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Commuter - Dishwash Theory
an explanation of the mind

1:01    Premise: the vertebrates fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals all have the same basic unit for a brain, consisting of the hindbrain, the midbrain and the forebrain, yet the level of intelligence in different specis of vertebrates varies widely, from a simple goldfish to us neurotic human beings. Why is this? Why are humans the only specis to have evolved a very high level of consciousness? Why did it happen so quickly? the transistion from homo-erectus to homo-sapiens took only half a million years, which is the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms (the human brain doubled in size during this transition).

1:02    Dishwash Theory gives the answers to these questions, and not only provides a model of the human mind, but also of the mind of every other creature on this planet.

1:03    This page gives an outline of Dishwash Theory, and how it will apply to Commuter – an installation by Rob Godfrey, but first let us look at some present attempts to gauge intelligence between animals, and why these attempts don't work very well.

1:04    Perhaps the most apparent way to define a creature's intelligence is to see how big its brain is. The table below shows some comparative brain sizes between mammals

Table 1.  Approximate brain weights and body weights of some mammals, in order of brain weight.

Species Brain Weight Body Weight
Sperm whale 7.82 kg 50,000 kg
Indian elephant 6 kg 5,000 kg
Human 1.5 kg 60 kg
Bottlenose dolphin 1.4 kg 250 kg
Monkey 0.075 kg 13 kg
Mouse 0.002 kg 0.025 kg

1:05    The above is us (humans) set against a random sample of other mammals, except for a mammal called the sperm whale, which has been deliberately selected because it has the largest brain on the planet (more than five times bigger than a human brain), so the sperm whale must be the smartest creature, right? Wrong! because amongst other things a brain is used to control the body that houses it (the brain controls body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing) and the bigger the body the bigger the brain needed to run it. This control of the body works at an autonomic level and has little to do with what we perceive as 'intelligence'.

1:06 A simple way to make allowance for different body sizes is to express brain weight as a percentage of body weight. This is known as the encephalization quotient and the thinking behind EQ is that the larger a creature's brain is in proportion to its body, the more intelligent that creature will be.

Table 2.   Approximate brain weights as a percentage of
approximate body weights of some mammals.

Mouse 8%
Human 2.5%
Bottlenose dolphin 0.6%
Monkey 0.6%
Indian elephant 0.12%
Sperm whale (male) 0.02%

1:07    Humans score very high on the EQ ratio. However, some birds and rodents tend to score much higher than humans, yet we do not perceive these creatures to be more intelligent than us. There's also a basic problem in comparisons of this type, and that is deciding which weights to take as typical of a species. For example, humans can have brains weighing anything between 900 and 2,000 grams, and of course body weight varies greatly between individuals - in some whale species the weight of individual animals can vary by about 40% over a year because of their seasonal feeding habits. The brain weight to body weight relationship also varies with age: young mammals have proportionally smaller bodies and larger heads, and brain size decreases significantly in old age. Amongst all this variety what is 'average'?

1:08    There are many other ways of gauging the intelligence of animals – such as the degree of convolution of the cortical brain surface (ie, number of neurons) or an animal's ability to learn – yet none of them give satisfactory answers, which has led many researchers to believe that 'intelligence' is too complex to be characterised with a single numerical index. The basic problem is that we don't know what 'thought' is, so how on earth can we quantify it, let alone compare the intelligence of animals?


2:01    Dishwash theory uses a restaurant as an analogy for the brain, because a restaurant is organised in the same way as a brain, and a restaurant functions in the same way as a mind. These statements may seem strange, so let's explore further:- there are three main regions in the vertebrate brain: the hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain 2. There are three main regions in a restaurant: the kitchen, the wash-up area and the dining room. Dishwash Theory states the following:

The hindbrain is the kitchen:  the 'engine' of the operation and in an evolutionary sense the starting point of a higher brain.

The midbrain is the wash-up area:  the next stage of evolution: without an efficient wash-up the restaurant cannot continue to serve diners in the dining room.

