Why are we greater than the sum of our parts?

Why are we greater than the sum of our parts?
jsawvel
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Posted Aug 26, 2009 - 12:06 PM:
Subject: Why are we greater than the sum of our parts?
Basically, we are all made of cells. Each of these cells has its own needs and own life in our body. Any of these cells alone is just a cell. It is not us. A blood cell does not think our thoughts. A neuron does not think our thoughts. But, for some reason when you put all these cells together, we appear. We have the idea that we can feel our entire body. We have dreams, we have concepts and ideas. But, none of our individual parts has these concepts or feelings or desires etc.

So, how do we get a "unified" experience of the body? If we separated all our cells from communicating with eachother, then we would no longer exist. If we chop off our arm, it is no longer part of us, we don't feel it.

Some people have said that we are our whole body. But, it seems to me that our brain gives us the "perception" that we are feeling our body. In other words, we don't actually feel our body, but we translate a nerve signal that enters our brain into a spatial experience. So, if we could produce the right signal, we could give a brain the perception of having a body.

But, even if we are just our brains, there is still the question of why we exist as a higher level organism above the sum of all our brain cells. If we remove a single neuron, that neuron is no longer part of use. We do not feel the neuron when it is removed from the bunch. But, when the neurons are allowed to "communicate" with eachother, we exist.

So, what is it about the "communication" between neurons that allows the brain to function as something "whole" or bigger than it
s individual parts? Are we the "electrical impulses" between neurons or the "force" that binds all the neurons together?
Sajuuk
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Posted Aug 26, 2009 - 3:29 PM:

That "whole" is an illusion, neurons are communicating and most of the time in a contradictory or inconsistent state. More than a whole it is like a society of agents.

For further explanation: Marvin Minsky - The society of mind. And this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence
mway
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Posted Aug 26, 2009 - 6:19 PM:


1's and 0's alone don't have a whole lot of meaning. Pile them up and the sum also doesn't mean that much. Order them in a particular way, however, and you get Windows, photoshop, a video game, etc. This is our universe.
Desidude666
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Posted Aug 26, 2009 - 6:26 PM:

jsawvel wrote:
Basically, we are all made of cells. Each of these cells has its own needs and own life in our body. Any of these cells alone is just a cell. It is not us. A blood cell does not think our thoughts. A neuron does not think our thoughts. But, for some reason when you put all these cells together, we appear. We have the idea that we can feel our entire body. We have dreams, we have concepts and ideas. But, none of our individual parts has these concepts or feelings or desires etc.

So, how do we get a "unified" experience of the body? If we separated all our cells from communicating with eachother, then we would no longer exist. If we chop off our arm, it is no longer part of us, we don't feel it.

Some people have said that we are our whole body. But, it seems to me that our brain gives us the "perception" that we are feeling our body. In other words, we don't actually feel our body, but we translate a nerve signal that enters our brain into a spatial experience. So, if we could produce the right signal, we could give a brain the perception of having a body.

But, even if we are just our brains, there is still the question of why we exist as a higher level organism above the sum of all our brain cells. If we remove a single neuron, that neuron is no longer part of use. We do not feel the neuron when it is removed from the bunch. But, when the neurons are allowed to "communicate" with eachother, we exist.

So, what is it about the "communication" between neurons that allows the brain to function as something "whole" or bigger than it
s individual parts? Are we the "electrical impulses" between neurons or the "force" that binds all the neurons together?


The idea is pretty impressive at first, until you realise that impulses never really affect or may influence a form of action for a logical reaction at that level. That said, communication at that level is like two human beings talking and the result it has on the universe, which is nothing. Collectively we might nuke the planet and cause some form of destruction, the Universe will still only have to deal with debri resulting from this, only adding up to it's collection. In that regard, consider how two countries fighting will never actually have any form of influence on the universe as well. Why so? Fighting and violence are impulsive reactions, but the elements are just to small. Consider the human cell as such, even a collective number might not be as influential. In fact, our bodies perform so many functions autonomously! So one may claim logic if you think we are greater than the sum of our parts. But I don't think that's the case.

The idea about the insignificance of life is nihilistic, however, the unimportance of a particular organism over existence at a macro-scale is a valid suggestion. As such, while you can send electrical impulses to the brain, these impulses are temporary, you can never truly emulate a biological function without affecting it's general existence, if so, how are we greater than the sum of our parts? If you successfully emulate such survival functions, you will always affect the organism's functional existence in it's environment, it's normalcy and how it survives. So we hardly equal to our biology (our parts) as we cannot survive without them. If we cannot survive without such a sum, how exactly are we greater?

The idea here is the dependence of existence. While you can argue that the brain can be tricked into believing something, can it survive within this environment...? If not, are we greater than the sum of our parts? We can think so, but we are dependent on these parts for the most minor of our needs - survival.

Can I suggest our parts are greater than their sum... rather than us, the sentient level?


Edited by Desidude666 on Aug 26, 2009 - 6:32 PM
Arkady
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Posted Aug 26, 2009 - 6:49 PM:

One could frame this question more generally and ask why anything is more than the sum of its parts.
Wicker
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Posted Sep 3, 2009 - 3:07 PM:

This reminds me of the ship builders paradox. If you take a ship and replace its parts one peice at a time till all the origianl parts are gone and then take the decade peices and rebuild a ship out of them which one is the original ship? Now if you look at it in terms of wood and nails, then it is the old decrepid ship. If,however, you you chose to look at it in terms of the crew on the ship and its purpose, its the newer ship.

The same can be said for people. If you look at us in terms of cells and blood and atoms, we can all be easily replaced down to the nano. What makes humans more than just atoms, is the human expirience.
mutemaler
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Posted Sep 3, 2009 - 4:23 PM:

Just look up into the night sky and start drawing constellations.

Then "erase" that and start drawing constellations again.

Thinking all the while about relation.
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