Baby Lorry was almost 6 months old on our 2nd visit to see both he and his parents. Whoa! So many changes for him in that half-year, especially as compared with grownups, i.e. his parents and grandparents. We had changed very little in the interim – maybe an extra wrinkle or a little less hair in my case, but nothing really very identifiable.
But for Baby Lorry, he has doubled in size, now a robust 15 pounds and quite long. More significant, his neck muscles are really strong, easily able to support his oversized infant head. On our first visit, we had to cradle his head in our arms, as he didn’t have the muscle power to hold his torso in line with his heavy skull.
Plus he immediately greets us with a warm smile – most likely a product of being a well-loved baby by Father Curt and Mother Serena. Previously eye contact was minimal and facial expressions were transitory, just flickers. Now his attention is prolonged. The tiny bundle of life sees us and then charms us with a warm grin that establishes a definite emotional connection. Due to our intimate contact with Baby Lorry for 4 days straight, we are convinced that he will remember us, even if only on subliminal levels, especially if the personal contact is renewed periodically. Overall, he seems to be a generally happy baby with warm smiles for everyone.
During the visit, the previous lessons were regularly reinforced. Baby Lorry’s emotional state continues to be turbulent, from joyous to fussy and then wailing within a quarter of an hour. However, the turbulence extends over greater time spans now – then a few minutes for a wide gamut of feelings, now a section of an hour. In other words, he is happier and upset for longer periods of time than before.
Whenever Baby Lorry was inconsolably fussy: “Give me that babe. I’m taking him outside for a walk.” Almost immediately upon leaving the confines of the building, whether home, restaurant or apartment, the whimpering was immediately replaced by awe. “Whoa! Amazing. I need to take it all in. The diversity of sights, the cacophony of sounds, the slight and irregular breezes, the indescribable scents, the open sky, the sense of freedom, the lack of physical confinement.” Being outdoors provided the same sense of relief from suffering that it had in our previous visit.
However, there was a nuance to the experience that wasn’t as pronounced before – the craving for freedom. A significant feature of this family interaction was two three-hour car rides from Seattle to Portland and back. The purpose was to share the miracle of Baby Lorry with Auntie Miranda.
While the intent was pure, i.e. joining family as one, Baby Lorry had to be confined in his car seat for the long journey. It is hard enough for adults to remain stationary in one seat for an extended amount of time. For a baby it warranted some excruciating wails. He slept pretty much the entire trip down. However on the way back, the tiny bundle of vocal power woke up just a half an hour before home. Although 3 adults did their darndest to keep the babe distracted and entertained, he wasn’t having it. Discarding toys, pushing away fingers, ignoring intriguing sounds, his face scrunched up into an expression of extreme displeasure and then his tiny vocal chords emitted an enormous cry of sorrow that indicated his unhappiness.
“Set me free from bondage. What have I done wrong to deserve such a fate? Why are you confining me so? I did not evolve for billions of years to be trapped in a car seat. Freedom! Give me liberty or give me death.”
This craving for independence was exhibited in many other ways as well. Sometimes Baby Lorry just wanted to be alone on the ground unrestrained by arms, blankets, and especially car seats. The craving for freedom seemed to be somewhat related to the urge to explore. The little man wanted to investigate the planet by himself on his own terms.
Serena: “It must be hard being a baby. Craving to be independent, yet so dependent on others for all your needs.”
“Sounds just like a teenager. Watch out.”
The baby roller coaster was never settled for too long. Some toy or activity might grant peace and contentment for a short duration, measured in variable chunks of minutes. Fairly quickly, boredom and a craving for some new kind of stimulus replaced the interest and fascination. All indications suggested that Baby Lorry was not the billiard ball that many in the scientific community believe him to be.
Why would anyone, much less scientists, have this unusual perspective on babies?
On the cusp of the 19th and 20th century, physicists had discovered that the entire universe consisted of atoms. Atoms are not alive. Like billiard balls, they react to external stimuli, but have no motive force of their own. If you were able to pick your entire body apart with some microscopic tweezers, you would end up with a pile of dead atoms, not a spark of life among them.
This irrefutable information forced hard scientists to formulate the following logical syllogism.