The forebrain is the dining room:  a place where the mysterious process we call 'thought' occurs, which is analogous to meals being consumed in the dining room.

2:02    A restaurant functions by taking in food supplies which are then prepared and cooked in the kitchen using recipes and kitchen utensils to make meals, meals which diners have ordered from a menu in the dining room. The meals are then taken to the dining room where they are consumed by the diners. In the meantime the kitchen utensils go to the wash-up area to be cleaned. Once the meals in the dining room have been consumed the dining utensils are also taken to the wash-up area to be cleaned. All leftovers go in the slop bucket. The cleaned utensils are then taken back to the kitchen, where the process repeats itself.

2:03    Dishwash Theory states that a mind works in much the same way:

Food supplies into the kitchen/hindbrain: the food supplies are sensory input as supplied by the autonomic and somatic nervous systems.

Recipes: the recipes are basic instinct, genetically pre-programmed responses.

Kitchen utensils and dining utensils: the utensils are emotions. Kitchen utensils are basic emotions, such as pain or pleasure. Kitchen utensils prepare and cook the food/sensory input.
Dining utensils are emotions that come into higher thought, such as humour or embarrassment. Dining utensils carry and then serve the food/sensory input in the dining room/forebrain.

Menu: the menu in the dining room/forebrain is instinct as it applies to higher thought; ie, “I felt guilty about stealing a loaf of bread”.

The meals are consumed: this is the mysterious process we call 'thought'.

The dishwashing machine: this is the key component, because without the continual cleaning of the utensils/emotions the cycle stops and the restaurant cannot function properly; ie, you won't have coherent thought.

The slop bucket: all food/thought remains go into the slop bucket. This is long term memory. The food/thought remains are jumbled and fragmented in the slop bucket, which is why long term memory is so imprecise.


Dishwash Theory - an explanation of the mind

2:05    Whether or not thought occurs, and how much thought there is, depends on a number of variables:

1)   number of covers in the dining room.

2)   efficiency of the dishwashing machine.

3)   number and variety of kitchen and dining utensils (emotions).

4)   volume and variety of meals being consumed.

5)   type and quantity of food supplies/sensory information entering the kitchen.

2:06    To better understand this let's apply dishwash theory to an invertebrate brain, the invertebrates being those creepy-crawly things which make up 93% of the specis on this planet:

Dishwash Theory - an advanced invertebrate brain

2:07    The above diagram shows an advanced invertebrate brain, such as that of the cephalopods (squid, octopus, cuttlefish, etc) who are generally believed to be the most intelligent invertebrates. The cephalopod brain could be compared to a domestic kitchen; ie, there's no dining room/forebrain, and the wash-up area/midbrain is very limited. Meals are consumed at the kitchen table, but obviously it's a very low volume. Dishwash theory states that creatures like octopus do think, yet you couldn't ask them for the time, let alone play a game of chess with them.

2:08    Lower down the evolutionary chain we have the less advanced invertebrates, which don't even have a kitchen. Instead they have collections of ganglia. Each ganglion controls sensory and motor functions in its segment, and the ganglia are linked together to form a simple nervous system. Dishwash theory states that such creatures do not have thought and operate on a purely autonomic level.

2:09    Getting back to the vertebrate brain, let's examine the variables more closely:

Number of covers in the dining room

2:10    At first glance it may seem that the size of the forebrain/dining room is the most critical factor; but this is not the case; ie, you can have a big restaurant with 100 covers that has a low volume of business because the restaurant is inefficient, or a small restaurant with 20 covers that has a high volume of business because it is very efficient. Remember, 'thought' is all about how many meals are being consumed. Generally speaking, a large dining room/forebrain shows only that a creature is capable of a high level of thought, not that thought is actually taking place. For example, the spiny anteater has a forebrain which is comparatively much larger than ours, yet there's no evidence of spiny anteaters using mobile phones and seeing an analyst every Tuesday afternoon. The spiny anteater has a big dining room but the other variables don't fall into the right pattern to give it an efficient restaurant.

