Prey by Michael Crichton

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Long time. There was nothing much I could do about it. It is that kind of shell you get into. You find yourself things to keep you busy so that the guilt of staying silent does not creep in. One amongst these ‘saviour’ things is a TV series. It can be any TV series to which you take a liking. There are so many of them there. Indulging in them has become a fad and a necessity for the reckless mind. So I was talking about ‘LOST’, an adventure gone horribly sci-fi over the years (over the months-for me). Taking liberties in the name of cutting edge technology is as easy as it gets. One such delusion is the ‘Smoke Monster’, which is drawn considerable curiosity from the fan-base. As so often happens, utter nonsense starts making sense. I  happened to chance upon this old-fashioned novel ‘Prey’ by Michael Crichton which does a tolerable job at explaining this figment. 

It is a fast-paced page-turner. Thats about it. Deserves a day.

Excerpt:

If you want to think of it that way, a human being is actually a giant swarm. Or more preciously, it’s a swarm of swarms, because each organ- blood, liver, kidneys-is a separate swarm. What we refer to as a ‘body’ is really the combination of all these organ swarms. We think our bodies are solid,but that is only because we can’t see what is going on at the cellular level. If you could enlarge the human body, blow it up to a vast size , you would see that it was literally nothing but a swirling mass of cells and atoms, clustered together into smaller swirls of cells and atoms.

Who cares? Well, it turns out a lot of processing occurs at the level of the organs. Human behavior is determined in many places. The control of our behavior is not located in our brains. It’s all over our bodies.

So you could argue that “swarm intelligence” rules human beings too. Balance is controlled by the cerebellum swarm, and rarely comes to consciousness. Other processing occurs in the spinal cord, the stomach, the intestine. A lot of vision takes place in the eyeballs, long before the brain is involved.

And for that matter, a lot of sophisticated brain processing occurs beneath awareness, too. An easy proof is object avoidance. A mobile robot has to devote a tremendous amount of processing time simply to avoid obstacles in the environment. Humans beings do, too, but they are never aware of it-until the lights go out. Then they learn painfully just how much processing is really required. So there’s an argument that the whole structure of consciousness, and the human sense of self control and purposefulness, is a user illusion. We don’t have conscious control over ourselves at all. We just think we do.

Just because human beings went around thinking of themselves as ‘I’ didn’t mean that it was true. And for all we knew, thus damned swarm had some sort of rudimentary sense of itself as an entity. Or, If it didn’t, it might very soon start to.

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~ by candidmusing on October 4, 2009.

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