Soulmate Laurie & I visited Baby Lorry, our grandson, when he was but a 6-month-old infant. I was struck by how his complex set of behaviors consistently invalidated the notion that he was merely a collection of atoms, a biological machine, or just a sophisticated computer, as many in the scientific community suggest. Conversely, I was equally impressed that his behavior regularly confirmed the predictions of Information Dynamics. Info-Dynamics is the exciting new mathematically-based theory of human behavior that introduces meaning and choice into the scientific dialogue.
What are the differences between these 2 perspectives? And how do the actions of this tiny, not quite 10-pound, human being support the one and confute the other? Read on for some preliminary answers.
At the tender age of 6 months, Baby Lorry was a raw human, i.e. relatively unsullied by cultural conditioning. School, society, family and friends had yet to mold his actions. Instead, it could be said that his behavior molded the behavior of those around him. Both Parents and Grandparents jumped in alternating shifts to assuage his apparent anguish. Sometimes a nourishing breast was sufficient. Other times mental stimulation was required – perhaps some form of social interaction or a new entertainment.
Why does Baby Lorry demand this mental nourishment just as adamantly, if not more so, than he does physical nourishment? What explanation does the scientific community give for this puzzling need? Thus far this question remains unanswered.
Their experimental findings certainly support the notion that babies require regular attention in order to maximize their cognitive potentials. However, they remain mystified as to why this should be so.
As we shall see, the tiny six-month-old consistently exhibited apparent behavioral patterns that confound the understanding of the scientific community. Indeed, it was striking how his 'raw' behavior regularly dispelled many prevalent scientific myths regarding the human condition. Despite their multitude of disciplines and their increasingly sophisticated instruments provided by the miracle of modern technology, cognitive scientists have yet to provide any theory, much less a unified theory, that gives any insight into the underlying motivations behind the mysterious behavior of a normal human baby.
Why should this be so? Could it be that they are missing something? Is it possible that the current scientific perspective has a collective blind spot? Let us look at a few simple examples that are beyond contemporary understanding.
The infant roller coaster named Baby Lorry was never settled for too long. Some toy or activity might grab his attention for a short duration, measured in variable chunks of minutes. Fairly quickly, boredom and a craving for some new kind of stimulus replaced the previous interest and fascination. The little man would begin fussing. Adults would immediately jump to provide him with some new form of mental stimulation or comfort. His all-too-brief internal contentment granted everyone momentary peace, then on to a new stimulus. Rarely did the babe patiently wait for us to determine what would happen next. Instead he was generally in charge of the course of events.
This typical behavior indicated that Baby Lorry was not the reactive 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. Presumably curious, he regulary reaches out to engage and explore 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 tiny, though powerful, pincers. Ouch!
Automatic Atoms never reach out to explore their environment. How could their deterministic behavior lead to the infant's insatiable curiosity?
The tiny babe also confutes another 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, rest and self-preservation. 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 and even craved mental stimulation. Sometimes a favorite toy or mobile was enough to capture his interest. Other times, he seemed to crave human attention instead. In other words, he wanted you to play with him.
Biological machines shouldn't require attention. They should be content when all of their bodily needs are satisfied. However, many scientific studies indicate that the seemingly non-material energy of attention is essential for human development. Independent atoms certainly don't need someone to play with them. They don't care about anyone.
How could these physical perspectives give rise to the human need for attention? If Baby Lorry is not a billiard ball, nor a biological machine, what category does he fall into? Instead of a mere collection of atoms, could he have a mental component that shapes his behavior?
Let us offer yet another common behavior pattern that confounds the explanatory powers of current scientific theory – the craving for freedom.
A significant feature of our family interaction consisted of 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.”
Atoms don’t crave freedom from restraint; they just react. Freedom is not a biological need. Baby Lorry’s screams for liberty were in no way related to his need for sustenance, rest or sex. Was the babe in anguish due to his bodily needs? Was he was responding to external stimuli? Probably no in both cases. Could his desire for independence instead be for purely mental reasons?
There is yet another current explanation of human behavior that competes for supremacy. It is the notion that humans are but sophisticated information-processing computers – the Artificial Intelligence Model. Computers are neither curious; nor do they crave attention or require freedom. Following is another example of Baby Lorry's behavior that defies contemporary scientific understanding.
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.
Complicating matters, 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.
We adults also have these feelings that seem to emerge from nowhere to afflict or bless our lives. If the 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, drinking a glass of wine, taking a bike ride or painting a picture might also 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.
However sometimes the unbidden, internal disturbance is seemingly unrelated to any external circumstances, just like the babe. We then experiment with a series of behaviors in the hope that 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 Mother Serena says.
There is a complicating factor that afflicts both Baby Lorry and 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 might seek experience again.
In other words, all humans, including Baby Lorry and 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.
Where do these mysterious urges come from? Atoms don’t have these inner cravings. They are very predictable. The only drives that motivate the biological machine are sustenance, sex, rest and survival – nothing inexplicable here. Computers certainly don't get moody. Could it be that these puzzling longings arise from an autonomous mental component that interacts with but is independent of the body?