Efficiency of the dishwashing machine

2:11    The utensils/emotions have to be continually cleaned or else the restaurant/mind won't work properly. Why is this so? Firstly, consider all the times you've felt fear in your life; say, when you were five-years-old and bitten by a dog, then when you were 12 and saw your first horror film, when you were 18 and had to go into hospital for an operation, etc, etc. Imagine if you still feel each intense moment of fear exactly as it was, and you now feel all those accumalated moments of fear at the same time. You'd be a gibbering wreck and would not be able to function. Likewise with the other emotions.

2:12    Secondly, there is not an infinite number of utensils/emotions. This is because the brain only has a certain physical size. Looked at as a restaurant, you couldn't fit in trillions of utensils just to avoid ever having to do the washing-up. There just isn't the space, and so the utensils have to be continually cleaned and re-used in a cyclical process.

2:13    As evidence of this cleansing process, consider when you first awaken from deep sleep (REM sleep 3): for a short while you are emotionless, until your senses and memory kick into action, until meals are being eaten again in the dining room. There is an exception to this, and that is when a person has had a strong dream: they awaken and the emotions produced by the dream are still with them. Dream memory soon fades, though, as it becomes overwhelmed by existence.

2:14    Dream states come about as the dining utensils are taken to the wash-up area. 'Dreams' are the leftovers/thought remains on the dining utensils. Occasionally there won't be any leftovers from the dining room, which means there won't be any dreams. Most times, though, there are leftovers, and if the restaurant is busy the dining utensils pile up in the wash-up area before they go through the dishwashing machine. When this happens the leftovers on one dining utensil can get mixed-up with leftovers on another dining utensil; hence, our dreams can sometimes be very bizaare.

2:15    It is interesting to note that although the aforementioned spiny anteater sleeps, it has little or no REM sleep. The dolphins, too, have little or no REM sleep. These are creatures with forebrains that comparitively are as big as or larger than ours, yet creatures which are nowhere near as smart as us. Dreaming occurs in other stages of sleep. It's in the REM stage, though, where dreaming is most intense 4.

2:16    Newborn humans spend as much as 80% of their time in REM sleep. This is because their mind/restaurant has only just formed and they are learning to cope with a huge amount of food supplies/sensory input coming into the kitchen/hindbrain. They make a big mess trying to prepare and cook the food, which means that there's an awful lot of washing-up to do. Over time, infants become more adept chefs: there's less mess and more meals start arriving in the dining room.

2:17    Dream states end when the leftovers are scraped off the dining utensils and the utensils go through the dishwashing machine. The leftovers go into the slop bucket, which is long term memory. This means that long term memory is a by-product of thought and not a component of it. Where's the evidence for this..? Research into amnesia has shown many examples of people who have lost their long term memory yet still have a high level of consciousness; ie, the mind still functions without long term memory 5 (incidentally, short term memory is what occurs in the kitchen and dining room).

2:18    Once the utensils have been washed they go back to the kitchen/hindbrain and the cycle repeats itself. If the dishwashing machine can take large loads, and if it's a fast machine, then this cycle can become quicker; ie, there can be a huge amount of meals being consumed.

Number and variety of kitchen and dining utensils

2:19    Dishwash Theory uses the utensils as an analogy for emotions; so perhaps it would be pertinent to ask: what is emotion..? A dictionary defination would say something like: “any strong feeling, such as joy, sorrow or fear”. Well, we all know this, because we all feel emotions, but what we're asking here is what exactly is emotion? Is it something you can see and touch? Does it have physicality, and thus can be expressed mathematically? We still don't know the answer to that one. All we do know is that emotion is brought about by A) chemical changes in the body, and B) what we sense in the world around us. A and B produce emotion which then helps to create C, which is thought inside our brain.

