughout this series on the US government's neural interface and human experimentation program, questions have arisen as to how the brain functions. I have decided to start a separate series of articles discussing this issue. Even if you feel that you understand neural research, this series of articles will pull the rug from under your feet. What I will bringing to the table is an in-depth knowledge of computation and communication theory, both at at physics and logical level. What will be revealed is that most of the current research, especially conclusions in regards to how the brain functions, cannot be possibly be correct. I'm sure that seems like a bold statement, but by the end of this article everyone will have a solid grasp of the reasons why.
There are two ways data can be conveyed. The first is by reception of an object (i.e. particle, color, stone, etc.) and through classification of the type of object that can be related to a particular piece of data. For example, receiving a red stone will indicate you should go left, whereas receiving a green stone will indicate that you should go right. We call this approach a "lookup". We "lookup" a table for what to do with the object we receive.
The second way to convey data is by logical representation. This is an extension of the previous method, but can be used directly for the purposes of computation. A good example is binary. Not only can binary be used to represent data, but it can also be used to provide control to hardware. This mixture of data and control provides the basis upon which all modern computation and communication functions.
From here, we should all see the crux of the problem. It requires an intelligence to both define and interpret data in these forms.
The basic element in the human brain is the neuron. The neuron receives one or more inputs which alter the electric potential of the cell. This alteration of electric potential dictates which route the signal takes upon leaving the neuron. You can learn more about the structure in this video and if you wish to learn more just go to Khan Academy.
(The Axon Hillock shown in the video above, is actually the interface point used by radio-based neural interfaces. This area is effectively an antenna and can receive radio energy at specific frequencies. Each Axon Hillock has a different frequency, meaning that every neuron is on its own communication channel. This arrangement was an evolutionary design to prevent interference between cells, but is exploitable with modern radio technology.)
Now that we understand that a neuron merely selects a route based upon the nature of the input, we can clearly see that no matter how complex this arrangement becomes, it will be always doing the same thing. The selection of a route based upon an input is a form of classification. Thus, there is no memory present in this system. Classical experiments have suggested memories are encoded at synapses, but have ignored the fact that they effectively cutting off a route along which energy flows. As such, the memory can be located at any point after.
This leaves us with a major problem, if the neuron is only classifying input, where is the computation of that input? Where is the memory? Further, where is the "lookup" table that defines what that classified input means?
Finally, doesn't that last action require an intelligence?
These are some great questions and we will come back to them later but I'm sure everyone is intrigued right now. For now, let's examine the issue of data. What do we notice about how signals propagate through the brain? Well, the neuron receives molecules but these molecules do not encode any data as has been mentioned above.
There are patterns to how signals move around the brain and these are associated with particular types of events. These are referred to as "neural codes". Some events are "rate encoded", that is, the faster the signal pattern occurs the more intense an experience is perceived. Various other forms of encoding exist also, but as mentioned above, these encodings seem to have a defined effect but no form of "lookup" table can be found. That is, nowhere can we find something that is effectively decoding these patterns and turning them into the experiences we perceive.
Further, all the signals are being sent to locations in the brain where they terminate. The locations are physically separate, but we experience a unification of all these signals as our real-time perception of the world. This means that all these separate locations need to, in some way, send information to each other or be combined. This is a well known fact and is referred to as "The Binding Problem".
To exchange information, we require some form of physical carrier. A good real world example is WIFI, or a telephone. In WIFI we are using photons of a specific frequency. We commonly call this radio, but it is electromagnetism. Electromagnetism can be found in many forms such as microwaves, x-rays, gamma rays, infra-red, ultra-violet and visible light. The only difference is frequency, or the amount of energy per photon. We can use photons as objects we can detect and count, in various ways, and that can be used to represent data and/or control signals. The telephone is similar, only here we are using the electron rather than photons.
Thus, for the Binding problem to be resolved using known physics, some form of exchange of particles must be occurring. The big problem is that no one can find this. Note that I am not saying that this has yet to be found, I am saying that it does not exist. I speculated that electromagnetic interactions between neurons was the source of computation in a previous article. Deep analysis of this demonstrated the technique to be unworkable in a human context. Further, such a mechanism would only convey information to another entirely complete system (i.e. us). That is, the brain is only delivering power and there needs to be something at the end of that chain to interpret all those signals.
So, this brings us back to the question we raised at the end of the last section. Where is the computation of the input?
Well, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the brain is doing nothing more than delivering energy to something else. In more technical parlance, it is acting as an interface between this environment and whatever the human race really is. Additionally, we know that physical carriers are involved in some manner and that complex real-time stimulation lies at the heart of the system. Whatever the human race really is, we appear to be able to accept stimulation at various points, delivered by energy flowing through the brain and this generates an experience of our environment.
This leaves us in the interesting position of claiming that ideas, concepts, language, feelings, etc., are physical attributes of the universe itself just like the quark or electron, rather than a product of the functioning of the brain. Not only this, but that a human being, or any other species of the same structure, is in fact a part of the universe not something created by it.
I will leave this analysis here for today, this is a lot to absorb for most people. I would say not to be getting all religious at this point (read delusional), but rather think of it in terms of the real nature of our species.