Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Project Capua: Day 1

Welcome to our first exercise! If you're in a hurry, scroll down to the last paragraph and follow the directions there. If you want to know why you're doing this, read on!

Project Capua is based on a linguistic hypothesis and a metaphysical methodology. The linguistic hypothesis is that words enable the neurons in individual human brains to form a larger network. The participants in the project don't need to understand the new technology of neural networks, but there are a few terms that we'll be using throughout the project that are based on neural network theory.

For purposes of this project, cognitive space means a multi-dimensional phase space composed of every neuron in an interconnected whole. In a system composed of just two neurons, the cognitive space would be a square. Three neurons form a cube. Adding more neurons adds more dimensions, The average human brain has about 100 billion neurons,creating a hyperdimensional phase space.

How "big" is a hundred-billion dimensional phase space? If every neuron can fire at varying rates from 0 to 10, it has a volume of ten to the hundred billionth power. How big is that? Well, the observable universe is about 15 billion light years across (on the order of 10^26 meters) and an electron is 10^-15 meters across. That means you could line up this many electrons in a row across the universe:
Cube that (10^41 ^3) and you get 10 to the 123rd power. That's how many electrons you can cram into our observable universe. By contrast, you can cram 10 to the 100,000,000,000 power different cognitive states into your brain. Cognitive space is much bigger than space/time!

The linguistic hypothesis behind this project is that words activate the cognitive space of each reader or hearer. For purposes of this project, the word "word" means a unique point in the phase space created by all the neurons in each brain of every reader or hearer.

When I type the word "banana," every neuron in the brain of each reader of this blog is affected to some degree. For most Americans, "banana" conjures up the same basic image of a yellowish green fruit with a little blue sticker on the shelf of the local supermarket, but each one of us adds our own personal experience. I can't say "banana" without humming a Harry Chapin tune. You may remember your grandmother's banana-nut muffins. A political refugee from El Salvador may shudder at the memory of slithering through a field of young banana plants with the death squads hot at her heels.

Exercise 1: Introduce yourself and share a personal experience with bananas.