Why does the solution to these mysterious inner urges change irregularly? Atoms are happy with the way things are, just reacting to external stimulation. Bodies don’t require the regular alternation of mental stimulation to maximize operations. Computers just mindlessly process information. Could it be that humans are more than a collection of atoms or a complicated assortment of neural networks that automatically respond to external stimuli? Is there some unknown feature that shapes human behavior?
It is evident that Baby Lorry confutes many traditional, perhaps even outdated, misconceptions of certain sectors of the scientific community. His complex behavior patterns indicate that he is more than a billiard ball, a biological machine or a computer. Mysterious inner agitations seem to drive Baby Lorry’s emotional state. Adults must attend to his dissatisfaction in a timely fashion or suffer the auditory consequences. What is the internal 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's dynamic behavior provides a compelling counterexample to many standard theories concerning the human condition, Baby Lorry’s behavior confirms the predictions of Information Dynamics. This unique mathematical perspective is based upon a simple insight. Just as the Body digests food, the Mind digests information. In both cases, the digestion process transforms environmental substance into a form that Life can employ to maximize potentials. In brief, living systems convert food into biological energy and information into mental energy. Just as the Body obtains food through the mouth, the Mind obtains information through Attention.
One of the predictions of Info-Dynamics is that Attention is drawn to information acceleration. This is due to a single straightforward reason. If living systems digest information according to the 'natural' mathematical method suggested by Info-Dynamics, then paying attention to information acceleration enables the organism to differentiate random, hence meaningless, sensory data streams from ordered, hence potentially, meaningful data streams.
A simple example supports this theory. Small animals move erratically, starting and stopping irregularly, presumably to avoid detection. The accompanying graph exhibits the difference between a random and an ordered data stream in terms of information digestion. (For more on this topic check out the article: Attention: a Filter of Random Signals.)
Acceleration comes in many forms besides motion. Sensory input of any kind can accelerate or not. In general, repetitive data streams lack acceleration. For 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 regularly 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.
Frequently, the little man’s internal agitation was assuaged by an outdoor experience. In the natural environment, there is an abundance of 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.
Just as accelerating data streams tend to capture Baby Lorry’s Attention, they also engage adults as well. Indeed, the best art is filled with accelerating and decelerating lines, colors and shapes and the best music speeds up and slows down, gets louder and softer, i.e. crescendo and accelerando. Further the delivery of the best actors is irregular and unpredictable, also a sign of acceleration.
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, a mere reactive biological machine or even an information-processing computer, he would be easily satisfied even if there was no 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 material automatona, a biological machine or a computer, 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 is more than just a Body composed of atoms? Is it possible that human babies also have a mental component? Could it be that infants digest digital information in the manner suggested by Info-Dyamics and also have the computational potential for self reflection? If so, Baby Lorry is also subject to the Boredom Principle, at least according to Info-Dynamics theory. (For more, check out the article: Boredom Principle.)
The theory behind this intriguing principle is that too much repetition can be painful for humans. The information digestion process provides 3 basic predictive measures. One of the them, the Deviation, indicates the range of variation. According to the theory, when the range of variation shrinks past a threshold, it evokes the inner agitation of boredom in humans. This internal pain is a call to action.
In other words, Baby Lorry frequently experiences mental anguish and begins to fuss due to simple boredom. As he digests a experience, the range of variation begins to shrink. This purely mental pain motivates the little one to seek out fresh information to digest. Atoms and computers are never bored, nor are machines, biological or otherwise.
For the same reasons as babies, adults experience the same mental anguish from boring data streams. 'Been there; done that," is a common expression that indicates an adult's need for fresh or novel mental stimulation. 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, which could simply be boredom.
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. As such, this inner anguish from stagnation ultimately enabled the human species to adapt to a wide variety of environmental conditions. Art, fashion, travel, dynamic technology and social evolution are just a few of the results of the pain of boredom.
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 requires fresh information, just as the body requires food? Is it possible that this craving for new input is due to a mental component that is independent of, but interacts with our 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 predictions of Info-Dynamics?
The loved one is getting increasingly cranky. 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 certainly don’t need to sleep. Biological machines just need physical rest. Computers can be left on as long as we use them. 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. (For more on this topic, check out the article: The Necessity of Sleep.)
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. Dr. Medina puts it succinctly: 'Sleep loss equals mind loss." 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 flat lines at empty. (In the Triple Pulse model at right, the middle Rest Pulse is required to refresh the following Active Pulse.) Slumber allows Baby Lorry to finish digesting the information he took in while awake. Completing the digestion process 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 and curiosity. (For more on this topic, check out the article: Sleep Deprivation.)
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, nor a computer that merely processes information. 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, biological, or computer 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. Information processing computers do not have an attention span or operate in pulses.
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. (For more on this topic, check out the article: The Ten-Minute Rule & the Triple Pulse.)
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. Even if these deterministic perspectives are somehow true, what insight do they provide us into the universally recognized attention span? Little, if any.
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? 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 shapes 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?