The Brain, The Division, And The Ugly

LeftRight Brain HEADER v2

Posted: Mar 6, 2023   5:12:52 AM   |   Last updated: Mar 6, 2023   5:12:52 AM
by Pascal-Denis Lussier

Take Care of the Upholstery, but Piss on the Engine?

Originally published 9-Jun-2012 on an earlier version of DMS&UY; for some reason I had no saved copy of this piece — draft or finished —  but I did, to my content, stumble upon it in the Wayback world while hunting down Biden-related docs... Biden leeding to non-stoopid brane stauph, what are the odds?

Because it's relevant is why I'm reposting it.

The Mercedes ad below—part of a series at the time—featured that trite "Marriage of art & technology, beauty and functionality, emotive and logical" left and right brain worlds coming together to produce something special idiocy that's still given much importance today, but which I've always seen as mostly baseless due to the way this has been interpreted by society at large, this interpretation being detrimental to ourselves and societies, having evolved into a crude system of fundamental division that imposes limitations on our potential in order to better serve corporate-driven goals.

I recall one person's comment, made on an FB friend's post in which he had shared my piece; it annoyed the hell out of me— stupidest comment anyone could ever make, in my opinion — but the fact that I wasn't able to reply to it irritated me something fierce, which had actual led me to ask that friend to post a reply in my stead. Because of that, it was a weak reply I instantly regretted, as I'd stated that I'd offer more to establish my point, having also acknowledged that friend's take of his FB friend's comment: "You gotta admit, he's pretty smart." 

The comment was (the gist), "And that's why they specify that it's the marriage of art and technology."

Yes, that's the generic slogan, numbnuts, which was, for a while, way overused by anyone seeking to sell or bed anything. My point is that this is a bad model that's been constantly reinforced through adverts as well as our institutions, and it's one that's flawed and that favours Capitalism, not individuals; it reinforces a division across society, and it's one that justifies the exploitation of a 'working class.'

The guy was so thoroughly trapped into seeing the world through this model that all he had walked away with was the notion that I was a fool and Mercedes a brilliant company that didn't get lost in limitations like I did, hence why they talk about a "marriage".

Don't know why, but that — having the slogan that embodies a dominant, flawed concept spat back to me, with likes and agreements, as the obvious answer to the problem that I was pointing out, which is the product of that flawed concept being continually sold to us through such slogans — it had had a deeply discouraging effect. I'd initially never intended to follow up this one with another that expounds the details, and that's exactly how I had never followed up that one, realizing that certain efforts aren't worth the effort...

I'll try to post something new by end of day today. Cheers!

If Right Brain, then, No-Brainer Left

Remember that advert (below)? It made the social media rounds a while back. Recently, it was an RSA Animate video that re-circulated. Expressions of this idea are all too common, and when this divided-brain view promotes creativity, love, and nature, people are quick to promote them—even if they’re carefully-designed ploys from big corporations such as the Mercedes ad—since they confirm our personal belief that this is a proper reflection of ourselves and our brain, and that each individual possesses one dominant side thus determining on which side of society one finds himself: the efficient, unfeeling, bureaucratic, and scientific side, or the warm, loving, passionate, and artistic one.

Split brain - left logic, right creative

This is wrong. Nonetheless, it defines Western culture, this view so deep-rooted into our collective mindset it fools us into believing that there are acceptable modes of excesses and inequity, that passion is about ownership, reason equates to a good wage, and slavery is freedom.

