The Secret of Intuition
by Abraham Thomas
14 new insights reveal how intuition controls the
1. The dilemma of control.
We did not choose to be born. We were pitched into this strange
world without our permission. Now, science also confirms that
we lack even sufficient control over our own actions. To all
outward appearances, human beings perceive the world, recognize
objects and events, direct attention and even control their bodies.
Outwardly, we also have a free will. But, in reality, we were
scarcely in charge. Science described the activities of a region
called the limbic system, buried deep within the brain. Being
a more primitive part of the brain, this region was reported
to be the seat of emotions.
2. The limbic system controls.
Electrical stimulation of neurons in this region caused you
to feel anger, fear, or shame. More often than not, the wide
range of feelings and emotions, generated by this region, controlled
our actions. Did your wishes, or the limbic system finally decide
your actions? This was easily verified. Whenever you wished,
could you raise your hand high? Sadly, no. While the hand obeyed
your wish while sitting alone in a room, it would be frozen in
place in, say, a theatre. Fear of public opinion decided the
issue. It was the limbic system, which decided that it was not
appropriate. It was the same when you first wished to jump off
the high diving board. Fear of falling decided NO!
The limbic system made you rigid. There were so many situations,
when emotions ruled, while your wishes waited in the wings.
3. The mind and maths.
Scientists reported that such responses of the mind occurred
within a bare 20 milliseconds. The nervous system processed all
available information and commanded the muscles to be frozen
in just that span of time. It was a system, which contained over
a hundred billion neurons. They processed the information from
input to output in just half a second. How was this information
processed? For most scientists, neural interactions were computations.
Maths, or logic based. But, while the mind was multi-dimensioned,
calculations were limited to domain specific problems.
Apples could not be added to pears. No formula could compute
the loss of a loved one and feel the pain. The mind could deal
with diverse dimensions. It could recognize beauty, shame, or
affection. It was obvious that the elegance of the mind could
not be explained by calculations, or by convoluted reasoning
chains. There was a flaw in the maths approach. There was an
alternative. Instead of calculating, the nerve cells could be
4. Many nerve cells recognize patterns.
A vast army of nerve cells recognized signals in the environment.
Chemoreceptors in the nose and tongue reported on molecules which
provided information on smell and taste. Other receptors were
massed together to form sense organs such as the eye and the
ear. There were receptors which reported on pressure, touch,
pulling and stretching. Every sensation was recognized by specialized
mechanisms and converted into nerve impulses. Feelings, those
mysterious elements which maddened or enraptured humans, were
also patterns of recognized nerve impulses. The fMRI brain scans
have reported the firing of feeling impulses in the limbic regions.
Patterns of hate and anguish, laughter and disgust. Function
specific recognition was the key message for millions of cells.
5. The pattern recognition problem.
Could pattern recognition be the basic neural process? Unfortunately,
the recognition of patterns was too formidable a task for it
to be simulated on computers. The diagnosis of diseases was a
typical pattern recognition problem. The obstacle was that many
shared symptoms were presented by a multitude of diseases. Pain,
or fever were present for many diseases. Each symptom pointed
to several diseases. In the customary search, the first selected
disease with the first presented symptom could lack the second
symptom. So there were back and forth searches, which followed
an exponentially expanding trajectory as the database increased
in size. That made the process absurdly long drawn theoretically,
even years of search, when searching extensive databases. In
the light of such an impregnable problem, science did not evaluate
pattern recognition as a practical process for the nervous system.
6. Algorithms and Intuition.
As against such difficulties, an unusual new book, The Intuitive
Algorithm, explains a process, which could instantly recognize
patterns. Algorithms, were automatic procedures, which did most
things in computers. They were mechanical tools, like gear boxes.
You gained a predicted output for a specific input. Algorithms
looked as far removed from intuition as a jack hammer from a
baby. Because, intuition was a fabled gift, which enabled Einstein
to discover relativity, or Mozart to compose beautiful music.
But, the Intuitive Algorithm (IA) was different. It acted more
like an adding machine, which could smile. The novel capability
of IA opened a new world of possibilities in understanding the
7. Instant pattern recognition.
IA was unique. In a feat never achieved by computers before,
IA could almost instantly diagnose diseases. IA used elimination
to narrow down possibilities to reach the correct answer. In
essence, IA did not calculate, but used elimination to recognize
patterns. IA acted with the speed of a simple recalculation on
a spreadsheet, to recognize a disease, identify a case law or
diagnose the problems of a complex machine. It did this holistically
and almost instantly, through simple, logical steps. IA proved
that holistic, instant, real time pattern recognition was practical.
IA provided the first clue to the secret of intuition. The website
intuition.co.in and the book explain IA in detail.
8. The mind was holistic.
Walter Freeman the famous neurobiologist defined the critical
difficulty for science in understanding the mind. The cognitive
guys think it's just impossible to keep throwing everything you've
got into the computation every time. But, that is exactly what
the brain does. Consciousness is about bringing your entire history
to bear on your next step, your next breath, your next moment.