Atoms react automatically like billiard balls.
Humans consist solely of atoms.
Therefore humans are merely a complex assortment of reactive billiard balls.
The corollary to this theorem is that humans, like the atoms they consist of, have no motive force of their own, but merely react to environmental forces. In other words, there is no such thing as free will.
These ‘inescapable conclusions’ led many scientists, then and currently, to postulate that choice is but an illusion created by the neural networks of our central processor. Instead life is just a sophisticated form of inert matter, which reacts automatically/deterministically to external circumstances.
Well, Baby Lorry proves them wrong. He is the opposite of reactive and is instead highly interactive. He constantly reaches out to engage his environment. He intentionally grabs anything that captures his interest and then normally places it in his mouth – presumably to see how it tastes. In addition to the usual assortment of toys and do-dads that are within his reach, hair and nostrils are also the victims of his powerful, though tiny, pincers. Ouch!
The tiny babe also confutes another older scientific theory.
Taking their cue from hard scientists, psychologists in the middle of the last century postulated that the human automaton only responded to biological needs. In other words, the complex behaviors associated with life are all variations upon the need for sustenance, sex, comfort and rest. Under this way of thinking, babies cry because they are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable, i.e. perhaps a wet diaper. Grasping for objects and putting them in his mouth is just a primitive way of obtaining food.
However, it seemed that a significant amount of Baby Lorry’s behavior was related to curiosity and exploring his environment, and had nothing to do with biological needs. There were, of course, the cries and fussiness associated with wanting to nurse, needing his diaper changed and even the pain of the first few teeth coming in. However just as often, if not more frequently, he wanted stimulation. Sometimes a favorite toy or mobile was enough to capture his interest. But other times, he seemed to crave human attention instead. In other words, he wanted you to play with him.
Biological machines do not require attention; they don’t demand freedom from restraint; and are content when all of their bodily needs are satisfied. The little man doesn’t fall into any of these categories. If Baby Lorry is not a billiard ball, nor a biological machine, what category does he fall into?
All communication between baby and parents is non-verbal. Baby Lorry communicated with smiles to indicate his pleasure, whimpers a growing dissatisfaction and outright wailing to say that he was incredibly frustrated with the current state of affairs. Changing diapers and being placed in a car seat were two of his aggravations that couldn’t be avoided.
Although some suffering is inevitable, much of his emerging fussiness could be placated in one way or another. On the simplest level, many of his plaintive cries were calls for a breast to nurse upon or a change of diapers. However, many more came from mysterious sources. To avoid the dreaded acceleration from mere whines to outright squall, the loving parents desperately experiment with one solution after another to sooth the tortured and turbulent emotional state of their miniature human. How do full-sized members of the species understand baby language?
It seems that every human, no matter how emotionally calloused, is somewhat hardwired to respond to a baby’s cries for assistance. As a career waiter, I will testify that virtually no one is disturbed by the happy sounds of an infant or small child. Conversely almost everyone is aggravated to complaint by fussiness and crying from little ones. Sometimes, it’s just mild grumbling. “Why don’t those parents do something to alleviate the suffering of that poor child?” Other times, certain patrons will actually ask their server to do something to relieve their personal anguish. “Could you please say something to that couple? That crying baby is driving me crazy. Don’t they have any consideration for others?” Most parents, nearly all, have sufficient concern for the well being of other restaurant guests and will take the unhappy baby outside. Serena and Curt certainly fall into this category.
The point is that the adults of the species, especially the parents, have an innate understanding of the unusual sounds emitted by the tiny dynamo of human cells. Happiness is left alone or augmented, while the sounds of suffering must be attended to. In other words, the audible frequencies that indicate discontent are a call to action. In fact, all parents quickly learn that unattended whines almost always lead inevitably to outright wailing. As a consequence, the diligent adult attempts to put out a small fire before it becomes a raging conflagration.
Further, the babe has no real idea why he is unhappy. He is responding to internal cues that are beyond his comprehension. He doesn’t know why he is dissatisfied, but he knows he is not content and something needs to change.