To start off, let’s briefly examine the widely-accepted scientific models of our brain, the first dominating throughout much of our history to finally attain its peak in popularity in the 1970′s, the second in the 80′s. Since technology has always been the definer of how we view the brain, a computer analogy is also what I use (bear with me if you’re not familiar with the jargon, the rest isn’t technical); the main views can be simplified as follows:

1. Information-specific left and right processors with function-specific areas that work on the same Operating System;

2. Information-specific left and right processors with function-specific areas that work on different OSs;

3. Two multi-processor supercomputers handling multiple-programming-paradigms; each processes the same information but in very different ways and with varying degrees of focus and priority as per task requirements and specificity level—both systems play a role in tasks originally believed to be controlled by only one processor in previous models. Functional localisation and left or right lateralization is a statistically predictable result with far-ranging variance and not a design-specific requirement. Areas become specialized and more firmly set through normal development and aging, but, depending on the type of issue it faces, the architecture, maximally self-corrective closer to age 0, optimizes space in the development of functional areas on a per system basis, localizing functions in any area for maximum efficiency. Here, functional areas are not specific to whole tasks, i.e. talking, visual, logic, motor skills, memory, etc., but to program-specific methods within modules that play but a partial role in any input/output procedures (homeostasis is relegated to another system). Our model must also explain the development of each supercomputer, not just as finite states, but as states that can come into being, grow, develop, and be trained to such wondrous complexity using limited input (stimulus) to produce virtually infinite output (within our neurological/physical limitations).

Albeit the complexity in 3, these are highly simplified models, and explanations for their underlying principles and structures vary greatly according to the theory and approach employed; many areas are highly debated. A great number of advances and interdisciplinary collaborations have enabled us to better understand just how sophisticated our brain is and, ironically, forces us to consider that we may not have the capacity required to ever fully understand it. Those that predict the technological singularity in the next 20 to 30 years do so based on the exponential growth of processing power while overlooking several physical and still-unresolved problems that may forever prevent the “magic” from happening.

That said, left and right, logical versus creative are but silly political and marketing tools without scientific basis when we begin to understand 3.
Yet our society is based and rolls on that divided-brain explanation of ourselves, born out of ancient Greece and dictating all Western philosophies to this day. Though the size of the gap between our two brain selves varied, diminishing greatly during some periods (the Renaissance a good example), it’s always been there. However, we’ve been strongly encouraged to stay stuck at a rudimentary version of 1 that presented these two-brains in increasingly firmer opposition for the past three centuries, and a really rough interpretation of 2 in recent years. This makes sense in a way, as we’ve only really developed the skills and tools necessary to make such a scientific investigation worthwhile in the last 70 or so years. And whether or not we’ve now known with near certainty that the first two models have been obsolete for close to 20 years, society isn’t ready to accept this.

However, within any realistic model of the brain, including Eastern thinking (which is succumbing to Western thoughts), reason and creativity aren’t in opposition, they’re interrelated aspects of a complex whole; these are but labels we’ve given to surface formalisms the brain cares nothing about as it develops the neural connections triggered by experience and learning, which, in turn, creates more profound modes and webs of conceptualization that benefits and is beneficial to a broader worldview and understanding and problem-solving abilities, the last being amongst the highest-level general cognitive functions as it relies on all our abilities to derive a novel solution.

Art versus Science is just a way of segmenting society, born out of our ancestors’ ignorance and strengthened by mainstream manipulation and collective gullibility, forcing a division that’s profitable to capitalistic systems through economic sectorization, encouraging individuals to identify and strive for one extreme or the other while rarely being allowed to succeed at either ends, stuck in an artificial middle defined by a need to pay bills in order to dare dream, or by a lack of choice, long-since abandoned to the belief that one isn’t equipped to dream anything beyond winning the lotto, dulled by cheap entertainment that markets an unrealistic idea of what art and science are.

This system saps people of their curiosity and fills them with useless needs and brain-numbing content and The Spectacle as a means to achieving fame and success outside of the two poles of science or art.

Moreover, this division we’ve been raised to believe in forces limitations on the self. If logic and imagination are diametrical poles, then they cannot exist simultaneously. And so, society inadvertently teaches us that one should not aim to develop globally, but should choose one’s focus, reducing our potential to one half of the whole. It teaches us early on to accept our weaknesses as deterministic restrictions rather than provide ways to overcome them so as to guarantee a need for that debt-strapped, easily-manipulated middle.

