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Multitasking in the Brain

Most (not all, but most) of us have just memories of the days when we used a Pentium III with 128MB RAM. In the good (or should I say bad?) old days, we were happy to be running just one application at a time. 2 applications at the same time were a rarity. Begone are those days, it’s the days of multitasking. We have at least 5 tabs open on each of the 2 windows of (enter favorite browser here), 1 or 2 IM clients running in the background, a word processor, and occasionally Photoshop or Vegas Pro – all together. So, while we marvel at this marvel of marvelous improvement in marvelous technology (pun took just a minute to be thought up), let’s take a look at the brain and it’s marvels which we take for granted.

The brain is capable of (and has been) doing many things, which we can only dream of from computers (for still many years to come). Think of something (anything, actually). It should preferably be a scene which you are well accustomed with. For example, a scene from your school or office, or a film or television soap or show, or anything so that you can form a virtual video of it. Now, close your eyes, visualize the scene “in front of eyes”. But wait, you see complete darkness “in front of your eyes”. But you can, at the same time, probably from the brain or thought, see the scene acted out. Is this some super-power you have got? Yes (and it’s a really big yes), you have got a very special super-power. But the fact is that everyone else has it too (here, I mean humans as I don’t know if animals can do so, neither do you or scientists – are they themselves animals that they can tell what animals think and not? Don’t take the word “animal” to be offensive here. I am using it to mean any other species except Homo sapiens, i.e. human beings.). Now, open your eyes (like you haven’t already!!). It’s time for another short experiment. Keeping your eyes open, visualize the same scene as you did before. You can see the scene being enacted out in the brain, i.e. from a thought. But this time, you can also see the things before your eyes clearly. If you have followed my earlier post about eyes and 3-D cameras, you will experience in that experiment that some part of the image is clear, while some part has the see-through impression of your palm.

But in this experiment, both the images (I’ll use image to mean the scene you see) are clear, but ….. let me explain what you will see in the following lines:

In the first case, with your eyes closed, the image appears quite a few notches clearer (more on than little later) than the one with your eyes opened. It’s the closest to what you see in real life. But in the second case, the image, though very clear, doesn’t seem to capture you with the same intensity as with the eyes closed. Although the images are more or less similar in clearness, the 1st one appears to be more so due it’s much more intensity than the 2nd one with a much lesser intensity. Due to this simple fact, the image with your eyes open appears to be blurred, though it is not, by any stretch. Both the images are clear and are not see-through or superimposed. The things in front of our eyes or blackness (as the case may be) is completely separate from the image formed in our brain.

The reason for this is very, very hard to explain (especially for a 15 year old, like me). But the simple reason (without much explanation) is that the 2 images come from different sources (one from eyes, the other from brain), and are not mixed as was the image in the Eye and 3-D cameras experiment (the images – blackness or palm and things before our eyes came from the same source – the eyes). This prevents the brain from interpreting as similar (think .jpeg and RAW or .gif images, lol) and the brain allots different parts of itself to each (think different archaic software that can each read or view only one type of image). Thus, the images are processed in different parts of the brain, resulting in 2 different images.

Note – The reason and other content before this can appear to be very complicated (as most things are), especially so if you skipped the experiment. Please try the experiment if you want to learn.

Sadly, it’s too complicated and hard to do the same thing on computers (computers). You may argue that you have several windows full-screen visible at the same time, albeit on several monitors. But it’s just like adding several brains together. If you have only one output and have to show more than one image full-screen at the same time, what do you do? As I said, it’s complicated a task, that evolution was a master at as it has made us into such intelligent and reasoning creatures. Again, one may argue that as the images come from more than 1 different source, we have more than 1 output. But, unfortunately, they are just inputs. All outputs are directed to the brain (think CPU), which further directs them to its different parts (think cores of a CPU). The brain has the exceptional quality of showing more than 1 image at the same time full-screen, both clear, but on only 1 output. Sadly, computers (or CPUs) don’t. It’s just like multitasking in the brain at a whole new level. Forget images and thoughts together, think more than 1 image together. We have all experienced (while typing or writing the traditional way) that we tend to think what we are going to write next, while seeing the thing we’ve just written for mistakes. The thought is the conjuring up of new ideas-to-be-written and the eye-part (or the writing you are going through in this context) is the image. This is the images and thoughts process. Which is much more low-level than more than 1 image (1 is basically the real image, while the other(s) is the thought which is in the form of image) process. A whole new level, as I said. We are still awaiting the day when this type of computing power would hit the shelves. For now, we can only hope. If you have any questions, email me at rup.bandyopadhyay@gmail.com. Adieu.

Note 2 – You need to have a minimum knowledge of science and technology to understand this article. If you can’t, contact me (rup.bandyopadhyay@gmail.com) and I will make you understand  better.

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One response »

  1. Katey (hotstuffkat)

    This article is very well written. I can relate easily to the different “experiments” and i find it quite intriguing that you, a 15 year old, could write so flawlessly. Congrats on your presentation on such a complex topic to write out.

    Reply

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