02 May 2013

#fridayflash: emulators

A brain is like a computer, and dreams are just data garbage collection. The brain will gather all the segments of disconnected data it hasn't processed yet and piece them together, seeing if anything fits. Most of the time it doesn't. The dreams that are remembered are the most closely-fitting.

Humans sleep and dream a third of the time. Some living things dream much more than this, some much less. Plants dream in chemicals rather than sensory impressions, but other animals dream like humans, give or take.

Whales are always waking and dreaming at the same time. While a human brain is like Windows, needing a distinct defrag period as opposed to its usage sessions, a whale's brain is more like UNIX or Linux. One-half of a whale's brain is sleeping and dreaming in the background while the other half is awake, processing new input data and providing output.

The bowhead whale can live over two centuries. Two centuries of dreaming paired with two centuries of continual wakefulness. Two complete centuries of letting in the world and dreaming it out, imagination and wonder fed nonstop with new cues from reality.

At best, human brains provide workstations. Whales get servers with one hundred per cent uptime.

Very recently, in about a quarter of a single bowhead whale's lifetime, humans have figured out how to expand brain wakefulness and capacity artificially. Machines have been built which never sleep and which complete their data garbage collection in the background. They are connected by wires and can communicate over thousands of kilometres, the same way that whale song can be heard from one end of the ocean to the other.

Is a yawn just a sped-up version of a humpback's call?

12 comments:

  1. Some of the noises I make when I yawn could be similar to a humpback's call. A ruptured humpback, I suppose.

    This was fascinating. Is that factual about the bowhead? Either way, it's cool.

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    1. According to Web sources, the oldest bowhead whale ever caught was determined to be 211 years old. Age is often roughly determined by old harpoon heads found embedded.

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    2. So there are whales alive today who can remember what the ocean sounded like before the advent of the steam engine.

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  2. Oh imagine having your yawn heard from one end of the country to the other..... food for thought, but now I have to rest my brain ^_^

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  3. your first paragraph pretty much is what I take to be the 'function' of dreams. The whale stuff was fascinating, though human attempts to ascribe meaning to the song of whales and dolphins IN HUMAN terms drives me nuts

    marc nash

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    1. I think I know what you mean. Once I learned whales and dolphins have a doglike ancestor their behaviours started making more sense to me.

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  4. This is a rad analogy, Katherine! Which promptly expands into some trippy and neat notions of sleepwalking and sleepbeing. Really dug this.

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  5. This had an almost dream-like sense to it- combining factual data with philosophical questioning. I agree with the "trippy" descriptor- spot on.

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  6. *salutes* These flashes just seem to go from strength to strength.

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  7. I love where you went with this. Of course, if my brain is a computer then I'm pretty sure I'm out of RAM.

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  8. Great analogy! Wouldn't it be awesome to truly dream while awake and have it in the background but also accessible?

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