2:20    We often use the phrase 'thoughts and feelings', implying that what we think is separate from what we feel; but this is not quite true: those 'feelings' are the kitchen utensils, preparing and cooking meals; but then we also have the dining utensils, which are an essential component of meals being consumed in the dining room; ie, you can't have thought without emotion. In reality, a Vulcan's brain would simply not function 6.

2:21    A full spectrum of emotion is required in order to achieve a high level of thought. Let's imagine a person who did not possess the full range of emotions, and, say, was incapable of feeling hatred. This might sound like a nice concept, because the world would be a much better place without hatred; or would it? because in order to be able to feel love you also have to be able to feel hate, and the whole range of other emotions. It's this relativity which gives a thing existence: we recognise what the colour red is because we can also recognise what is blue, green, yellow, etc. Without the other colours red ceases to be red. To use a two dimensional example, we see a full moon, yet a full moon can't exist without the dark side of the moon, which we don't see. All we know is that the dark side of the moon must be there, because the full moon couldn't exist without it. Existential relativity is not about categorisation or measure or opposites; it simply means that something can only exist because there are other things to prove its existence 7.

2:22    Translate this relativity to emotional states and our person who is incapable of feeling hatred would also have difficulty relating to the other emotions. Would this person be capable of coherent thought? Perhaps not, or perhaps they would suffer from a psychotic disorder and could well end up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. A standard definition of madness is when a person repeats the same thing over and over again and each time expects a different result; but in reality, madness is often very hard to define because emotional relatively varies widely from person to person, and it often changes over time, which is why some people are boring, some are interesting, and why some are eccentric and some are lunatics.

Volume and variety of meals being consumed

2:23    Someone says: “I love you because you are very tough, very smart and very funny”. In order to form these thoughts someone's mind has had to go through a process of comparison; ie, the mind compares what it perceives as not being tough, smart and funny, and it also compares other examples of tough, smart and funny to arrive at the 'very'. The act of 'thought' requires a variety of standpoints, of comparisons (existential relativity applies equally to the workings of the mind as it does to everything else). Someone could simply say: “I love you”. The tough, smart and funny ad-on requires more standpoints.

2:24    Transferring this to our restaurant, it could have a very large dining room, with a high number of covers, and it's packed with diners but suppose that all that's being ordered from the menu is ice cream?! This would mean that although a large number of dining utensils are being used, they're all the same kind of utensil and the ice cream is easy to produce in the kitchen. In otherwords, the restaurant is nowhere near its full potential because there isn't a variety of meals being produced and consumed. There are no standpoints and hence there's only a limited amount of thought, despite the fact that the restaurant is very busy.

2:25    A dining room packed with people eating only ice cream could be compared to our perception of, say, what is wet and what is dry. Despite the fact that we all perceive the world differently there is very little room for arguement here. Even sheep know the difference between wet and dry. However, what about beauty and ugliness? What may seem beautiful to one person may seem ugly to another. This is because higher concepts require a wider variety of meals/standpoints, and every person has a slightly different variety in their dining room; hence the thoughts that one person has about a given thing are not always the same as the next person's. The poor sheep don't have a wide variety of meals/standpoints, which is why you never see them wearing make-up.

2:26    The most important thing about what occurs in the dining room is that it is not predictable, which is why people don't all think exactly the same way. The thought process is not one of logic (which leaves our aforementioned Vulcans in even greater trouble). It has the illusion of being logical because evolution gives all creatures one overiding imperative: SURVIVE (which can be summed-up as 'Eat', 'Try not to be eaten' and 'Reproduce'). This imperative is mostly dealt with in the kitchen/hindbrain, but of course it gets carried through to the dining room/forebrain, creating the illusion that there's some kind of rhyme and reason to our thoughts. There isn't, and as an example consider just why someone would put a furious amount of brain time/energy into coming up with something called Dishwash Theory, which explains why they've put a furious amount of time/energy into coming up with the theory? The random nature of thought is explained in more detail further on in this essay.

