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Three Brain Summary
In short, I believe Freud was right with his 3 brain hunch, We know these 3 brains as Id, Ego and Super-ego. I call it a hunch, because, he never precisely described the 3 functions. Most people don’t know that. In fact he clearly stated it, requesting that others map the details. Modern psychology was misled by a tragic misnaming of the 3 brains when “The Ego and the Id” was translated. The selection of the term “super-ego” did major damage. The use of the prefix “super” led many to assume that the “super-ego” brain evolved later than the ego in the sequence of brain component development and was primarily a “supervising” function over the ego. A whole new brain model came together when the following simple assumptions were made:
o Let the Id, which I’ll now call “Hulk”, be all the brain functions that are strictly INHERITED: motor control, heart beat and temperature etc. But also the drives for water, food, shelter and sex. (Yes, this model now strongly connects Freud with Maslow.)
o Let the super-ego, which I’ll now call “middle brain” evolve second. It’s function is PROMPTLY LEARNING (storing) behaviors. It stores them as COMPLEX, STREAMING, ASSOCIATED, TIME-BASED, PERCEPTION SEQUENCES ( all capitalized functions are critical for this model). Middle brain is conscious (meaning perceptive), but not “self-aware”. Its perceptions include the classic 5 senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell ( and the more recently accepted senses: heat, balance, rotation etc. ). However, and this is a key observation, middle brain can also get “summary” messages from Hulk, which are perceived as PAIN and EMOTION.
o Let the ego, which I’ll now call “thinker” evolve last. It is also a “learning” brain. However, its perceptions of the outside world are SUMMARIES received indirectly from middle brain after a lot of processing. And here’s another key observation. The “summary” perceptions from middle brain, also include associated PAIN and EMOTION “summaries” of messages it receives from Hulk. Also, many of the perceptions received from middle brain are not produced in “real time”. That is, they are not coming in direct response to sensual input, but are PLAYBACKS of sequences stored earlier in middle brain.
One more very simple, but very lucky piece fell into place. A book I read way back used the term “awareness” in place of perception. The author, for example, called vision the “awareness” of external light images. BUT, he also called middle brain’s and Thinker’s ability to perceive the messages of pain and emotion “awareness”. He phrased this as being “aware of being aware”. My MIT background immediately tagged this A2 (awareness squared). The obvious extension was to ask, was there an A3 process: aware of being aware of being aware?
Initially I thought Hulk = A1; middle brain = A2; Thinker = A3. But I quickly found that didn’t explain social behaviors well. Yet the A1, A2, A3 classification was profound because, like Freud’s 3 brain classification, the A1, 2, 3 classification did help explain a lot of behaviors that still mystify society and science.
OK. Fast forward to my current best thinking:
o Hulk is A1. All its functions are inherited AND its process knowledge is also “pre-wired”, autonomic, purely reactive - not self aware. All animals have this.
o Middle brain is also A1. Its functional “wiring” is inherited, but all its operational “knowledge” is learned. Higher animals have a middle brain. This should be physiologically distinct from Hulk. The combination of Hulk and middle brain still operates functionally as A1, just with more advanced consciousness. The A1 brain is also divided into two functional sub parts, one always awake, and one that can turn on and off to create alertness (being awake). There is still no “self consciousness”. But 3 new processing approaches enter the picture for middle brain: a. it matches and evaluates new patterns against stored patterns based on how well they compare; b. it can re-trigger playback of stored patterns in new combinations and let them run for analysis; and c. it is recursive of its own processes. That is, it can self-trigger playback and pattern matching, and include the match results from previous runs with the next comparison.
o Thinker is A2. I believe a mutation occurred in human brains about 40,000 years ago which caused A2. Its physiological structure is a repeat of middle brain but with different input and output connections. Thinker is only found in humans. All its knowledge is learned. It gets perceptions from BOTH Hulk and middle brain. When thinker’s on/off part is awake, it dominates over middle brains on/off part. When thinker’s on/off part is asleep, if middle brain’s on/off part runs, it produces dreams. Thinker is similar to but physiologically distinct from middle brain.
The major distinction of Thinker A2 is that its “awareness” is the streaming of RESOLVED PATTERNS stored in middle brain, not primary sensory input. And because the resolved patterns in middle brain are high level streaming descriptions that broadly include an organism’s “history”, this process provides a functional description for SELF AWARENESS.
The ability to re-stream prior memories is what allows humans to understand instructions and follow orders. A2 gave humans the ability to BUILD a civilization. Ironically, it also significantly explains many mental illnesses.
o Thinker is also A3 for humans with A3 brains. While A2 created the ability to BUILD the structures of a civilization, it wouldn’t be sufficient for humans to envision and create the technical marvels of ancient societies. So I also believe, there was a repeat of the A2 mutation about the same time which created humans with what I call A3. The A3’s were the philosophers and architects. They were the ones who designed the cities, irrigation, armies, navies, governments etc.
A3 physiological structure is just another repeat of the middle brain mutation but with different input and output connections. The A3 brain gets inputs from Hulk, middle brain A2 output, and itself. It sends output to middle brain’s input and it’s own.
There are some A3’s still among us. But there aren’t many. My guess is less than 4% of world population.