The world we humans live in doesn’t do much changing. Oh, sure, we got ISIS trying to take Iraq and Israel is off bombing Syria over the kid, and the USA is now a biggie in soccer. Come to think of it, since cell phones have been around for almost 30-years now, even that falls into my mental “bit bucket” that collects templates rather than the specifics of history.
Whether we like it, or not, the socialization of societies really does come down to a “shared series of templates.”
Stop at the stop sign, go when something is green, stop when red, all that kind of stuff is templated into us at a very young age. And that’s actually a good thing since it reduces the CPU load on our brains in order to allow us to move into this murky stuff called “future” more smoothly; perhaps with some clarity.
REAL advances in humans come infrequently – and mostly when we look at our templates. Which gets us to the most important “story” of the day.
The story headline, “Free will could be the result of ‘background noise’ in the brain, study suggests.” is it.
You should go read the report and then the related content over at Live Science.
The solemnly mind-bending concept is in this quote from the Independent article:
“The brain has a normal level of so-called background noise; the researchers found that the pattern of activity in the brain in the seconds before the cue symbol appeared – before the volunteers knew they were going to make a choice – could predict the likely outcome of the decision. “
You see the problem, right? The decision was “known” ahead of time!
Somewhere, it seems, down in the “noise floor of thinking” there seems to be a ‘signal’ of some sort – the kind that people can “tune-in to.” The signal of “right life?”
Emphasis, please, on the quote from Jesse Bengson of UC-Davis, one of the neuroscientists involved in the study:
“”This random firing, or noise, may even be the carrier upon which our consciousness rides, in the same way that radio static is used to carry a radio station.” “
Note that this is NOT the first time science has wandered into the realm of “pre-decision” knowledge of the future. Could it be that we really do know down at some deep level about the future before it actually arrives, and that’s why, it could be argued, this latest bit of research shows that deciding takes place before the stimulus.,..even if by a second?
The first place I ran across this incredible notion was in
Dean Radin’s landmark paper “Time-reversed human experience: Experimental evidence and implications.” The abstract of Radin’s paper?
“This paper reviews four classes of experimental evidence for time-reversed effects in human experience, examples of phenomena discussed in conventional scientific disciplines that bear a resemblance to time-reversed effects, and a new experiment that distinguishes between information flowing forwards vs. backwards in time. One implication of the cumulative evidence is that time – reversed effects permeate all aspects of human behavior. Another is that experiments in all scientific disciplines may be vulnerable to time –reversed influences, including studies based on gold-standard techniques like double-blind, randomized protocols. A third implication is that teleology, once taboo in science, deserves to be seriously reconsidered as another form of causation.”
Back in July of 2000, Radin reported the same phenomena, namely that people were reacting emotionally well in advance of being shown a photograph. And what these latest data show (whether it’s implicitly stated by the reports, or not) is that “future” is there before we decide or react to it.
And in may have much more to do with “brain noise” than we think. For example, in the current issue of the “Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience” (MIT Press) which has a tantalizing further “sniff” of this “reading future” problem implied in the paper “White Noise Improves Learning by Modulating Activity in Dopaminergic Midbrain Regions and Right Superior Temporal Sulcus.”
The further mind-twister in here is what?
“In neural systems, information processing can be facilitated by adding an optimal level of white noise. “
Since my real training in life is not as a neuroscientist (perhaps a good thing), but rather as an MBA business geek and broadcast electronica-zoid, I happen to remember something about noise in electronic amplifier design.
Yeah…check this out: In 2007, three experts in electronic system design, Hao Chen ; Syracuse Univ., Syracuse ; Varshney, P.K. ; and Michels, J.H. published a paper in Signals, Systems, and Computers that contains this abstract:
“Noise is traditionally defined as an unwanted signal or disturbance to the system. In general, more noise in the system often leads to a worse system performance, e.g., less channel capacity, worse detection performance and degraded estimation accuracy. However, noise may play a constructive role in some systems. The phenomenon of noise enhanced system (PHONES) is observed and employed in many areas. In this paper, PHONES is investigated for some signal processing systems including detection and estimation. The mathematical framework to analyze PHONES is established and the optimum noise pdf is found. Some illustrative examples are also presented.”