Yet another lesson from the little man: We adults also have these feelings that seem to emerge from nowhere to afflict or bless our lives. If this internal state is pleasant, we attempt to continue whatever it is that we are doing. Maybe we will even repeat this same behavior in another circumstance in the hopes that it will evoke the same agreeable state. For me, writing is a response to internal stimuli that is enjoyable and seems to alleviate the symptoms of agitation. For others, a glass of wine might sooth an internal restlessness.
As we age, we gain a deeper understanding of the solutions to these internal urges. If we are hungry, we eat food. If we are lonely, we seek companionship. If we are feeling enclosed, we go outside, get some exercise or perhaps take a vacation.
Sometimes however the unbidden, internal disturbance is seemingly unrelated to any external circumstances, just like the babe. We then experiment with a series of behaviors that we hope will make this unpleasant internal state go away. The only difference between Baby Lorry and us is that he must rely on others to determine the solution to internal agitation. Conversely, we generally must rely upon ourselves to find the answer. Because of his dependence, the inability to communicate clearly and lack of experience with these emotional states, we assume that being a baby must be difficult, as Serena says.
There is a complicating factor that afflicts both Baby Lorry and we adults in similar fashion. Just because something works once doesn’t mean that it will have the same effect again in a similar circumstance. In our brief visit, a favored squeaky toy captured Baby Lorry’s attention in certain situations. At other times, he would callously discard this same rubber giraffe and continue whining for something else. Grandparents and parents would then desperately try this and that hoping that something would quell the dreaded fussiness. Generally though not always, there was a set of solutions that seemed to work most of the time.
For adults, the agitation emerging from unknown sources requires a more sophisticated response. Many live intoxicated, promiscuous, experience-driven lives in their 20s. At one point, this life style is not satisfying anymore – the 30s crisis. In response to internal urges, the young adult frequently shifts to a more responsible and productive existence. A few decades later after raising children and pursuing a successful career, the same internal dissatisfaction arises again, indicating perhaps that it is time to shift course yet again – the Midlife crisis. To satisfy these mysterious inner urges, the responsible adult now seeks experience again. In other words, all humans, including Baby Lorry and we adults, are periodically afflicted with non-verbal internal agitations that have an unknown solution. Babies and adults are not really so different after all. Because the target is not static, but instead dynamic, being human is difficult.
Why is the solution to these mysterious inner urges always changing?
As a casual student of Eastern religion, the general cure for any emotional malady is meditation. ‘Calm your mind. Realize that it is all an illusion created by an overactive intellect. Seek quietude to see through and avoid the frantic and meaningless scurrying about that afflicts humankind.’
This solution is certainly applicable to a wide range of internal difficulties. We humans certainly create a multitude of illusory problems for ourselves. We worry needlessly about terrorism, global warming, and pandemic diseases like Ebola. We also torture ourselves by comparing ourselves to others who are seemingly more fortunate.
However, many of these mysterious urges must be attended to – not dismissed as insubstantial mental projections. Serena and Curt would laugh out loud, if someone suggested that Baby Lorry should meditate to achieve peace of mind. Of course, a cradle or loving arms sometimes serve the calming function. This certainly holds true, when the miniature man has taken enough input in and needs to sleep. A rocking motion soothes his tortured nerves, his eyes close, and he enters dreamland, escaping his self-induced misery.
Yet there are other times, when even a swaying motion is not enough. Baby Lorry needs something else – most often mental stimulation of some kind, which could include a change of environment. How really different are we? Sometimes meditation, exercise and a good diet are not enough. Sometimes, we adults also need something new to alleviate our inner agitation. Sometimes, the mind has not created yet another illusion. Sometimes we need to do something fresh to relieve our inner agitation.
The Ramayana, the widely read, classic Hindu novel that had such a huge impact upon Southeast Asia, acknowledges the limitations of meditation in cosmic fashion. Ravana, a powerful, almost invincible, demon, is the villain of the tale. How did he become so supreme, so unconquerable?
As a young and responsible 10-headed demon, Ravana had an unquenchable craving for wealth and power. No matter what he did, he couldn’t shake these supposed illusions created by the mind. As a last resort, he went into a deep meditation for 1000 years. Upon rousing from this calming trance, he had the same intense craving. In response, he cut off one of his heads. He repeated the same process nine more times, with the same discouraging results.
