One human = 50 Trillion (cellular) “brains” ?


“…The imagination is grounded in the energy of the organs of the body…” – Joseph Campbell

I have always been skeptical of the brain in the vat thought experiment that poses that a brain in a container being fed electrical pulses will mirror human consciousness.

One of the reasons is that I believe that this type of thought experiment forgets that we have 50 trillion cells all over our bodies. Each cell is like small “brain” that thinks and communicates with other cells. The brain may end up finding out what the cells are talking about but I don’t think they speak the same dialect/language. So, in a way I think the brain misses out on all the juicy gossip that goes on at the street level.

Human thought, may be (in part) an emergent phenomena of the “smaller thoughts” happening at the deeper cellular level. [It may also be emergent phenomena of other dynamics (many).

Think of human thought as (partially) an “echo” of what your cells, tissues and organs are thinking.

I was thinking the word “pre-cognition” may be fitting here to name that type of cellular thinking, but that word is loaded with meaning already.

In a previous blog I alluded to it simply as “intra-cellular communication”. (updated: turns out that intra-cellular communication is a term that is indeed used in science – so are “cell signaling” and Cellular communication (Biology

If we can agree that most entities that communicate are conscious (to one degree or extent or another) then we may agree that this cellular entity is “thinking” or processing information in an intelligent way. (to one degree or another).

While I tend to make up words, the term “intra-cellular communication” is a term being used today by scientists in different fields.

The history of medicine in a way, is the history of communication between humans and their sub-systems (cells, tissues, organs).

Cellular action, reaction, symptom, and change, are all fuzzy “meanings” in a growing vocabulary that we will eventually understand. Today we are alienated from its understanding but if we focus energies on this type of research we may gain an insight that may advance science and medicine by leaps and bounds. (p.s. DNA may be only part of that vocabulary akin to legal/cultural systems that partially assign/dictate and regulate behavior but can never fully control it).

Quoting from Brown University:

“…A broad introduction to the basic mechanisms of cell signaling for communicating environmental information from the outside to the nucleus of a cell…” .

Beyond humans
Just in case I’m not challenging your belief enough… where does this understanding of cells as “small brains” leave plants and other lifeforms that we don’t usually think of as capable of thought or thought-like behavior?

It may be time to re-understand the earth is an cognitive organism. Each of our brains may be part of the 6.5 billion “small brains” that informs the planet earth about its human-cell condition. But just like in our bodies, we still don’t speak the same “language” as the bigger organism. So humans may be linguistically alienated from our bodies and we are alienated from earth in a similar way.

Related in Wikipedia:
Wikipedia: World population>>
Wikipedia: Brain in the vat>>
Wikipedia:Philosophy of mind >>
Wikipedia:Consciouness >>
Wikipedia:Cognition >>

Related elsewhere:
From The Web of Life (book) by Fritjof Capra “The Santiago Theory of Cognition”
Ask Yahoo! – How many cells in the human body?>>
Brown University:Intracellular communication in health and disease >>
intra-cellular abstract from Harvard >>

Beyond cells…think genes…>


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