Wednesday, 2 October 2013

To what extent can our brains accommodate externally-directed actions without recognizing them as such?

The human brain is parallel and decentralized, yet we somehow manage to maintain the illusion that we are a single conscious entity, experiencing life in a sequential stream of thoughts and experiences.

This is clearly a lie that we tell ourselves. Various independent bits of brain make decisions and initiate actions entirely on their own, and somehow we manage to rationalize and confabulate and merrily deceive ourselves (after the fact) that we had some sort of explicit, sequential, conscious plan all along.

Whilst this model of human behavior is disturbing on a number of levels, it does have some interesting consequences when we consider the near-future technology of brain augmentation.

It is plausible that we could embed a bit of electronics into our brains; integrated so tightly that it is able to make decisions for us; to control our actions and influence our perceptions.

Would we feel that we were being controlled? Or would we integrate those decisions into our stream of consciousness: to confabulate a reality in which these decisions really were made by our conscious free will?

Will the perceptual pathways responsible for our self-perception bend to accommodate outside influences; to stretch the notion of self to accommodate the other? To allow us to believe that we initiated acts that were (in reality) initiated by others?