One trick that page designers often use in print is the double column, but it has some limitations here. This example, from my new book The Cerebral Code, works because the text will fit on one screen without scrolling. (Well, at least once you finally get it positioned!)|
The Cerebral Code is about a new understanding of how darwinian processes could operate in the brain to shape up mental images in only seconds, starting with shuffled memories no better than the jumble of our nighttime dreams, but evolving into something of quality, such as a sentence to speak aloud. Jung said that dreaming goes on continuously but you cant see it when you are awake, just as you cant see the stars in the daylight because it is too bright. Calvins is a theory for what goes on, hidden from view by the glare of waking mental operations, that produces our peculiarly human type of consciousness with its versatile intelligence.|
As Piaget emphasized, intelligence is what we use when we dont know what to do, when we have to grope rather than using a standard response. Calvin tackles a neurophysiological mechanism for doing this exploration and improvement offline, as we think before we act or practice the art of good guessing.
Surprisingly, the subtitles
|mosaics of the mind is not a literary metaphor. For the first time, it is a description of mechanism at what appears to be an appropriate level of
explanation for many mental phenomena, that of hexagonal mosaics of electrical activity. These mosaics compete for territory in the association cortex, implementing all six of the essential features of a darwinian process within seconds, and facilitating ascending levels of abstraction. Even analogies can compete to generate a strata of concepts that are inexpressible except by roundabout, inadequate means-- as when we know things of which we cannot speak.
William H. Calvin is a theoretical neurophysiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, and author of nine books.
A Bradford Book
Author photo by
Its actually an early draft for the flap copy, the text that appears on the fold-in flaps for the dust jacket of a hardcover book, so its particularly appropriate to double-column it. But the following one, from the dust jacket flaps of my other new book, How Brains Think, has problems when webbed because the text is too long for the height of most screens, so that you have to page down, then back up, then down again. More than about 350 words, and youre in trouble:
If youre good at finding the one right answer to lifes multiple-choice questions, youre smart.
But intelligence is what you need when
contemplating the leftovers in the refrigerator, trying to figure out
what might go with them. Or if trying to speak a sentence that youve
never spoken before. As Jean Piaget used to say, intelligence is what
you use when you dont know what to do, when all the standard answers
Evolving something new on the fly involves a lot of creative
trial-and-error inside the brain, mostly in the last second before
speaking aloud. Starting from themes as disjointed and unrealistic as
those of a dream, you make something of quality out of the subconscious
This book tries to fathom how our inner life evolves from one
second to the next, as we steer ourselves from one topic to another, as
we create and reject alternatives. Its not just a little person inside
the head doing all this, though its natural to assume that anything
fancy requires an even fancier designer. Ever since Darwin, however,
weve known that elegant things can also emerge (indeed, self organize)
from simpler beginnings.
And, says theoretical neurophysiologist William H. Calvin, the
bootstrapping of new ideas works much like the immune response or the
evolution of a new animal species except that the brain can turn the
darwinian crank a lot faster,
|on the time scale of thought and action.
Few proposals achieve a Perfect Ten when judged against our memories,
but we can subconsciously try out variations, using many brain regions.
Eventually, as quality improves, we become conscious of our new
Drawing on anthropology, evolutionary biology, linguistics, and
the neurosciences, Calvin also considers how a more intelligent brain
evolved using slow biological improvements in the last few million
years. Back then, evolving jack-of-all-trades versatility was
encouraged by abrupt climate changes. Now, evolving intelligence uses a
nonbiological track: augmenting human intelligence and building
intelligent machines. In his concluding chapter, Calvin cautions about
arms races in intelligence. Just as the Red Queen explained to Alice in
Wonderland, you might have to keep running to stay in the same place.
William H. Calvin is a theoretical neurophysiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.
He is the author of nine books, including The Cerebral Code, The River that Flows Uphill,
and, with the neurosurgeon George A. Ojemann, Conversations with Neils Brain.
Author photo by Doug vanderHoof