• Shivam Kalhan

Genesis of the mind by the brain

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

The world renowned science communicator and physicist Michio Kaku famously defines the brain as the hardware and the mind as the software. In this segment – I aim to show otherwise. The brain, quite simply put, is a machine that creates the illusion of the mind.

Out of the two orange dots above – which one is bigger? Now see below for them put side to side –

Which one is bigger now?

Welcome to the experience of the famous Ebbinghaus illusion. This is one of many visual illusions that make us question our perceivable reality. The brain is constructing the mind which is what we perceive – and we perceive this subjectively depending on the context. The Ebbinghaus illusion is defined as an illusion because it gives us a false belief that the circles are of a different size when they are in fact equal. It really urges us to think about the mind as not something that holds reality – but holds ourreality. The brain is the enabler of the mind such that we can see the world not as it is but as it is giventhe context and out goals. So, when Michio Kaku describes the brain as the hardware and mind as the software – it seems hard to grasp given that the mind appears to simply be an illusion created by the brain – to not perceive reality but to perceive our reality.

The viral video where your task is to count the number of passes made by basketball players and the monkey passes through without your notice is another example where the brain constructs the mind. This is such that you can do the task at hand and blocks out all the unnecessary information which in this case is the monkey. Do it the other way around and this time make the task to find the monkey – you will see it but not know how many times the players passed the ball. The brain works in a context dependant fashion and based on the context, it constructs the mind such that we can do our task or such that we can adapt and view only the things that may be fruitful to achieve the task at hand.

There is no region in the brain that takes up more space than the visual system. It is the most important of all our senses and the brain has a very extensive structure devoted just to sensing and then making sense of what we are seeing. If the system that takes up most of the brain is so vulnerable to even perceiving the size of a circle, what does this mean for the rest of our functions for which we do not have such an extensive structure devoted for. Like the decisions we make, the thoughts we partake in, the ideas we come up with or even the way we think about our social interactions. You know – the things we call life. Just imagine the vulnerabilities these very fundamental cognitive processes could have. If anything – this really urges us to hold the belief that there is usually more than one way of understanding the same event and every behaviour is rational from the perspective of the person, given their mind is just a construct of their subjective realities.

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