A Gedanken (Thought) Experiment

#1
Gedanken experiments are always fun :). But for the experiment to work you must assume everything that the experiment presupposes.


Suppose our thoughts were merely chemical reactions (bear with me here). Suppose also that we could monitor the chemical activity in our brain such that every single molecule were represented, in real time, by a very large hologram of our brain. What would happen? What would we discover?

I see three possibilities:

1) We discover that we are all literally telekinetic, i.e. we can will the molecules of our brain to move and react as we please. As a consequence:
a) We realize that our "will" has no physical component.
b) We train to recognize how our thoughts (chemical reactions) will influence the molecules in the blood-brain barrier, then in the skull, then in the area surrounding our skull, and so on. We practice so much that we all become telekinetics.

2) We are able to observe patterns in the chemical reactions by concentrating on certain thoughts. This gives us the ability to label each chemical reaction by a certain thought. We could then enter the information of each molecule of our brain into a computer, calculate the chemical reactions that will occur in the future, and then observe our thoughts before we think them.

3) We are unable to observe patterns in the chemical reactions because there are no patterns. It turns out that our thoughts are not chemical reactions in our brain, and there is absolutely no physical component to our thoughts.

What do you think? Which of these do you think would happen, or what other possibilities might occur?
 
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ExpectantlyIronic

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#2
FutureTrackStar said:
Suppose our thoughts were merely chemical reactions (bear with me here). Suppose also that we could monitor the chemical activity in our brain such that every single molecule were represented, in real time, by a very large hologram of our brain. What would happen? What would we discover?
Our brain could not process the entirety of the hologram at the same speed as it changed. There would be lag, for one, and for another our peripheral vision sucks. We think it's better than it is, because our eyes usually dart around rapidly without our noticing, and our experience of things is something of a composite of what the eyes gather from as much, as well as our brain filling in some details. Sometimes it gets those details wrong, for instance:



That's not an animated gif. The circles don't really move.

Edit: Oh, and I suppose we should also consider that what you describe could not be displayed in such a way as it would fit in our field of vision in any case, such that we could make out every detail. Now, for our vision to be significantly better, our brain would have to be significantly more complex, and thus require better vision yet to take in, ad infinitum. It's simply a physical impossibility for us to know every detail of how our brain is operating, in time with its operating as such.

FutureTrackStar said:
1) We discover that we are all literally telekinetic, i.e. we can will the molecules of our brain to move and react as we please.
I'm not sure what ground there is for thinking that would happen.

FutureTrackStar said:
2) We are able to observe patterns in the chemical reactions by concentrating on certain thoughts. This gives us the ability to label each chemical reaction by a certain thought. We could then enter the information of each molecule of our brain into a computer, calculate the chemical reactions that will occur in the future, and then observe our thoughts before we think them.
You're forgetting that our neurons would be reacting to external stimuli. The computer would have to simulate the entire world, and even then, it's thought some quantum phenomena are fundamentally random; so there's no way such a thing could happen. Furthermore, the computer would have to calculate how we would respond to what it outputted, and only output that which we would actually think despite it's telling us we would; which may not be an option.

FutureTrackSta said:
3) We are unable to observe patterns in the chemical reactions because there are no patterns. It turns out that our thoughts are not chemical reactions in our brain, and there is absolutely no physical component to our thoughts.
There have been experiments done using fMRI machines that show their to be a correlation between reported experiences and patterns occurring in the brain.
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In any case, by my estimation, what we observed in the hologram would appear chaotic to us, save perhaps for our being able to notice some vague correlation between our thinking and the hologram; but as soon as we focused on the hologram, it would seem that our concentration would break and any apparent correlation would vanish (due to a back and forth between changes in the hologram and our brain: if we looked for it, we would probably find a consistent pattern that correlated with our looking at that pattern). Not because there was no correlation, but because of the considerations I posted above.
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I did some digging, and it turns out that having a person look at a computer-filtered fMRI image of their own brain is being investigated as a possible means of therapy: i.e some figure it might help someone control their feelings or whatever. You can count me skeptical about the therapeutic applications of this, but the video below does show that a person can already look at their brain in action and see correlation between it and their feeling/thoughts; albeit with the aid of a computer to pick out relevant info from the jumble.

YouTube - Christopher deCharms: Looking inside the brain in real time
 
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