Type and quantity of food supplies/sensory information entering the kitchen

2:27    The vertebrates all have much the same piece of kit when it comes to sensing the world around them (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell). It's external sense which corresponds most closely to the process of higher thought. Internal sense – pain, body temperature, body position, etc – is mostly dealt with by the brain in an involuntary way (in the kitchen/hindbrain), and although internal sense does have some bearing on the way we think/feel, it does not play a part in the initial creation of those thoughts in the dining room/forebrain; ie, we have to already be thinking before something such as a toothache can make us feel distressed.

2:28    When it comes to the Sensory Olympics, us humans wouldn't win any medals. In fact, compared to many other creatures we have lousy eyesight, lousy hearing, a lousy sense of touch, a lousy sense of taste and a lousy sense of smell. Let's compare our sense of smell with some other creatures 8:

human olfactory receptor cells = 12 million
rabbit olfactory receptor cells = 100 million
dog olfactory receptor cells (average) = 1000 million
bloodhound olfactory receptor cells = 4000 million

2:29    It's tempting to think that a creature with a fantastic sense of smell, or whatever, must be fantastically clever; but it doesn't work like that, and here's why: the bloodhound may have more than 300 times the olfactory cells that we have, and could be said to be able to smell things more than 300 times better than us, and thus can perform incredible feats with the aid of its nose. Thing is, most of the bloodhound's sensory processing happens at a very basic level; ie, in the kitchen/hindbrain. Consider the bloodhound's food supplies/sensory information entering its kitchen/hindbrain: the food supplies are very rich and very varied, which means that they take a lot of processing, which in turn uses a lot of kitchen utensils (dogs are very emotional creatures, within the limits of their consciousness), which creates mountains of washing-up. Bottom line is, the bloodhound's dishwashing machine is not ultra efficient: it's overloaded with kitchen utensils and can barely cope with dining utensils. Hence, despite the quality and quantity of food supplies entering the kitchen, not many meals are consumed in the dog's dining room/forebrain.

2:30    If a creature with highly attuned sense did have an ultra efficient dishwashing machine the results might well be spectacular: what kind of pictures would an eagle paint? what sort of music would a dog make? what sort of literature would a rat produce?

2:31    But this doesn't happen, so we have to ask ourselves why? The only example we know of where the variables do fall into place is ourselves, humanity. We don't have fantastic sensory perception, yet we do have a large dining room/forebrain, and a very efficient dishwasher, and just the right amount of food supplies coming into the kitchen to make the restaurant a very busy operation.


2:32    500,000 years ago the transistion from homo-erectus to homo-sapiens began to take place, and since then the human brain has doubled in size 9:. Half a million years ago the variables in the brain of homo-erectus began to fall into a pattern that allowed high intelligence. It was not a case of the brain growing bigger and producing high intelligence. It was the other way round: the brain had to enlarge quickly in order to accomodate the furious amount of thought that was suddenly occurring in homo-erectus' head.

2:33    Will the human brain double in size again over the next half million years, making us super-duper beings akin to Gods? This seems unlikely, because it brings us to the next question: why are we alone? why are there no other creatures with a very high level of consciousness? The answer to that is perhaps blindingly obvious: a high level of consciousness does not ensure the long term survival of a specis. But where's the evidence for this..? Just look around you: what other creatures could you tell a joke to and get a response? We are alone; and to rub salt in the wound, we are in an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Perhaps during the billions of years that there's been life on earth  10 other specis attained our 'level'. Point is, if this did happen these specis aren't around any longer. What more proof do you need? I suppose you could always go read a newspaper or watch the tv news if you want to start laying odds on the long term survival of the human race. By way of comparison, homo sapiens have been around for just half a million years, whereas the dinosaurs walked on this earth for 170 million years. Perhaps you could tell a joke to a dinosaur. We will never know, because they are now extinct.