As he was about to chop off his final head, Brahma, one of Hinduism’s supreme gods, appeared and asked what the problem is. Ravana tells him about his unquenchable cravings for the illusions of the world. Because of his 10,000-year persistence, Brahma grants him his desire to be all-powerful. Although pursuit of his desires ultimately leads to his demise, Ravana expresses gratitude for the divine plan, as he is about to meet his end. Sometimes we must pursue our inner urges for better or worse. Simple calming or even understanding is not enough. Action is required.
How do we differentiate a mental illusion or an unreasonable emotional response from a genuine inner urge that must be attended to? Like Ravana if the urge persists despite regular attempts to quench it, perhaps it might be better to follow the mysterious path. If all the standard tricks don’t work for the babe, we try something new. Baby Lorry seems to require the periodic changing of mental stimulation for cognitive development. Do we adults require the same variation to avoid stagnation and decay?
It is evident that Baby Lorry confutes many traditional, perhaps even outdated, misconceptions of certain sectors of both the scientific and spiritual community. He is neither a billiard ball, nor a biological machine. Further, meditation or a soothing rocking motion is not always sufficient to quench the fire of his inner anxiety. Baby Lorry is subjected to mysterious inner agitations that must be attended to. What is the logic behind these feelings that seemingly arise from nowhere to disturb the peace with whines and even tears?
At the same time that the babe provides a compelling counterexample to many standard theories concerning the human condition, Baby Lorry’s behavior confirms the findings of Information Dynamics. This unique scientific perspective is based upon a simple insight. The human digestive system transforms organic material into nourishment, i.e. a usable form for the body. In similar fashion, mental processes digest information transforming it into knowledge, i.e. a usable form for the mind. In brief, living systems convert food into biological energy and information into mental energy.
One of the tenets of Info-Dynamics is that Attention is drawn to information acceleration. Acceleration comes in many forms besides motion. Sensory input of any kind can accelerate or not. In general, repetitive data lacks acceleration. fFor example, both background noise and constant motion lack acceleration – one because it is regularly random and the other because it is too regular. Hence according to the theory, these types of information flows are uninteresting to the Mind.
Baby Lorry was frequently attracted to accelerating data streams. He particularly loved flying around like a bird. Held tightly in our hands, he would swoop and turn, drop and rise, and then abruptly and unexpectedly change direction. This bird-like motion provided Baby Lorry with an abundance of accelerating information flows, including visual, auditory, tactile and balance. The tiny babe responded with grins and even squeals of joy to express his appreciation.
When confined to the dreaded car seat, he quickly lost interest in the repeated squeaking of a favored toy – no acceleration. However, when Gramma Laurie intentionally accelerated the volume, pitch and even the speed of the high-pitched sound, Baby Lorry was all attention. His entire being cocked towards the unusual sounds emitted by the little rubber ducky. In our short visit, intentionally erratic data streams repeatedly captured the babe’s attention.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that humans crave outdoor experiences. In the natural environment, there are an abundance accelerating sensory data streams to engage our mental powers. Even a light breeze sets leaves to vibrating and wafts delicate fragrances through the air. Tiny faraway sounds mix with the conversation. Further our inner thermostat is challenged to maintain the balance. Conversely when indoors, the visual environment is static, sounds are muted and the temperature is controlled – all stagnant information flows.
Of course, accelerating data streams are not the complete answer to engaging Baby Lorry’s attention. As every parent knows, babies bore quickly. Their attention span is short, moving regularly from one form of entertainment to another in relatively rapid succession. What worked before to engage the little man is now an utter failure.
What is the reason for this periodically shifting attention?
If Baby Lorry were just a mechanistic automaton or a mere reactive biological machine, he would be easily satisfied with much less variation. He would be content after his biological needs were met. While sometimes true, frequently he needs more than a good suck and a change of diapers. If Baby Lorry is not merely an automaton or a biological machine, what feature accounts for his craving for acceleration and environmental knowledge? Why does he get bored? Machines certainly never experience this unusual state.
