... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Gnostic Neuron - Part 9 - Assertion Salad

 <Originally posted July 1, 2021>

Assertion Salad

"No generalization’s worth a damn, including this one." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

To summarize what I’ve posted so far I'll now share a list of my favorite brain assertions which I've been editing for years. In the spirit of playing with ideas about the brain, I’ll present these generalizations as a collection of poetry, a sort of free-verse association for concepts and ideas about the brain. The result will be an assertion salad, not unlike a word salad, but somewhat less random, and hopefully a bit more useful. 

Some of these assertions will contradict others in various ways, some will be sweet, some salty. Some may even be unsavory. Think of it as an evolving recipe. What broad generalizations, what simple assertions can you make about the brain? Your salad will vary from mine depending upon the aspects of the brain you’ve focused on. Yours will have the ingredients you tend to appreciate, but keep your options open for new ideas and flavors.

This particular assertion salad informs my current casual and intuitive overview of the brain. Some of these assertions are more probable than others. Some may ultimately be dead wrong, but intriguing at the moment. For me, all have been useful in some way. 

I suggest you literally document your own assertion salad by challenging mine or just check off the ones you agree with for now. Steal freely -  that’s the key to great art. Create some new ones. Play with the concepts until they feel right; until you find significance. You can always come back for seconds. Or make a completely new salad. This exercise should ultimately evolve a more tasty result, and hopefully yield a better understanding of the brain:

"The brain is embodied, and the body is embedded." - from "Second Nature" by Gerald Edelman, Noble laureate.

Reality exists.

Our world exists in this reality.

Our world contains things.

There are many relationships between these things.

These relationships are ethereal, apart from reality.

Neurons devine the nature of these relationships...

but only a relatively very few of them.

Neurons create knowledge from these relationships.

Neurons sense relationships between things in the world...

One of those things sometimes being itself.

Therefore neurons create knowledge.

Relationships in the world inform knowledge.

Neurons sense relationships.

Knowledge informs movement.

Knowledge means what knowledge moves.

Neurons express knowledge when they fire.

All knowledge can ultimately be reduced to knowing when to fire.

Knowledge strives to be invariant from multiple sources.

Knowledge is proto-information.

Knowledge is digital, sort of.

Knowledge is analog, but not completely.

Knowledge is abstracted by jumps from neuron to neuron.

Primal neural pathways loop with the real world.

1st-order knowledge occurs at a neural sensor.

10th-ordered knowledge is quite primal.

100th-ordered knowledge loops in reality now.

1000th ordered knowledge loops with the cortie later.

1,000,000th ordered knowledge is contemplated for 17 minutes.

Information is fixed; knowledge evolves.

What do YOU know?

The brain is a reflection of the world that drove its evolution.

As an individual brain is a reflection of that individual's experience.

As our culture is a reflection of our collective experience.

Which is a reflection of the brain's architecture.

Which of course, is part of that world, creating a circular dependency.

Only loosely tethered to reality.

All within our skull.

The brain is profoundly divided left and right,

providing for a necessary isolation.

The two sides of the brain are redundant, by degrees.

The two sides of the brain specialize, by degrees.

They could accomplish neither if fully integrated.

Brain division creates this necessary isolation.

The two sides of our brain are actually separated by...

a common corpus callosum of competing inhibition.


The left side of our brain deals with logic, tools, and language,

but not exclusively so.

The right side of our brain deals with colors, music, and visualization, 

but not exclusively so.

Together, both sides of our brain create many useful dichotomies.

And mine the area between these limits for wisdom.


The brain is divided in two, left and right.

Each side is layered in its evolution.

The mind is multifaceted reflecting this architecture.

As the neuron is multifaceted in its creation of knowledge.

Knowledge is the more concrete, organic, flexible,

and right-minded version of


Information is the more abstract, technical, fixed,

and left-brained version of


The brain is layered phylogenetically from the brainstem...

up, out and forward.

These layers are best understood as creatures…

from our evolutionary past.

These layers and sides of our brain both...

compete and cooperate to yield behavior.

Knowledge flows from the competition of the extreme limits.

Where the medium and the median are not always in the middle.

Thesis challenges anthesis.

Cooperation picks up the pieces that are left to forge synthesis.

Competition creates drama.

Cooperation resolves it.


The brain is steeped in biochemistry.

The brain is not electronic.

It's not even electrical.

Electricity is an abomination to the brain.

But ionic charge is the not-so-secret-sauce within the neuron.

Ionic brain waves are an artifact of recognition, not its cause.

Brain imaging is a macro view of nano experience.

Neurons that fire together only sort of wire together.

The brain is ephemeral and biological.

But it aspires to statehood... and usually fails.

There are no "states" in the brain, only in the mind.

And temporary approximations in the form of dynamic signals.

The operation of the brain is a signal-based simulation.

The brain is chemo-semiotic in nature.

Consciousness is a multifaceted chemo-semiotic simulation.

Memory is mimicry.

Our "memory" is the reconstruction of a stateless simulation.

We "re-member" as we are re-cued by a similar experience...

even if it's just in our imagination.

Nothing in the brain is hardwired.

