Monthly Archives: August 2015

The fuzzy feeling

I had an idea that I wanted to share with you. I have a fuzzy feeling that you’ll like it…
But let’s stop and analyze for a brief moment these two words. Fuzzy, feeling. But why even separate the two? Are there feelings that are not fuzzy? Do you also have… precise feelings? Crystal-clear, well-defined?
Well, I would dare say that every feeling is more or less fuzzy! Feelings are forged by the amalgamation of the sensations we experienced in the past. Different stimuli, different senses are combined into one whole experience that we identify as a feeling. But that is one occasion; and in life you will have the opportunity to experience a particular feeling in many, many different occassion. Similar, but different in the details. Same feeling, (slightly or vastly) different setting.
So in your teens you were probably rejected by persons of the other gender more than one times, right? It might even be happening to you nowadays, every now and then, right? How does it feel? You have lived through it many times, surely you can describe it. The truth is that every one of those experiences was a bit different; different setting, different person, different conversation, varied emotional charge… So when I ask you to make the feeling precise, by accurately describing it in words, the only thing you can do is try to recall one or more of those occassions and relive it. Probably they are a bit fuzzy in your brain. Probably they are a bit tangled, interwoven between them. Time has set its toll on your memory and the only thing you have (without seriously thinking it through) is a fuzzy memory of this feeling.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s the only way! You don’t really need to make the feeling precise. Fuzzy is good enough, actually it’s perfect. Because the next time you attempt to ask a girl/boy out, if they even try to start pulling some excuse towards you, you’ll immediately get this fuzzy feeling reactivated, and you’ll be sure that you know where it’s going. You see, just because it’s fuzzy, it can pattern-match with whatever is relevant in the future and immediately bring you to familiar territory. Then, you can use this forewarning to your benefit and act to save face.

Going forward with the argument, we move on to another thing that is fuzzy by defintion. And that’s the concept of, well actually… the concept itself 🙂
Humans are evangelized to be special because we are able to do abstract thoughts. We fiddle with concepts in our mind. But what are concepts? Aren’t they also the amalgamation of experiences, of stimuli, of memories? When I ask you to define for me the concept of freedom, you start by drilling in to this fuzzy area of your brain where all the experiences related to freedom are interwoven, and then start picking out various relevant memories. The statue of liberty, the sound of your national anthem, an image with a pigeon and an olive branch, George Michael’s Freedom ’90 song, the first night your parents allowed you to come back home after midnight, etc.
Both feelings and concepts are quite objective, because the feeling of letdown and the concept of freedom are experienced & known universally by all mankind. At the same time, they are highly subjective, because they are experienced and stored into memory according to the particularities of each individual and thus different from one another. And above all they are both fuzzy in the way they are stored & recalled.
Finally, to connect this with Noesis Theory, we will focus our attention on "fuzzy routing". In case you don’t remember by heart, fuzzy routing is about starting an action when you are confident enough (but not certain) that it will bring the desired result, and if needed you’ll do adjustments afterwards. Using now the two tools we built above, we are able to explain it even better.
When we experience something from our external environment, our pattern matching mechanism first does a fuzzy recognition of a concept. You can think of it as a node inside our brain that is relevant to the highlights of our here & now. It’s fuzzy, but it’s also fast. So when it’s dark in the alley and we hear strange noises, we immediately recall the concept/idea of getting mugged. Of course it’s fuzzy, we don’t have an image of our would-be attacker, we don’t know the weapon he would use or what he would want from us. It’s fuzzy, but it’s good enough. At the same time we experience another fuzzy thing in our stomach, the feeling of fear.

Do you see it now? Concepts are "loaded" with emotional content, with feelings, and allow us to act fast and do fuzzy routing, i.e. route our attention towards acting in the best possible way to negate a danger before it materializes or reap a potential benefit before it expires.
Put in different words: sensual stimuli arrive to our brain, we recognize first a fuzzy concept to get a first understanding of what it is we are experiencing, this concept usually translates to a feeling, and if this feeling is strong enough, we do not delve into details and immediately proceed to action. This is fuzzy routing.

Key takeaways: feelings and concepts are two different sides of the same coin. They emanate from the method our brain uses to distill experiences into a fuzzy, interconnected web of patterns, loaded with emotional content. They are not well-defined on purpose, firstly because it’s the only way to get activated in all similar cases, and secondly because this allows them to be first on the scene and jump into action if necessary.
For AI aficionados: because of the fact above, there is no way that true AI will be precise in the way modern computers are. Not if it’s built in a manner that emulates the human mind. Our brain is by-design fuzzy and we like it that way. It’s the only way proven by nature that it works.

So the next time you only have a fuzzy idea of who this guy/girl that you met at a party is and don’t remember his/her name… don’t sweat it. It’s not your fault your memory is fuzzy, it’s million years of evolution that perfected it this way :p

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