Scientific Sense Podcast

Thursday, July 14, 2016

You are what you learn

Recent research from MIT (1) shows that the underlying attributes of music – consonance and dissonance – are not hard wired. Contrasting preferences of tribes with little exposure to Western music such as some Amazon tribes and those with gradually increasing exposure, culminating in accomplished American musicians, they prove that the preference toward consonance over dissonance is learned. Music, thus, appears to be personal and preferences largely generated by experience rather than an innate mechanism in the brain.

In the contemporary regime of accelerating data, the brain is bombarded with an information stream, it was never designed to tackle. An intricate quantum computer, specialized in pattern finding but with rather limited memory, the brain has been stretched to undervalue its advantages and it has been struggling to keep large swaths of data in its limited memory banks. The learning processor, however, has been able to efficiently design and store information in heuristics and dump the underlying raw data as fast as it can. As it loses history, the stored heuristics drive function and generate preferences, as if they are part of the original operating system.

The finding has implications for many areas not the least of which is in the treatment of Central Nervous System (CNS) diseases such as racism, alcoholism and ego. Fast discarding of underlying information due to a lack of storage capacity, prevents back testing of learned heuristics. A limited training set of underlying data could have irreversible and dramatic influences on end outcomes. More importantly, a brain that is trained with misguided heuristics, cannot easily be retrained as the neurons become rigid with incoherent cycles.

You are what you listen to, you are what you eat and more importantly, you are what you learn.


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