Could it be that Baby Lorry has another component besides the material? Could it be that an essential component of all living system is the ability to digest digital information with the purpose of transforming it into a usable state, a.k.a. knowledge? Let us also suppose that Baby Lorry, as a member of the highly evolved human species, has developed the computational potential for self-reflection combined with awareness of the future and the past. If Baby Lorry is indeed an information-digesting human, then he is also subject to the Boredom Principle, at least according to the findings of Info-Dynamics.
The theory behind this intriguing principle is that too much repetition can be painful for humans. In other words, Baby Lorry experiences mental anguish and begins to fuss when he has sufficiently digested an experience. He both needs time to completely incorporate the digested information and also requires fresh information to digest.
For the same reasons, adults experience the same mental anguish from boring data streams. Because we are in a position to resolve this mental agitation, our fussing is generally inaudible. Completely helpless, Baby Lorry must whine to inspire an adult to assuage his torment.
Because this agitation is a call to action and experimentation, it provided humans with both angst and an evolutionary advantage. Regular experimentation leads to novel solutions to difficult problems. The pain of boredom led humans to manipulate their surroundings in intriguing ways. Art, fashion, travel, dynamic technology and social evolution are just a few of the results of the pain of boredom. This inner anguish from stagnation ultimately enabled the human species to adapt to a wide variety of environmental conditions.
So Baby Lorry’s boredom is very human. His periodic need for fresh types of stimulation will lead him into new experiences that will challenge his abilities and stimulate growth. Why does he experience boredom?
Composed solely of atoms, this tiny collection of cells and neurons certainly obeys the immutable laws of physics. As a biological machine, he certainly requires food, physical comfort and ultimately sex. Yet neither of these features accounts for the omnipresent boredom that drives him to seek new forms of mental stimulation. Could it be that monotony is ultimately painful because Baby Lorry has a mental component that is independent of, but interacts with his material component? Could it be that Baby Lorry actually digests digital information, rather than just processing it? Is it possible that Baby Lorry’s craving for fresh stimulus could be evidence that supports the theoretical structure of Info-Dynamics?
The loved one is getting increasingly fussy. The adults are getting increasingly creative in their attempts to evoke a smile or some sign of contentment. Yet nothing seems to work to assuage his inner torment.
Serena: “Sensory overload. My little man has had enough stimulation for the day and needs to sleep. Let me cradle him in my arms with a blanket over his head. That seems to work.”
Why is sleeping the solution to information overload? The standard explanation is that the mind, like the body, needs time to rest. This theory is certainly appropriate for those that consider humans to be only biological machines. The machine requires downtime for repair and rejuvenation. The physical body definitely takes advantage of slumber to heal micro-tears in muscle tissue and rejuvenate the skin.
However, scientific research shows that the brain does not rest while the body sleeps. In fact, it might be even more active, if neural activity is any indication. What explanation do cognitive scientists give for this mysterious result?
None. They are mystified. Indeed they ask the question: “Why does the organism shut down for a full one third of day, if the brain continues to be active. This shutdown must be incredibly important because it renders the sleeping animal completely vulnerable to predators and other environmental disasters. Why doesn’t mere bodily rest serve the same function? Why do humans require sleep?”
Atoms don’t need to sleep. Biological machines just need rest. Could it be that Baby Lorry is more than a bundle of atoms confined to a thin membrane that responds automatically to environmental stimuli? Is it possible that he actually digests information to turn it into a form of mental energy that enables him to exert a conscious effect upon his physical environment?
If indeed Baby Lorry digests information, rather than just processing it, then he requires downtime to both finish the digestion process and prevent mental stagnation. According to the mathematically based theory of Info-Dynamics, a residue of undigested knowledge accumulates during the active digestion process, i.e. when new information is taken in. As long as Attention transforms sensory input into knowledge, the residue continues to grow. The brain requires the complete shutdown of sleep in order to finish digesting the information that accumulated during waking. In similar fashion, the body’s digestive system requires downtime to finish digesting the food that was taken in while eating. According to this way of understanding, sleep is not a biological need, as many assume, but instead a cognitive need. There are other indications of this possibility.
Upon waking Baby Lorry seems to be far more alert than he was just before he went to asleep. His refreshed curiosity leads him to peer around the room in search of interesting stimulus – perhaps the cat loping by or some dangling hair to grab. This standard behavior is evidence for another interesting finding of cognitive science. Sleep deprivation is associated with diminished cognitive abilities. Again, cognitive scientists have no explanation for this undisputed phenomenon.