The mind was holistic. It evaluated all its knowledge for the
next activity. However large its database, the logic of IA could
yield instant pattern recognition. Since that logic was robust
and practical, intuition could also be such an instant pattern
recognition process. Intuition could then power the mind to instantly
recognize an infinite variety of objects and events. Each living
moment, it could evaluate the context of a dynamic multi-sensory
world and its own vast memories. But, how could data be stored
for such instant access?
9. Nerve cells have memories.
The next clue to intuition pointed to the nerve cell as a
potent recognition machine. The insight related to the recently
announced discovery that nerve cells used a code for the recognition
of smells. A combinatorial code. That discovery was awarded a
Nobel Prize in 2004. It was a code, which recognized smells.
But, you needed to remember a smell to recognize it. That memory
had to be stored and recalled. And, the book, The Intuitive Algorithm,
explained how a combinatorial code logically demanded a memory
for combinations. Each nerve cell could remember millions of
combinations and respond to recognized patterns. That major discovery
also implied that the coding could grant a galactic memory to
the nervous system. The secret of human memory was a puzzle sought
round the world by thousands of scientists. Yet, massive memories
could reside so obviously in the combinatorial codes of nerve
10. Object Recognition.
But, how could recognition be organized within this vast,
enigmatic, neural circuit? Many scientists favoured the view
of the mind as a single collective network. Friston suggested
the example of interacting waves in a pond. A stone dropped into
the pond affected the whole. According to them, complex internal
computations created the intelligence. As opposed to this, medical
texts reported that the mind had a hierarchy of intelligences,
which performed independent tasks. Each intelligence was separate
like the association region that recognized a pair of
scissors using the context of its feel. If you injured this region,
you could still feel the scissors with your eyes closed, but
you would not recognize it as scissors. You still felt the context,
but you would not recognize the object. The IA logic could enable
a group of nerve cells to evaluate context and recognize. So,
intuition could enable nerve cells in association regions to
recognize objects. Medical research reported many such recognition
11. Event recognition.
Instant pattern recognition was possible. The mind could be
a pattern recognition system, which recognized objects and triggered
motor outputs. Beyond mere object recognition, the mind could
also recognize events. As against static objects, events were
dynamic. There were reported cyclic timing networks in the nervous
system, which could use IA to recognize events. Just the way
a bank computer recognized a fraudulent activity. An event could
be a simple verb, such as walk, or a complex idea,
say, the achievement of democracy. The massive memories in nerve
cells could enable them to recognize intricate events, like war,
or a mathematical theory. Thought was the recognition of events.
Recognition of the dynamic present from the context of complex
remembered patterns. The concept has also been explained in The
12. The mind seamless pattern recognition.
The the mind was a recognition machine, which instantly recognized
the context of its ever changing environment. The system triggered
feelings when particular classes of events were recognized. The
process was achieved by inherited nerve cell memories accumulated
across millions of years. When the mind recognized events, it
triggered anger, or fear. And feelings triggered actions. IA
could enable a feeling to move a muscle. Actions were sequences
of muscle movements. A drive. Drive sequences could be remembered
by nerve cells. Feel anger and pull the trigger. A single feeling
could trigger a drive. That was how we were driven. So the circuit
closed. Half a second for a 100 billion nerve cells to use context
to eliminate irrelevance and deliver motor output. The time between
the shadow and the scream. So, from input to output, the mind
was a seamless pattern recognition machine.
Machines were perceived to be clanking mechanical things.
If intuition was a pattern recognition algorithm, the mind could
be one such machine. But, the reader could protest that we were
different. After all, we could see, recognize and feel. We had
a free will. But, pattern recognition could explain that too.
Science reported that there was a region, which received sensory
perceptions, recalled memories, and recognition images from all
regions. This region was also known to be able to direct attention.
They called these the prefrontal regions, the seat of consciousness.
We identified ourselves with that region. The final seat of wisdom,
which willed. This was the seat of a superior intelligence. Unfortunately,
in spite of an exercise of will, reality persisted. Will, or
a more powerful emotion decided. It was the primitive limbic
system, which made the final decision. Emotions needed to be
stilled so that consciousness could be free to arrive at calm
actions. Thus, stilling emotions became the prime objective of
sages, across millenniums.
14. Religion and mysticism.
The final insight showed the limitations of intuition. This
incredibly powerful recognition machine could creatively connect
to memories of millions of years of history and even, the divine.
Intuition was an elimination algorithm. It was a subconscious
process. Creative and mystic inputs were timid and ethereal.
Faith and expectation encouraged them, while doubt, or suspicion
eliminated them. Inevitably, such a relentless elimination process
often set scientific minds at loggerheads with religion and mystic
insights. Because science was, by its very analytic nature, suspicious.
So, without access to the whole, the wisdom of science was limited.
These ideas, and more, have been suggested in The Intuitive
Algorithm, an unusual new book. These conclusions remain to be
accepted by science. While it goes against millions of pages
of older scientific theories, the book has a powerful logic,
which will ultimately prevail. In the meanwhile, open minds around
the world could benefit from its insights.
About the Author
Abraham Thomas is the author of The Intuitive Algorithm, a
book, which suggests that intuition is a pattern recognition
algorithm. The ebook version is available at www.intuition.co.in. The book may be purchased
only in India. The website, provides a free movie and a walk
through to explain the ideas.