2:34    When writing an essay with a scientific bent you have to refer to what is 'known'. In Latin, homo sapiens means 'wise men'. There is a certain irony here, when you realise that what us humans do actually know about existence can be represented by a thimbleful of water, whilst every other drop of water on the planet earth represents what we don't know. That's all we've got to work on; and to make matters worse, thimbles leak.

2:35    Dishwash Theory states the following:

1)   all creatures with a forebrain are capable of a high level of consciousness.

2)   'thought' is a cyclical process that is random in nature.

3)   the 'dishwash machine' is a key component in enabling thought.

4)   long term memory is a by-product of consciousness, and not a component of it.

5)   a high level of consciousness does not ensure the survival of a specis.


Dishwash Theory and Commuter - an installation by Rob Godfrey

3:01    As well as an artwork, Commuter is also an attempt to create a non-biological intelligence (aka, artificial intelligence). This attempt is based upon Dishwash Theory; and it should be noted that this section outlines only how Dishwash Theory relates to the installation, not exactly how Dishwash Theory will be used to create consciousness in Commuter.

3:02    In essence, Commuter is a 50 foot / 15 metre long coffin with a 'body' laying within it. This body comprises of trackwork and trains. The complex trackwork inside the coffin mimics the arteries, veins and nerves in the human body. The myriad of white sleepers that the rails are fixed to represent the bone structure of the body. The topography of Commuter is based on Charing Cross Station, in London, with the 'head' representing the six station platforms of Charing Cross, the 'body trunk' representing Hungerford Bridge and the 'legs' representing the tracks to and from Waterloo East Station.

Satellite view of Charing Cross Station

Commuter is a representation of the human organism and the passage of time and mortality

3:03    Commuter is a coffin. Commuter is the human body. Commuter is also a representation of the mind:

An artwork that is a representation of the mind

3:04    The nine trains running up and down the installation are the utensils/emotions:

3:05    The commuters on the trains represent food supplies/sensory information. The commuters are produced electronically, as are the emotions, as is the dishwashing machine; which brings us to an important point: Commuter is not a universal Turing machine (aka, digital computer) 11. There are 12 microcontrollers (mini computers) built into the installation, yet these microcontrollers do not play a direct part in Commuter's consciousness and exist only to keep things simple; ie, everything the microcontrollers do could be done mechanically, but this would be at great expense and would make Commuter a very unwieldly machine (about the size of a football pitch).

3:06    This perhaps raises some questions: why isn't Commuter's consciousness inside a Turing machine? why take such a Heath Robinson 12 approach to things? To answer these questions we have to go back to the restaurant analogy: what occurs in the dining room/forebrain is not a predictable process. Firstly, you don't know who is going to walk through the door of the restaurant. Will they be fat? will they be thin? What will they order from the menu? How much will they eat? how much will they leave? Secondly, the food supplies into the kitchen are not a constant: some supplies might not be delivered on time, some might be delivered but spoilt, some might be ruined during the preparation and cooking process. None of these things are predictable.

3:07    Let's suppose identical twins walk into the restaurant and both order sirloin steak with chips and peas. This may appear to have some predictability, but it doesn't because what ends up on the two plates is not identical: it's likely that each plate won't have exactly the same number of chips and peas; the shape and density of the chips and peas will differ; the two cuts of steak will also differ. Also, the two meals won't be consumed in exactly the same way. Then the utensils go to the wash-up area and the order with which they go through the dishwash machine, and the way they are arranged on the palette inside the dishwash machine, will never be exactly the same with each cycle.

3:08    As an example of the randomness of thought consider 'indecision', or maybe you can't make up your mind whether or not to consider indecision! Indecision can be observed in all creatures with a forebrain, but after watching a spawning salmon you might change your mind about this. See, that thing we call 'thought' is constantly hopping about from one standpoint to another, and it does it in a random manner until forming a train of thought that sort of goes in one direction. Why does a cat get stuck up a tree? why does a whale get beached? why do people end up in the casualty department with a kitchen cabinet superglued to their hand? because 'thought' is not predictable and something that is not predictable can only be random – Love is one of the strongest emotions yet it is not a constant, it's not predictable: the strength of love waxes and wanes.