This enforces the faulty conviction that both worlds aren’t compatible and fully accessible to any one individual but the exceptional few–which, oddly, includes most of the wealthy–and true understanding between these two groups is tenuous at best, which leads to an inevitable hate for those this false divide now paints as opposition–logical folks can’t see beauty and artists don’t offer a logical plus value. For those who are neither, this is interpreted as: true scientists are too smart and true artists too obscure, both reducible to stereotypes, from anal to granola, that place them below “normal” people in terms of their ability to deal with reality and play a reasonable and responsible role within society.

Further, it convinces us that beauty and humanity are surface deep and that understanding anything too deeply destroys its magnificence rather than allowing for even deeper levels to shine through; it fuels anti-intellectualism and hinders our ability to fully appreciate the reality that there can be as much beauty in a complex formula or as much complexity in a beautiful piano solo; it skews the simple truth that any knowledge informs more knowledge, period, as if, say, developing models to explain how our brain can create a poem will lessen one’s ability to appreciate its artistic value or the skills to write one when, in fact, only the opposite is true. If something becomes less beautiful with increased knowledge, then it’s because its true essence is clearer; the truly beautiful tends to become more so once you know what happens behind the scene, and behind the behind-the-scene’s scene, and…

But this division seems to suit us; it allows us to explain and find comfort in an unquestionable excuse to limit our individual scope and creates an opportunity to symbolize all that is perceived as negative with our industrialized world. The analytic give us life-sucking technology and resource-depleting companies, so artists self-destruct and drain cash from our public coffers. However, science and technology aren’t the problem, far from it. It’s ignorance within a division that promotes greed and favours certain modes of production while it converts educational institutions into career-training farms and the arts into a profitless commodity in need of funding, and the reasons that then justify massive cuts in arts programs. There’s very little reason in that.

How did we get deluded into thinking that common sense is our enemy and the value of art is measured by profit?

It’s no wonder that economics evolved into a complex science and that one doesn’t need a university degree to sell anything except fictional financial products, or that governments are increasingly happy to let the populace take control of the “arts” and make them feel as if they’ve won a battle when in fact those forms are now drowning in a sea of profit-driven formulaic crap that’s managed to brainwash many into self-promoting a mindset that consumes such crap through methods and means they paradoxically perceive as being in opposition to it.

Meanwhile, all the power has shifted towards technology, which, according to this division, belongs to reason—as if creativity didn’t have anything to do with the creation of the pacemaker or sending a man on the moon, and developing methods like fracking had anything to do with reason—and it’s now a highly controlled sector with guarded access that deepens a void and dependence within society, science increasingly sold as a religion through pop-science headlines and the mass media, answers about us and our world packaged in a way that people should assume are absolute truths though they need not fully understand them.

But, according to my own view, gaining knowledge about the world is best explained through three, not two approaches to understanding: the Scientific, the Philosophical, and the Poetic. The scientific builds on observations, the philosophical on inferences, and the Poetic on unprincipled approaches. These are but ways to classify inquiry and expression at a surface level, reason and imagination merely ingredients of all three and not defining elements, all three entwined in a manner that makes it impossible to separate their underlying processes. No hierarchy exists; they are equally important and education should favour all equally. Below the surface, two entirely different forms of systems are at work which have nothing to do with popular notions of reason and creativity. Each system filters, parses, and encodes information differently and each continually feeds the other. Why limit the power of one system or the other with incoherent labels that favour brain branding?

True, through nature and nurture, individuals develop different interests and are better suited for certain skills and not others, and not all brains are created quite equally, but, for the most part, these shouldn’t be viewed as inherent diametrical differences, but as program weak points that have developed or were created, and which can be rectified with voluntary efforts and targeted approaches.