The brain is plastic by degrees and in critical phases.

An old dog can learn new tricks.


The brain does not compute; but can fake it when required.

Computers simulate the world by changing states in a logical system.

The brain simulates the world in a more subtle and elegant fashion.

A computer is fast, digital, consistent, synchronous, serial, fixed, objective, and logical.

The brain is relatively slow, biologically analog, mostly malleable, actually asynchronous, profoundly parallel, permanently plastic, surprisingly subjective, and ultimately bioanalogical in its operation. But not exclusively so.

Replace "stimulus-response" with "sense-decide-signal" or the more macro: "cues and scripts."

The difference is in who has control.

And what entity makes the decision.

Sovereignty lies between the dendrite and the hillock.

Neurons decide everything.

We are inherently subjective, only aspiring to the objective.

Or something like that. 

Reality is hypo-thetical.

The predictability of our world ranges from random to determinant,

but these limits are only asymptotically approached.

Knowledge is that which is significant in our world.

Knowledge is created by neurons in a dance with experience.

Knowledge comes together to form mind.

Mind then drives behavior to affect reality.

Neurons buffer the exit from, and the re-entry to reality.

Knowledge completes a dynamic and ethereal loop with the world.

Knowledge is a subjective approximation of the truth.

By degrees.

Thetical, or theory, is where we live.

Truth is an objective abstraction.

Truth is an aspiration, only asymptotically approached.

Truth is hyper-thetical.

The mind exists in an ethereal world.

The brain exists in the material world.

The left-brain attends to the material, but not exclusively so.

The right-mind attends to the ethereal, but not exclusively so.

Each person's world is defined by their subjective experiences.

Objective reality stands apart from each of us - maybe.

A homunculus is a subjective model of yourself in the cortex.

A worldmapculus is a subjective model of your world in the cortex.

Our subjective worldmapculus is our own private "Matrix".

All are a "sandbox" striving to model all experiences objectively.

Using our personal worldmapculus, we are each curating our own subjective experiences, aspiring to live in the real world...

and generally succeeding.

Behavior ranges from predictable to seemingly random...

when objectively observed.

But these limits are only asymptotically approached.

Behavior generally reflects our subjective knowledge.

We only aspire to the objective.

Neurons create knowledge from the physical world.

Knowledge forms cues which may invoke scripts of muscle movement.

The mind is a collection of theatrical cues and scripts.

The mind is theater.

Theater is a worldmapculus.

"All the world's a stage."

Behavior is a collection of competing and cooperating...

theatrical cues and scripts.

Cues and scripts are how we dance with the world.

         Consciousness is a collection of neuronal cues and scripts... both mediated by and marinating within...

that cauldron of chemistry contained within our skull.

The brain is a collection of evolutionary survival tricks.

These tricks are applied disproportionately and decursively.

The brain is more complex than complicated.

Evolution has evolved a more effective way to evolve.

Our brain is in a dynamic operational loop with the world.

Everything you experience occurs within your skull.

But is only an approximation of our shared and objective reality.


Knowledge is what happens when a neuron fires...

because it has found something significant in the world.

Nothing matters until something moves.

All decisions are ionic in nature.

Everything matters when something moves.

Knowledge is sometimes useful but always significant.

Neurons create knowledge,

but only some knowledge becomes information.

Wisdom is knowing that truth is a limit only asymptotically approached.

While the left-brain struggles to find truth in its limited domain,

our right mind welcomes the wisdom of the whole.

In creating knowledge, neurons convert the physical into the mental.

The real into the ethereal.

In cueing muscles, neurons reconvert the mental into the physical.

The ethereal into the real.

Nature has evolved a million tricks in the form of a thousand creatures.

The neuron, brain, and mind are all multifaceted in many aspects.

Neurons create knowledge.

Knowledge is expressed as ionic migration releasing bits of chemistry.

The brain is a Gordian Knot of connection,

a bundle of ionic fibers looping with the world and itself.

Experience of the world creates a storm of ionic signals...

which form a


collection of

competing and









and marinating









Because we are still here.

Neurons create knowledge.

Knowledge cues scripts.

Scripts compete and cooperate to evolve...


We are each a thousand creatures... 

                                 who have evolved a million tricks...

                                                                             over a billion years.

And one trick need not preclude another.

Or something like that...

Playing With Your Brain

I hope you recognize most of these assertions by now. All of them have been presented multiple times and in multiple ways, each time with increasing specificity and speculation. You’ve just finished reading the final version in the form of bad poetry. You might note that it contains no "certainty". 

Hopefully, at least a few have challenged your sensibilities. That was the objective. They were meant to make you wonder. Many of these observations are not mine. They are versions of things I’ve encountered from others. For most, I haven’t provided references. The objective is not to build a credible structure of science but to unleash intuition. With some, I’ve taken a great deal of liberty. And that's the point. The objective was to suspend disbelief and treat these concepts as an exercise in art. Play with them as you will. Think in terms of finger painting when you were in kindergarten. Get messy. There will be plenty of time for science later on.

Thank you for reading. I will continue to evolve these posts so follow this blog. Let me know what you think, so I can think about what you’ve come to know.

The end.

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