In contrast, the mathematics of Info-Dynamics suggests that a sensory shutdown, i.e. sleep, maximizes the potentials of our conscious state. Without a complete shutdown, consciousness flatlines at empty. Slumber allows Baby Lorry to finish digesting the information he took in while awake, which refreshes his ability to take in new information. Just as an empty stomach craves new food to digest, an empty mind craves new information to digest. These cravings are deemed hunger or curiosity.
Although equivalent processes, one is physical, while the other is mental. Scientists have a fairly complete understanding of biological digestion. However, the scientific community at large suggests that we process digital information like a computer. They deny or are mystified by mental digestion – the conversion of information into mind food, i.e. knowledge. Could it be that Baby Lorry’s ability to digest information is also at the root of sensory overload and his need for sleep?
Baby Lorry’s behavior indicates that he is neither a material automaton, nor a machine that responds solely to biological needs. Instead, his actions regularly indicate that he has a mental component that motivates him and shapes the form of his behavior. As a newborn without any cultural conditioning, his untainted conduct regularly substantiates the findings of Info-Dynamics.
There is yet another way that Baby Lorry supports this fresh perspective. Like adults, he seems to experience life in a pulse-like manner. A toy, mobile, book or new environment would engage his attention for a significant duration of time, usually measured in minutes. Evidently he would then become bored with this activity and search for something new or begin whimpering until his adult servants provided fresh stimulus. In other words, Baby Lorry’s attention did not shift continuously from one activity to another, but instead resided in each state for a distinct period of time. Even the stimulating outdoor environment could only capture his attention for a fraction of an hour before the fussiness would indicate that he was ready for something new.
Although our attention span is longer, we also experience life in a pulse-like fashion. Plays, concerts, conversations, lectures, and the segmentation of sports into innings and quarters provide evidence for this perspective. How do purely atomic or biological explanations account for this widespread phenomenon?
Dead silence. All the elaborate equations of modern physics are mute upon this point. Nothing in our biological makeup suggests that our attention span should be limited by natural factors.
Cognitive scientists have even discovered that humans have but a 10-minute attention span when listening to lectures. After this short duration, their brains evidently shut down and can’t absorb any more information. This mysterious shutdown is not due to sleep deprivation or hunger, but instead happens naturally. What theories are proposed for this ubiquitous phenomenon that is so well established experimentally that they call it the 10-minute rule? None. Despite their increasingly sophisticated brain scanners, cognitive scientists remain mystified.
What about the adherents of artificial intelligence, those that claim that humans are but a sophisticated computer that processes digital information? What explanations do they offer for the pulse-like attention span? None. They ignore the phenomenon as a bothersome anomaly. And how about those desperate scientists who attribute behavior to random fluctuations? Do they claim that Baby Lorry’s attention span and the 10-minute rule are just a function of the random firings of our neural networks? Perhaps. After all they claim that a B-52 bomber can spontaneously emerge if random processes are given enough time.
What happens if we view Baby Lorry as an information digester with a distinct mental component that is separate from, yet interacts with, the material component? (Note: this mindset is the exact opposite of the current scientific mindset, which claims that all behavior ultimately derives from material sources.) If Baby Lorry’s neural networks digest information in the manner suggested by the mathematics of Info-Dynamics, then a pulse-like attention span follows by necessity. This mathematical pulse is deemed the Pulse of Attention and seems to dominate our mental life.
It seems that six-month-old Baby Lorry’s behavior confutes the notion that humans only have a material component and by extension that we are but biological machines. His distinct attention span further suggests that he is more than an information processor or a random generator. Is it possible that Baby Lorry is more than a sack of inanimate atoms ruled by the laws of physics? Could it be that his boredom/curiosity, his fascination with acceleration, his need for the downtime of sleep, and his pulses of attention are due to his unique mental component? Is it possible that the method by which the mind digests information to turn it into useful knowledge determines Baby Lorry’s conduct? Could it be that the mathematics of Info-Dynamics reveals much about the processes that underlie many of our behavioral patterns?