The I.Q. and aptitude of any normal, healthy adult is in great part the result of the stimulation the very young brain receives that sparks life in the innate concepts upon which that intricate web of deeper concepts evolves, as well as the types of processing favoured, and though that web doesn’t expand quite as efficiently with age, it never stops until the system fails. We all (aphasics and such aside) have a whole brain and the potential to develop all of it, as is evident in the interconnectivity necessary between both processing systems in order to generate what we divide as reason and imagination.

If we choose to believe that we’re not either one of two modes but the product of two dependent systems, then it becomes more apparent that it’s not a deficiency in either reason or imagination that limits individuals, but the number of connections in the brain; it is in fact a lack of curiosity and education who are to blame, and this leads us back to that logic versus creative mindset.

Our schools have streamlined themselves into mechanisms aimed at developing functionality within a left/right-brain world rather than provide the knowledge that will spark a longing for life-long learning in a full-brain world. Hence the real problem with Western world education, which lies in the system’s belief that teaching is best compared to filling a vessel with liquid, the end product being a container filled to its capacity, big or small. It shouldn’t be. This method favours the logical at the expense of the creative. Teaching should be thought of as helping a plant grow in its own way. And, depending on its initial state, not all brains respond to our left/right approaches to filling a vessel in order to build those connections in the desired way. Which is fine according to this view, because those that can’t be guided towards institutions that can exploit their left/right strengths, from trade to grad schools, are always needed to flip burgers and collect garbage.

Absurdly, our emphasis on what we assign to the side of reason and our rationale for doing so is anything but the product of a well-developed rational mind since we’ve managed to extract and treat as separate an aspect that fuels a balanced rationality, namely art, which forces us to push the limits of our logic through sensory and emotional-based explorations that compel a constant re-evaluation of what may be termed the 'reasonable'.

And we’re lead to believe that it’s not our fault if we don’t have a curious mind and we blame cold hard reason for giving us the technology that makes us care more about anything with “The Stupidest” in the title than about anything that requires a bit of effort to appreciate. But we buy more memory, faster processors, fragment our hard drives, and do all we can to boost our computers’ power, speed, and productivity yet few are willing to take one hour a day to learn something new and boost their own processing power with new or stronger neural connections. We spend huge amounts on gym fees and exercise equipment to keep our bodies fit, but very little on educational products and workshops unless it holds the promise of a job or a raise. Diet pills and weight-loss programs and plastic surgery are now a multi-billion-dollar industry, but museums or music that can shape our minds are struggling to survive due to a general lack of interest.

This way of thinking asks us to deny a portion of ourselves and to espouse our personal mental shortcomings by providing all that is needed for either side to be convinced that theirs is the best of only two possible worlds while developing distrust towards the other.

But only a full brain can celebrate life to its fullest. Beyond nature, beauty exists in all the ways in which we are able to express deep awareness and understanding about the world no matter how we classify them, be it emotive or logical; what we do with that understanding is another matter entirely.
A system that embraces the full-brain to its fullest values all knowledge as an equal part of the whole human experience rather than as a polar manifestation dictated by economic pressures; it understands that greater comprehension at all levels produces a self-regulating and balanced society wherein discrimination dissolves and individual and social responsibility flourishes.

The way we think about the way we think has defined our society for far too long. It’s not only incorrect, it produces the wrong result that only truly benefits those in power, also the product of that flawed thinking. (It also give us what I call Life’s Damn Paradox, which is briefly explained here.)

It’s time we realize it and break the cycle. We can keep blaming others or recognize that that power resides in each of us; life is short, how do we really want to spend our time? By embracing only one side of the self and our self-imposed limitations? or by sweating through the bits that challenge our mind and bring immeasurable rewards?
If we willingly choose the latter, then, with time, many of the problems we face will correct themselves as future generations who embrace this approach will replace those stuck in a segregating mindset, gaining control of the institutions that currently reinforce an economically defined division that holds little truth to the powerful reality within each of us.

Otherwise, what’s the point of having a brain like #3?


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