Grandfather and the Brain Stores

Grandfather never trusted the brain stores. Sure, he used them, just like everyone else, he had one of the latest models when he died, but he never trusted them. I remember sitting on his porch with him in the middle of winter (this was after he'd had it screened in so it never changed from season to season), listening to him inveigh about how the brain stores were going to take over the world. How they would alter our associations, and how that would mean they could control how we thought.

Grandfather was one of the old school, before the new psychology. He had been taught, and believed until he died, that there was no distinction between thought and pattern recognition. He was convinced that, by putting all of the patterns which we recognise into the brain stores, we were giving up control of our ability to think. He just couldn't see the difference between patterns of thoughts and patterns of events, elements and environments. There was no way to tell him that the pattern recognition systems which we use for understanding patterns of ideas weren't the same as those which we use for recognising the fact that something exists.

It was an impoverished view, of course, a view based on the idea that humans have no true thoughts, that everything we do is merely a complex pre-programmed reaction to stimuli. Gramps was one of what they called a behaviourist, meaning that he thought everything was learned, and nothing innate. It was a time when computers ruled the earth, what can you say, they were in love with the idea of blank slates which were programmed from the ground up.

Sometimes I wonder how much of the memory he gave to me is still hanging around. I know now that the distinction between "real" thought and "pattern recognition" was a chimera, that the level of complexity of abstract pattern recognition is far beyond that of physical pattern identification, but I can't help wondering if maybe this response, this dismissal of a possible idea out of hand might have been planted in my memories by the woman who sold me this memory, if maybe the difference isn't so much, and if maybe they don't just programme us to think it's different so we won't know what's going on. I'm not sure I trust the brain stores… I wonder if I should get my memory wiped to get rid of these ideas.

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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1997