The idea is not brand new. It’s been floating around in electronics (and specifically in the IEEE;s Singla Processing Letters since the January 2000 publication of “Can Detectability Be Improved by Adding Noise?” Again, the abstract says it all:
“It is shown that under certain conditions the performance
of a suboptimal detector may be improved by adding noise
to the received data. The reasons for this counterintuitive result are
explained and a computer simulation example given.
Index Terms—Decision making, Gaussian noise, signal detection.”
“Fine but what’s Ure point?”
I like to live out on the bleeding edge of thinking, and I’m inviting you to join me in that venture as we are beginning to see a most fascinating series of “noise templates” appear.
The brain, tasked by us (semi) rational persons with finding “right path” in life, may be influenced more than we believed, by the amount of “noise” it encounters. It’s just like designing a super-low noise floor amplifier (in analog design) or in deliberately adding noise (or a known sort) to improve signal to noise ratios.
For me, the huge “Aha!” this morning is that looking at quality of thought as a function of noise explains a huge number of observations in life, that otherwise wouldn’t make sense:
- How some people can study/write with noise present in the background.
- How some types of additive noise (Baroque, mostly) can be used to induce super-learning states.
- How ancient prophets (Nostradamus, et alia) were up doing their work late at night when things were extremely quiet.
- And how meditation can improve thinking, by reducing the human noise floor in the brain.
- Oh, and why tempestuous relationships help some people (I actually have known some people like this – wild emotional swings, crazy relations with ‘other sex’) and why some people’s work just falls apart when even a harsh word is spoken by their partners.
- Let’s also toss in Binaural Beats which can entrain your brainwaves.
- Then how about those repetitious subliminals…does that constitute more of a “known noise” as well?
Each of us gets up on (yet another) Monday tasked with “getting ahead some” for the week. Now that we gain some clarity on another inter-disciplinary template, we can then set about optimizing our decision-making by ”tuning-in” to the beat or noise that yields our best results.”
Sure, education, study, and being on time for work are important. But suppose for a minute that you deliberately change your personal noise inputs – up or down – and then track your financial, social, and happiness levels over a six-month period.
I’m willing to bet they would change.
What’s more, the “noise floor” concept in whole companies, or at least divisions could become a whole new branch of management science.
Your Own Personal Study Tool
As I have mentioned, I’m in the midst of building a modest home studio (more on this in the future, there is a method to my madness, although the madness is considerable…). As one of the necessary tools for setting up a studio, I picked up a dandy little sound level meter from Amazon.
Amazingly, the BAFX Products (TM) – Decibel Meter / Sound Level Reader – W/ Battery! will set you back less than $20.
Already, I’ve made some important discoveries about my local “noise” environment. The first was that with my air conditioning on, the sound level in my office is 49.7 dBa. But, with the air conditioner off, it’s down at 34.6 dBa.
When you are using the meter, learn to pick either the highest or lowest reading. As long as you are consistently using the highest observed, or lowest observed over 30 seconds, or so, your relative measurements will be useful.
In the recording studio world, we use meters like this to set up equalization. Once the studio is completed (next couple of weeks) then the set-up will involve sitting at the main mixing position and “tuning” the room using one equalizer channel per speaker., I know that a lot of people like to think they have “reference rooms” because they paid x dollars for a speaker, but a meter, a used audio oscillator or PC-based software (like this) will get you a reliable frequency source.
Of course, there’s a little more to it: Your PC audio card is not likely flat, so you’ll want either an oscilloscope or very good digital volt meter (Fluke is nice, spendy though) so the input signal to your system is known. Set the input voltages level and off you go measuring.
The more useful application of the noise meter is to notice when “tension” is in the air at work. Is that an actual dBA level? I’ll leave that to you to discover. Along with asking questions like “Can taking sound measurements of my home appliances – over time – be a useful source of failure prediction?” And what’s the dBA level of the Lexus at 60 MPH? Quality of pavement makes a huge difference, turns out.
Ah, but enough.
‘Which reminds me, I’m going to start noticing dBa levels when making options trades, and varying 20-30 dBa either way.
Maybe it will just help to turn my home studio into an anechoic sound chamber.
Got any personal experiences with very high (or very low) noise levels? We’re in serious data collecting mode around here…
Say, you don’t think it’s the shutting down of body-noise and sensory inputs that clears up the “Life Signal” when people have near death experiences, do you? You know – those afterlife experiences people (almost universally) have when they are brought back from dead?
Write when you break even – and at the risk of sounding sardonic, Happy Monday and welcome to summer.