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Wednesday, 29.03.2017

Joseph Knoll: The Future of Mankind. Considerations on the basis of cortical mechanisms responsible for the human society’s birth and development
(Az Emberiség Jövője; A társadalomteremtő agykérgi mechanizmusok elemzésére épített jövőkép)
In Hungarian
Budapest: Semmelweis; 2010 (329 pages)
Reviewed by Joseph Knoll

INFORMATION ON CONTENTS: Vertebrates can be divided into three groups according to the mode of operation of their brain: (a) those that operate with natural (innate) drives only (the majority); (b) those with an ability to fix unnatural (acquired) drives (a minority); and (c) the ‘group of one’ that operates almost exclusively with unnatural (acquired) drives (Homo sapiens sapiens). In mammalian brains capable to fix unnatural drives, untrained cortical neurons (Group 1) possess the potentiality to change their functional state in response to practice, training, or experience in three consecutive stages, namely getting involved either (i) in an extinguishable conditioned reflex (ECR) (Group 2); or (ii) in an inextinguishable conditioned reflex (ICR) (Group 3); or (iii) in an acquired drive (Group 4).

With the evolution of brains capable to fix unnatural drives, species appeared whose members could manipulate each other's behavior and act in concert. This was the condition sine qua non for the evolution of social living, a form of life that enabled the species to surpass qualitatively the performance of any given individual. It goes without saying that training members in the skills needed to act in concert improved the quality of life. It is hard to overestimate the significance of human’s ability to manipulate the brains of animals with limited ability to fix acquired drives (domestication). Due to the practically unlimited ability to fix acquired drives, humans possess the most manipulable brain among all living creatures on earth. The home/school/society triad manipulates the members of the society from birth until death, and the individuals behave accordingly. The human being, a building block in the creation of human society, the most gigantic man-made product on earth, was born with a brain knowing nothing whatever about the real world, but with limitless ability to invent a non-existing, myths-directed world (and believe in it). Thus, Homo sapiens sapiens, the only surviving human species after the extinction of Homo sapiens fossilis, created necessarily with the chaos function of the human cortex the myths of supernatural forces which brought into being the still existing myths-directed human society.

For sake of survival, it was from the very beginning of vital importance to get acquainted with the creative and controlling forces of nature. The limitless power of thinking in orderly rational ways, the infinite capacity of the human brain to explore the natural mechanisms (science), is that physiological reality which determines the conscious fight of the individual to find and fix acquired drives that optimally fit their natural endowments. Homo sapiens sapiens appeared around 150,000 years ago; reached full behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago; and piled up little by little proper knowledge regarding the natural forces. Science and technology developed slowly until the age of enlightenment and achieved thereafter a dramatic speed. A crucially important step forward was the separation of Church, by its nature the main creator and guardian force of the myths-directed era of the human society, and State, interested by its nature in supporting with passing time more and more the rationally directed human activities. The ultimately unavoidable transition of human society from the myths-directed era into the rationally-directed one will finally lead to a reasonably and harmoniously operating global human world. Just comparing in the highest developed countries the quality and duration of life and the characteristics of social life, prior to the age of enlightenment with the conditions today, the trend of development is clear. The aim set by the brilliant pioneers of the age of enlightenment, their prudence recommendation: Sapere aude (Dare to go independent), is as timely as it was then. If masses learn how the brain works, they will resist traditional methods of manipulation.

Knowledge arrived already to the level which meets the claim to bring to an end the myths-directed era, the first part of human history. After all, time is ripe to call into existence the rationally directed, global, homogeneous human society. The birth of the European Union illustrates for example an evident step forward in the right direction. However, only a smaller part of the human world-population (now around 7.5 billion) lives in highly developed countries where the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in democracy, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, etc. Billions still live in countries where the home/school/society triad manipulates members of the society in the same manner as centuries ago.

The same basic mechanism manipulates the behavior of the domesticated animals and humans. However, in striking contrast to the human brain with practically unlimited capacity to fix acquired drives, this ability in animals is strictly limited. In our animal model, we manipulated the behavior of our rats to fix in their brain the ‘glass-cylinder-seeking drive’. Finally, the rat behaved as one possessing a fanatical desire to reach the unnatural goal: to find in an unknown environment the glass cylinder with a side opening and open at bottom and top, and jump to the rim of the 30-cm-high glass-cylinder. In the properly manipulated rat the unnatural drive suppressed the life important natural drives. The same fits for human beings. The brain of a suicide killer is furtively manipulated. The properly acquired unnatural drive develops as a result of long-lasting training. The subject always acts under coercion, under severe mental pressure. Nevertheless, it is the nature of acquired drives that if the manipulation was fully successful the individual ultimately behaves as one possessing a fanatical desire to reach the unnatural-drive-motivated goal. Thus, the expert-opinion that the global war on terror is a 7th-century clash involving 21st-century weapons is correct. Nevertheless, since the development of science and technology accelerates continually, no matter how much time is still needed to arrive to the ratio-directed era of human history, to reach sooner or later this final goal of development is a physiological necessity and cannot be stopped.

The billions who remained during the myths-directed history of mankind untouched by the wartime killings of their innocent peers and were ready to die in the name of “God”, “fatherland” and so on, illustrates the consequences of the extreme manipulability of human behavior. Even in the dark history of mankind, the Holocaust, the extermination of millions within a few years with unprecedented success, due to a systematically planned and executed evil mass manipulation of tens of millions, was a unique event. This horrifying recent example, as well as the terror war now in progress, testifies to the fact that the potential to misuse the physiological endowments of the human cortex is practically unlimited. Only a global change of education based fully on the exact knowledge of the brain mechanisms that enable the manipulation of individuals can lead, at some point in the future, to the desired rationally directed society.

AUTHOR’S STATEMENT: I wrote this popular book to demonstrate that the ability to acquire an irrepressible urge (acquired drive) for a goal not necessary for survival of the individual or species represents the most sophisticated function of the telencephalon. Whenever a drive is acquired, chains of inextinguishable conditioned reflexes are fixed, neurons responsible for emotions are also coupled to the integral whole and thus cognitive/volitional consciousness is necessarily inseparable from an affective state of consciousness. The mechanism that binds emotions, appurtenances to any chain of ICRs is of crucial importance to interpersonal communication. Though the development of an acquired drive always originates in one way or another from an innate drive, which relation later becomes unrecognizable, nothing exists in the brain without a rational origin. I wished to clarify that the appearance of the mammalian brain with the ability to acquire drives ensured the development of social life and ultimately led to the evolution of human society. This most sophisticated form of organized life on earth is still in the trial-and-error phase of its development. It seeks to outgrow the myths-directed era of its history and arrive at its final state, the rationally directed human society. I tried also to explain why without the ability to adapt ourselves to the concrete (science), we would not be able to survive, and without the ability which allows detachment from the concrete and explorations in the infinite (art), life would not be worth living.


Joseph Knoll

September 1, 2016