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January 23, 2017

Revisiting the binding problem

The binding problem shows up in language, perception, and cognition, all of which require distributed processing in the brain. The problem centers on how, though multiple discrete things are always sort of firing at us all at once (signs, speeches, forms, colors), our brains are wired in such a way that we nonetheless make sense of wholes. And we seem to do that by having hierarchies in place at the neuronal level which dictate what (color, shape, texture, etc.) to process in what order so that we can and do inexorably get to the whole, though the whys and wherefores of this remain not exactly clear.

It seems as if the brain operates like an orchestra when it encounters something that requires processing, and the brain is every oboe, every violin, every player, the composer and also the conductor, and is working in some pre-ordained sequence to create what seems in the end like one unified, synchronous sound. Or image. Or meaning.

I can't imagine there ever is one unified sound across various brains, really; your view or memory or meaning is what your brain allows for, as is mine. There is probably something in neuroscience that explains, on a biological level, why we move closer to what we perceive to be like-minded folks. I guess the music we make together must be pleasing, at a very deep level.

But if someone outside of me is trying repeatedly to convince my brain to bend or break its natural processing, to bend or break how it binds a certain truth to an idea, or a certain color to a form, or a peace and power meaning to the frightening words I hear in an inauguration speech...that is a pretty insidious form of violence.