Chapter 13. Review
The model I’ve presented in previous chapters is sufficiently complex that I think it should be reviewed, especially with respect to how it can be used to improve our mental and physical condition. I haven’t discussed that very much, instead focusing on describing how the model might be implemented within our brains using the example of vision.
The Tripartite Organismic Stimulus-Response Cortical Augmentation (TOSCA) model consists of:
Tripartite: a synthesis of the body, subconscious mind (System One), and conscious mind (System Two).
Organismic: of or relating to or belonging to an organism (considered as a whole).
Stimulus-Response: our mind-body system responds to environmental input.
Cortical: we are focused on the brain and thinking.
Augmentation: the objective is to improve how we think.
The Dao De Jing presents a model similar to TOSCAM in pre-scientific terms, with a lot of information lost during the centuries before it was written down. I have brought it up to date and focused on its application to personal behavior. However, the model is holistic (i.e., organismic) and applicable to every scale of human endeavor. The DDJ lays out general principles that can be followed by individuals and societies, hopefully leading to modified behavior through improved, rational thinking.
My purpose has been to find physical and chemical mechanisms to explain our (mis)behavior. I have introduced the idea of qualia composed of virtual networks of neuron signals, sometimes arriving in an orderly manner but just as likely to be random and anomalous. This concept has been demonstrated primarily using visual perceptions without retinal input.
Anomalous perceptions of sensory input, memories, or thoughts are far more common than we would like to think. They are responsible for much of our irrational behavior and bad decision making. Not to mention simple errors based on faulty sensory perceptions.
There is some evidence that we can modify our conscious and subconscious processing of these anomalous perceptions, but it takes a lot of work. Neural pathways have to be modified, deleted, or created in a process we call learning; and no one ever learned anything without repetition. This is what several philosophical traditions have been practicing for centuries. I’m referring to Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, to name a few.
The substantial investment in time required to see improvement in cognitive performance has restricted the application of TOSCA-like models to a select few (e.g., monks), a situation worsened by the common focus on meaningless objectives rather than improved mental functioning. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on so-called experts with the time for intensive reflection to share their (often poor) insight with us through religious dogma and transcendental mumbo-jumbo.
Some improvement is possible through rigorous studies, such as required for advanced degrees, but those programs are designed for narrow purposes and not general cognitive enhancement.
I will now turn to the DDJ in earnest and try to interpret the set of rules it presents (in somewhat jumbled fashion thanks to the work of innumerable translators, propagandists, etc), in terms that can be applied in a daily program designed to improve how our minds operate.