LifeOS: exploring the system that executes DNA

January 14, 2009

Team Subconscious

Captain Self runs a tight ship, passing out orders left and right, but we know who does the work. Sure, we can see that there are organs that perform specific functions, but in practice, the whole organism is involved to varying degrees, in every activity. It is a team effort.

Team Management

Environmental stimulation results in the formation of ad hoc teams of organs, glands, neural pathways and muscle groups that respond with adaptive action. That is, the teams that react to environmental input, are made up of cells, the crew of your ship. There are trillions of them, functioning together as a unit. Their numbers are way too many, and they are engaged in relationships far too complex, for the conscious mind to manage. Just like in your computer, you don’t need to know what is going on inside to get results. It is Team Subconscious that manages our background processes.

Team Tradition

So, Captain Self is spared the details, leaving him free to focus on his main responsibility, relating to the big picture, the external environment. However, these teams have a tradition dating back millions, sometimes billions, of years. Their functionality has not changed significantly in many, many generations. Until fairly recently, their input had also been stable. In the last few hundred years, cultural changes, especially to diet and the levels of chemical pollutants, have placed unprecedented stress on all of the ship and crew.

This stress causes general agitation to the system. The system doesn’t like change, especially the unprecedented kind. The agitation stimulates the system to search for an adaptive response. Although the captain might be consulted from time to time, response comes from Team Subconscious. Within the team, there are well established command units that govern critical behavior.

Team Behavior

What we affectionately refer to as the “reptilian” brain, for example, gets the name from its resemblance in function to the brains of snakes, lizards and other reptiles. The main concern of this command unit is the very basics of survival of the individual, followed closely by survival of the species through reproduction. There isn’t any consideration for social relationships going on here. The so called, mammalian brain, was added later, onto the reptilian portion. This command unit features improved social interactions, like nurturing of the offspring and sharing food.

Each of these command units was developed to cope with a specific set of environmental conditions. As conditions changed, new command capabilities were added to the existing set. This was accomplished by adding new tissue, just like any other learning process.

These teams were assembled to give added functionality during earlier stages of development. However, the more primitive portions remain in the information stream and have the power to override commands arriving from later(less proven) teams.

The new departments gain control through successful performance, but the slightest hint that these newer departments might not be performing as expected and the system reverts to more tried and proven(primitive) behaviors. This is the same bias towards established routines that we see in diverse social and conceptual endeavors, like addictive behavior, paradigm shift and software development.

Disabled Ships

A good captain needs to know how his teams interact. Take that reptilian bunch already mentioned; this outfit is all sex and survival. Back in the days when they were in charge, life was simple. Life is several stages more complex these days, but in a pinch, that rowdy bunch will take over and revert to “primitive” behavior, whether appropriate, or not. Our jails are full of disabled ships, whose captains were rendered ineffective by rebellious crews, especially that reptilian team at the base of the skull.

The marshal arts, for example, are disciplines that seek to put the captain in touch with these elements and forge a positive relationship with them. It is training, practice and living with intent, that builds self-trust, self-respect and self-confidence. Once a level of trust is established, the captain can assign specific tasks and expect consistent results from the ship and crew. That’s how you build a reliable interface.

It is important to remember that both the captain and crew are part of the system. They use the same neurotransmitters, sensory processes and DNA language as the rest of the Life. Neither are in any way separate from the system.

Lonely at the Top

In spite of the obvious physical unity, the captain often feels separate and somewhat alienated from the ship and crew. A certain feeling of separation is important to the functioning of an individual agent. This perspective enhances an agent’s ability to act freely in the environment, making it better at seeking out adaptive behavior. However, when not balanced by a sense of belonging to the team, the feeling of separation can lead to trouble.

Captain Eternity

The idea, supported by some captains, that they live on forever, while the ship and crew are just temporary, is at the heart of the problem. Not only does this attitude indicate a perceived separation from the physical body, and an overinflated ego, but this is just about as separate as a captain can get from reality. Even if they were to be immortal, captains are of little use to the system without a ship and crew.

As i said before, the crew has been doing their jobs for billions of years, while it is the captain who is temporary. If there were anything worth saving about a human existence, it certainly would be more than just the captains log. It would have to include the much larger body of information gathered by the rest of the team. Only then would environmental changes be registered by the system. The captain seems blind to the nature of these environmental changes and the long range effects of current actions. It is as if the captain is operating from a different set of values than the crew. And the gulf widens.

Out of Touch

The wider the gulf, the more contentious the relationship becomes, the more the crew acts on their own, leaving the captain to rationalize increasingly irrational behavior. What the captain sees as mutiny is really that Team Subconscious has lost confidence in the captain’s ability to insure survival of the ship in particular and the species in general. Although the team takes commands from the captain, their allegiance is really to the ship.

Make Peace with the Crew

So, take a look at your own relationship with your crew. Are you a good leader? Are you and your crew working together for common goals? Do you feel good about the Team? If not, it is up to you, the captain, to improve this working relationship.

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