3:09    This brings us back to the Turing machine, which is a deterministic device and thus can not be indecisive. Algorithms can only work with predictability - a computer programme will always follow the same path to completion. A good example of this is random number generation (used for games of chance, and more importantly for generating passwords and encrypting data). It is fundamentally impossible to produce truly random numbers on any deterministic device. Instead, computers produce what are known as 'pseudorandom numbers', a stream of numbers that appear as if they were generated randomly; because, as Von Neumann said: “Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin”  13.

3:10    If you accept the premise that 'thought' is a random process then you must also accept that thought can never be produced by a digital computer.

Commuter, randomness and the mechanical mind

3:11    Nature works in a random way and since 'thought' is a part of nature it, too, works randomly. An interesting paradox arising from this is that as it developed the human mind came up with a concept called 'religion', which provides a cosy foil to the arbitariness of nature. Religion/belief is not included in Commuter's emotions (trains) because in itself, religion/belief is not an emotion; more, it's a combination of emotions.

3:12    Randomness in Commuter is brought about by the trains, which continuously travel up and down the installation using whatever route is available. This train movement is primarily directed by a microcontroller in Commuter's hindbrain, and it works on a subconscious level in much the same way as the human autonomic nervous system (which controls such things as breathing, heartbeat, body temperature).

3:13    This primary autonomic control can under certain circumstances be over-ridden by sensory information that the trains themselves are continuously receiving – each train has its own microcontroller and can detect temperature, light, motion, moisture, vibration, air pressure and sound. For example, let's suppose that Commuter was being displayed outdoors and a huge thunderstorm occurred. 'War' would no doubt like the pyrotechnics and torrential rain and might start moving in a quicker and more excited way. 'Joy', on the otherhand, might start moving slugishly. The salient point is, that although each train's microcontroller has been programmed to reflect its emotional theme (and thus must follow a predictable sequence of steps via its algorithm), randomness comes about because Commuter responds to its surroundings, and its surroundings are never entirely predictable.

Sand Castles

Wet sand, it sticks between cold toes
where mounds display so many flags.
Their shells are slippery and rank
in paradise there is no smell,
just masks without expression.

I'll make a castle to keep out the waves
a lovely home for the crabs and mermaids

We lay foundations over death,
our hopes are built on fertile land.
The sea is rich beneath the breath
of magma and God's steady hand.

People are evil and God will destroy them
when I grow up I will live in a cave

Waves pass through the human swarm,
this energy is mc squared:
Oort, Centauri, the child moved
inside a sphere of solitude
a niche from where tachyons spewed
crude superstrings and other things
stewed in quintessence. All life
was one. All points were shooed
into a castle on the beach.

Why is it dark, it's not bedtime?
a monster's flying through the sky!

(no time to ask the where or why)
A burning dog licks its bollocks
and God becomes a grain of sand.

3:14    The second way that randomness is introduced is by the very fact that the trains are mechanical. For example, the train motors all come from the same factory, yet because of slight differences in the way the motors were machined they won't all work with the same efficiency; likewise with the wheel bearings, and the couplings that link the carriages together. The trains run on steel rails that expand and contract with temperature changes. 'Love' and 'War' are six carriages long, the other trains are all four carriages long. All these things effect the way in which the trains run.

3:15    Commuter's hindbrain microcontroller directs the trains via block sections, of which there are 17 in total – 5 through blocks and 12 terminal blocks. Four carriage trains can travel through all the block sections. Six carriage trains are excluded from 4 of the block sections because of their size. Travelling from one end of the installation to the other, and then back again, there are 122 different routes that the four carriage trains can take and 56 different routes that the six carriage trains can take. This gives a total of 178 routes:

3:16    Dishwash Theory states that 'thought' is a random process. Commuter achieves randomness with the pattern of train movement, which never exactly repeats itself.

