Monday, January 14, 2008

We're out of hospital

George is going home

We were released from hospital today.

It was a bit of a surprise since we thought we'd be in until at least tomorrow. All the tests, xrays, etc. that needed to be done for our release were done very quickly but we had to wait 5 and a half hours for the pharmacist to turn up with George's medication.

All in all, it was great to see the back of the place - even though they've been great - and it was good to run into the surgeon on the way out and thank him.

George continued his nice happy smiling demeanour throughout last night and most of the day - much to Lisa's disappointment. She only got about 2 hours sleep - every time she tried to go to sleep, George cried to bring her back to his bedside to play and then giggled his way through until she tried to get back to sleep.

He's apparently decided that sleep was a pre-operation aberration which he can now comfortably dispense with. He hasn't had any for 36 hours now and shows no sign of giving up.

He's also chosen today (we think) to start teething - so all afternoon he's been veering from smiling and giggling to screams of pain and anguish. At times he's even crying while smiling!

on the way home, he quietened every time the taxi started moving only to cry at every traffic light. The Green Wave I was told about on Saturday night was nowhere to be seen. It was more like a red wave.

Lisa's so glad to be home - and we've got a bottle of champagne to celebrate our safe return.

zip and the art of tidying up

This morning before leaving I decided to do a quick tidy up. The radio was on in the background - a programme about memory and the way it's understood to work. I don't think they've got it right. I think it's all to do with patterns and rhythms again.

As I rapidly tidied the house, I realised that all I was really doing was putting similar things together. Clothes go with other clothes, books go with books, kitchenware goes with kitchenware. It's all about finding patterns in things and creating order by re-inforcing those patterns.

By doing this, you end up with a few things that you can't place without making descisions - the odd letter that can't be filed - the odd cushion that seems to belong in no particular room - things that don't fit your patterns and rhythms (don't worry - I am going somewhere with all this!).

What's interesting is that you don't really see these things and their problems until you sort everything else into patterns. In other words, the decision making process can be reduced to simply looking for patterns and rhythms that you've found in the past and putting things into those patterns. Difficult decisions are simply things that don't belong in any of the patterns your experience has given you (or worse things that belong in more than one place).

If you've got the rhythms and the patterns that fit the situation you're in, you can make decisions easily. If you haven't, you can't.

But the same goes for memory: you remember your first journey to work because it's a new pattern, but you don't remember every journey - only the things that make a particular journey different. You can get to work remembering nothing at all about how you got there. If your work is very repetitive your memory can ignore whole days simply because nothing out of the ordinary happens.

It's a bit like the way computers compress information into zip files... instead of remembering 7 identical apples it remembers what one apple is like, and that there are 7 of them. It looks for patterns in the file, and compresses it by giving each pattern a code and then removing it. It can then look for patterns in the codes - rhythms within rhythms - and compress them.

So I think our memories work the same way - we remember that certain things happen in certain ways then file only the differences - the out of the ordinary. That's why the memory lies - we remember a car accident because we don't see them every day - but we don't accurately remember the cars themselves (as court cases frequently prove) because a car is just a pattern we've learned to remember in shorthand - three letters to remember instead of a quarter of a ton of complex mechanisms.

My observations get tidied into patterns just in the same way as I tidy the house, reducing the complexity of the world until it's easy to deal with.

So, if discovery, science and art are just the act of seeing and repeating patterns and rhythms and memory is just the same thing - and decision making is the same process again - and character and personality are simply a result of the patterns we've learnt, then maybe our brains are really not as complex as we think.

Maybe everything else our brains do can be reduced to the same rules - maybe all our brains really are is just a battery of processors for finding and reducing patterns and rhythms in a mechanical fashion.

And, of course, if that's true then the processing power doesn't have to be that great either - and sooner or later we'll have to wonder whether zip files have a conciousness...


Russ Greenwood said...

Am so thrilled you George is now out of hospital and you are all safely back home. Wonderful news.

Pietro said...

Great news about George.

Re your memory anecdotes, perhaps you're getting your topsys mixed up with your turvies- rather than analogising human memory to computer software, perhaps computer software is based on human memory (or dare I say human software- only that would make it sound like a computer and possibly a Cyberman).