Thursday, June 13, 2013

mind over matter

Was just watching this interesting discussion on the brain and how it measures time, and one part that really caught my attention was this bit on schizophrenia.  How they're studying the possibility that it might be a miscalibration of neurological timing.

They've figured out that normal people's brains will calibrate, even when timing is off - such as when a button push yields a result a split second later, the brain adapts after a few pushes to perceive the action and consequence as being simultaneous.  Further, that if they then correct the timing, the subject gets confused and will think the consequence happened prior to their action.  A distortion in their causal awareness, and in a schizophrenic, if such miscalibration is inherent, they might even perceive their own thoughts as happening prior to thinking them.

Schizophrenia being much more involved than that, of course, but consider what happens if such miscalibration is a lifelong experience, and how this may create patterns of distortion and chain reactions in a person's thinking and behavior in all sorts of ways.  How they may have such a fundamentally different outlook, that a whole lot of what they'd learn about life could spiral into delusion.

This may manifest gradually during adolescence, because this is when a person is expected to start being more independently functional.  Except, that normal developmental process collapses due to all those years of getting it wrong.  So of course, I'm thinking about how this may tie into my own problems - Not that I'm claiming schizophrenia.   Not even a little bit.  Although, I've always felt a certain affinity to the severity of interference in functionality.

Maybe my calibration is off in the opposite direction.  Certainly, I've always thought everyone else seems quite nuts.  Crazy people always say that, I know, so here's an especially trivial example the researcher in that clip reminded me of.  I used to play these online video games, back in the days of dial-up.  Back then, it was common to have a ping of around 300ms.  That was the delay between clicking my mouse button, firing my gun, and the data being sent to the server, and then relaying the information back to me, as to whether I hit anything.

A fraction of a second, but still, drove me crazy.  I used to go ranting on forums complaining about it, hoping to figure out some way of resolving the problem.  Except no one else seemed to be bothered by it.  This was an indisputable fact, that there was this delay, and that it really wasn't so tiny that our brains should fail to notice it.. and yet it seemed like I was the only one who did.  I was the only one who couldn't get used to it.

So, watching this video, something clicked.  Other people simply calibrated to the difference.  They noticed at first, but adjusted.  Gamers know that an excessive ping cuts into their performance, but still feel like they're in more direct control than they are.  For some reason, I never did.  It was as if my brain simply wouldn't calibrate that way.  This could technically make it more accurate, but bear in mind, there are likely reasons our brains do this.

Sometimes a measured degree of inaccuracy is probably much more viable.  Spontaneity of simultaneous thought and action, obscuring causal relationships, reinforcing the illusion of free will.  A useful illusion, definitely.  This could even be why a drug which interferes with that calibration in other people, seems to correct it, for me.

When you push that button and nothing happens, it's disconcerting.  All the more so, when no one else even seems to notice the issue.  The result happens a second later, but it feels disconnected.  It can even feel like having no control, given so much that actually goes on in the process. It is a lack of direct control.  Figuring out how to work with that becomes abstract.  Theoretically possible, or even advantageous, but viscerally, it feels like my experience isn't my doing.  Not to the extent that other people seem to think that it is.

So what if this is something I've been learning all my life?  A sort of delayed gratification, on a much deeper level.  A lifetime of experiences and lessons which are objectively more accurate, yet effectively self-defeating.  Thought should become intention, intention should become action, and action, consequence.. yet I've often felt my thoughts just go in circles, while I wait for action to happen.  Sometimes it does.. sometimes not so much.  Despite being well aware of the role thought plays in the process, I've always felt like more of a passive observer.  A very frustrated pathologically indecisive passive observer.

This is a lot of speculation, based on a hypothesis that might not even pan out.  I'm acutely aware that it can appear pointless, since regardless, I really just need to push that button.  People who would never tell a schizophrenic to pick themselves up by their bootstraps have no qualms telling me that I need to make life happen, like everyone else.  It's just not that simple.  I can see that it doesn't ever work that way.  Why can't they?

At the very least, it's really interesting to me how something so innocuously simple could possibly be the culprit of so very much going sideways.. but this isn't about doing anything about it.  I don't think that way.  I don't hold any illusions of becoming anything other than what I am.  I'd just like to understand my situation better.

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