Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mind Reading or Virtual Reality?

Click here for a very interesting article on how empathy might be established in individual minds.

If this theory is correct, and the evidence in the article seems pretty substantial (of course, being a single article with the intention of publicizing the theory, there could be some bias), I'm not sure the short-hand implication that's being touted is totally accurate.

Instead of being an example of mind-reading, these "mirror neurons" seem to me to be establishing an internal "virtual" reality simulation of events outside of the bio-temporal meat suit we all wear; A form of role playing rather than the communication implied in the "mind-reading" model. If this is true, the implications for the definition of individual identity and that pesky free will question we're talking about below, are pretty staggering, I think. It's not just empathy that's a possible result of the functioning of these "mirror neurons" but learning and decision making (at least decisions not based entirely on previous personal experience) as well.

Or maybe I'm just overreacting.

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