Friday, November 1, 2013

The Human Microprocessor Isn't News to Me

Today I read an article in Yahoo News called 'Microcomputers' Live Inside the Human Brain.  I'm not sure why they think this is a new discovery.

As we all know that the brain is a very powerful computer, but what some people don't realize is that you don't always need to fuss over a problem to solve it.  Just like computers often run programs in the background, once the brain is fed the information and left to do it's own thing, it too can work on solving  problems in the background, while you go about doing other things.  It will present us with a solution when it's finished.

Take for instance the fact that earlier this week I was looking for my watercolour pencils and my journal. They should have been in my art bag, but they were not.  I sometimes take a smaller bag with me to a drop in group where I occasionally do artistic things. They were not in that bag either.  I asked at the drop in if anyone had found them, thinking perhaps I'd left them behind the previous week. I knew I had used them there at that time.  Still, there was  no sign of them, there either.  When I mentioned that I had checked both my bags others got into a conversation about all the bags they have for exercise, one for art, one for bowling, etc, and the conversation went off in all kinds of directions from there.

 I figured I'd either lost the art supplies, or they would show up eventually, and thought no more about them. Then, last night, just as I was about to fall asleep, my brain solved the problem.  When I had gone to the drop in the week before, I had another event to attend immediately afterwards, and I had taken a different bag containing things I needed for that.  It was one that I never take to the drop in so I had forgotten about it entirely.  But my brain had not forgotten, and though I was not actively looking for my art supplies, or even thinking about where they might be, the computer in my brain put two and two together, and presented me with the answer, when I least expected it.

I related this story to some friends this morning, and was immediately told about the time one of my friends took something apart, and had the devil of a time trying to put it back together again. He eventually gave up. But that night he had a dream about how to put it together, and that solved the problem.  The computer in his brain has worked it out for him and presented him with the answer.

I remembered years ago when I had been trying to learn how to do the afghan stitch.  It's a form of crochet you do on a very long needle.  All the stitches are gathered on this needle as if you were knitting instead of crocheting, and then they are worked off again until you are down to the usual one stitch.  I read the instructions and tried to do what they said. That didn't work. I read them again and tried to work the  instructions one at a time, and still it didn't work.  I figured there was something I just didn't understand, so I took the problem to my mother-in-law. She was well experienced in both knitting and crocheting and I thought she could just show me how it was done.  She had never heard of the afghan stitch, so she read the instructions and tried it herself. She couldn't do it either.  She asked me to leave the book with her so she could figure it out, and I did, but she eventually gave up and we were no further ahead.  Just like in the two cases above, I let go of the problem, but my brain apparently did not.  A few weeks later I had a dream, and when I woke up, I knew how to do that afghan stitch.  The computer in my head worked out the problem and found a way to teach me.

Sometimes when I'm working on my computer, it doesn't respond as quickly as I'd like. Then I tend to press a button, or several, or the same one several times. This only confuses my old computer, and makes it harder for it to sort out just what I'm after.  If I had been patient and left it alone, it would have finished the required task much more quickly.

Many of us have been told in the past that if we have a problem we cannot solve, we should walk away from it.  Often the solution will present itself.  That computer that sits on top of our shoulders can work on the problem with out you fussing over it.  Ask the question, leave it alone and often the answers will come.  You just have to be patient as sometimes, like with our electronic device,  it takes a while for the information to be processed. The little microprocessors are working even when the main brain is focused on other things.

Like I said, I'm not sure why they think this is a new discovery.  I figured it out long ago.

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