3:17    Commuter's traffic follows the Dishwash model: the trains start their journey at the east end of the installation, the tracks to/from Waterloo East, which represents the hindbrain/kitchen. The trains then carry sensory input/meals across Hungerford Bridge, which represents the midbrain/wash-up area, and arrive in Charing Cross Station, which is the forebrain/dining room. The sensory input/meals are consumed in the station. This east-west movement of the trains is conscious thought.

3:18    The return journey of the trains, west-east, are dream states: the trains carry leftovers back to Hungerford Bridge, where they are 'cleaned'. They then return to the tracks to/from Waterloo East (the hindbrain/kitchen) to repeat the process.


3:20    At our present level of consciousness we are nowhere near to understanding what 'thought' is. What is becoming ever apparent, though, is that the way the mind works is one of the great mysteries of science, and could be beyond the scope of Newtonian physics 14. There are often reports in the media about the next generation of 'intelligent' robots which will be our carers, jailers, soldiers, etc (there's been such reports ever since AI research first started back in the 1950s). The truth is that these bots can't actually think for themselves; it's all smoke and mirrors stuff; clever programming. Commuter, on the otherhand, is honest in its intent: a mechanical mind, and at 50 feet long, the biggest mind on the planet; which begs the obvious question: if Commuter does achieve consciousness what will it think? This is explored in the third in this series of essays, called  Non-biological Intelligence.

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1. data compiled by Margaret Klinowska, Research Group in Mammalian Ecology and Reproduction, Cambridge University, England, and Dr. Kamiya, Tsukuba University, Japan.
2. this discourse uses nontechnical terms for the Prosencephalon (forebrain), Mesencephalon (midbrain) and Rhombencephalon (hindbrain) because they are more user friendly than jaw breaking latin terms.
3. rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the normal stage of sleep characterized by rapid movements of the eyes.
4. research into sleep is still in its infancy. Hence there is much disagreement between scientists about the different phases of sleep and what occurs in the brain during sleep. This is particularly so with animals and sleep, where very little research has been done. All that is generally agreed upon is that the brain is just as active when we are asleep as when we are awake.
5. this is known as anterograde amnesia, when new events contained in the immediate memory are not transferred to the permanent as long-term memory.
6. Vulcans are a humanoid species in the fictional Star Trek series. They reside on the planet Vulcan and are noted for their attempt to live by reason and logic, with no interference from emotion.
7. for more information see Rob's essay: Existential Relativity - to be here you have to be there
8. Shier, D., Butler, J. and Lewis, R. Hole's Human Anatomy & Physiology, Boston: McGraw Hill, 2004.
9. there is still debate over exactly when homo sapiens first appeared, and who our immediate ancestors were.
10. it is generally agreed that life first emerged on earth 3.8 billion years ago.
11. Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954) is often described as the 'founding father' of artificial intelligence. In 1935, at Cambridge University, Turing described a computing machine which consisted of a limitless memory and the ability to read and write to that memory. The actions of the machine are dictated by a programme stored in its memory. Turing's hypothetical computing machine of 1935 is now known simply as the universal Turing machine. All modern computers are, in essence, universal Turing machines.
12. William Heath Robinson (1872 - 1944) was an English cartoonist and illustrator, who signed himself W. Heath Robinson. He is best known for drawings of eccentric machines and "Heath Robinson" has entered the language as a description of an unlikely, somewhat rickety device.
13. J. von Neumann. Various techniques used in connection with random digits. In A. H. Traub, editor, John von Neumann, Collected Works, volume 5. Macmillan, 1963.
14. Quantum mind theories are based on the premise that quantum theory is necessary to fully understand the mind and brain, particularly concerning an explanation of consciousness. This approach is considered a minority opinion in science, although it does have the support of the well-known: Sir Roger Penrose has proposed a quantum mind theory in conjunction with Stuart Hameroff. Karl H. Pribram and Henry Stapp have also proposed variations.

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