The language we understand and speak Part Two

By Eli Rejwan

December 28, 2000

This is part two of the article The language we understand and speak. It contains far reaching conclusions. The article Cell knowledge contains these conclusions in more details.


1 General overview
2 Cells manage our memory
3 The genetic code is a language
4 Memory retrieval
5 Understanding memory contents
6 Logic
7 Guidance from memory
8 The spoken language and genetics

1. General overview

Our ability to remember and think were found to be in a domain other than that of the language we speak. Humans born deaf can remember and think. However, words of the spoken language often help us in our thoughts by way of association with other memories and events where the words were used. We gain indirect support, improving our ability to remember and to think.

This is to be expected, since the ability to communicate with others occurred late in the evolution of species. Much later than the need to remember and think. The considerable divergence between the details of the information in our memory and thought, on the one hand, and the meaning of the words in the spoken language on the other hand, lead to the conclusion that the spoken language is essentially a tool for use to communicate with others.

Further assessment of memory information and the possible organizational structure of memory leads to the assumption that our memory contains extensive reference to previous memories. This aspect will be re-examined here.

Two levels of memory were mentioned, but little details given. This is because this topic is discussed here. It will be argued that only cells have memory, therefore there is only one type of memory, including genetic memory. We are not aware of memory processing within cells, but do become aware of brain cell's exchange of memory information. This is what we perceive as the second level of memory. It is the level we know well.

It will be argued here that the genetic code and our memory are similar, and that both serve to give us the ability to exercise logic.

A more complete discussion of the use of information by the living cell is contained in the article Cell Knowledge.

2. Cells manage our memory

Here is a summary of the conclusions reached in the article Cell knowledge on the subject of memory:

The genetic information and memory signals are made possible by the cell's ability to store and retrieve signals.

Both memory and genetic information existed early in evolution when all organisms were single cells. Cells continue to have the capability to store and retrieve memory signals independently of other cells.

Advanced multi-cell organisms have the need to coordinate cell's information on the external environment. These organisms need to make use of the combined information in the memories of various cells. The cells which maintain these memories and the cells which support the coordination of exchange of information are contained in the brain of the organism.

The information in individual cells is not available to us. We are aware only of the mass exchange of signals handled by the coordinating cells in the brain.

Memory retrieval in cells is extremely fast, and a cell's memory capacity is close to unlimited. The memory that we are aware of is slow because it's speed depends on the speed of signals travelling along the brain's nerve cells.

Specific memory information can be retrieved only by providing a clue to it. The information retrieved is most often used as clues to retrieve further related information.

Cells are unable to accumulate a set of information such as a picture, because the mechanism is not suitable to do so. Instead, cells are confined to a continuous, non stop process of retrieving fragments of information, each fragment usually related to the previous fragments. This process is efficient because it has been refined throughout evolution, allowing intervention by biological processes which may provide new clues or give precedence to certain clues.

The affinity attribute contained in all stored information has considerable influence on the direction of memory retrieval and on the response from biological processes to information retrieved from memory.

Cells do not possess awareness. Cells can exercise logic using the memory mechanism. Cells cannot learn, but can benefit from improved stored information.

Cell logic for decision making relies on the same process as memory retrieval by clues. Indeed the two functions are undistinguishable.

3. The genetic code is a language

It was previously mentioned that signals stored in conjunction with words of the spoken language are meaningful only because those signals lead to our original and subsequent encounters with the words. We are not aware of this because the retrieval occurs within cells. We do not have the ability to probe the events happening within cells, nor can we cope with the speed of such events.

There are words that we know, others that we are uncertain and have to guess the meaning. The difference is in the amount of information available within the cells. If the cells need to exchange information through the brains network in order to guess the meaning, we realize that we do not know it well. Otherwise, if enough information is available within the cells to clarify the meaning, or if very brief exchange of information is necessary, the brain cells do not have to resort to enough dialogs and exchange of information for us to become aware of. In our perception the meaning becomes ready immediately. That is when we feel we know the word, and attribute it to having learnt it in the past. What for us is learning for cells is merely stored leads to stored information. The same is true with the details of a familiar face stored in memory.

Therefore our knowledge of a language is merely a large collection of meaningless signals which lead to other signals and ultimately recall all those events that are meaningful to us. This is contrary to our intuitive understanding of the concept of learning.

Did the code in genetic memories evolve similarly to the spoken language ? If so then we have the solution to a major puzzle. This is important because it offers a solution to one of the main obstacles in understanding life.

It is difficult to avoid the assumption that genetic information is essential to the existence of life. The information must have been present very early in the evolution of life. At that time the capability to plan a set of codes and to interpret those codes did not exist. Therefore any scheme of codes would be useless. If we consider our language as an example then the words of the genetic code are mere meaningless signals that can be matched (used as search-clues) and can lead to biological action.

We can allow the words of the genetic code to be originally chosen as any random signals. The same randomly selected signal used for the original word is subsequently copied to make additional references to the same notion. An action that the word may represent is determined as and when the word in encountered by recalling all its instances in the genetic memory using the regular recall by clue mechanism. This process is repeated. Ultimately the process leads to actions or notions of biological processes that are useful to the cell. Therefore planning the genetic code becomes unnecessary and its interpretation becomes possible. Furthermore, this allows the ultimate flexibility that is essential for repeated use of the system in many generations of the species.

Otherwise, if life adopted a methodic code at any stage of evolution the code would quickly become obsolete, difficult to administer and ultimately lead to failure.

It is further suggested that the genetic code is cumulative, contributed to by many generations along the evolution of species. No blueprints. Additions to the genetic memory are rare, and are supported by cell logic. Cells have the ability to:

1. retrieve the genetic information and

2. to exercise the logic needed to make use of information.

Humans have difficulty imagining the high speed speculated as well as the large size of memory capacity, large enough to contain the complete genetic information. Much more memory than what we consider reasonable. It is a matter of getting used to the notion of practically endless memory.

4. Memory retrieval

Memory retrieval was mentioned but only superficially discussed so far.

When we use our vision we constantly move our sensitive sight to point to the various parts of what we look at. That is how we form a picture for ourselves. There is some similarity between our use of our sight and the way our memory and logic work. This similarity is useful to illustrate the way our memory presents us with items from memory. We get fragments of information, a continuous stream of related items, and the order of retrieval has no systematic structure. What our memory will throw in is unpredictable. Much of it gets dropped. However, we end up becoming well informed, since what we remember is very similar to what we observed at the time the memory was recorded. We can experiment to verify that this is the case, and can easily find out that our memories and thoughts never stay steady on any particular detail or aspect.

There is only one process to retrieve information from memory regardless of the nature of memory, and including genetic memory. It is by coming up with a clue to the item sought. The retrieval process may be complex but the effect can be easily described. It is as though all items in memory that relate to the clue pop up and say 'this clue relates to me'. Then they come along with all the details and stay for a short while in some kind of temporary memory. We can think of it as short memory. This describes fairly the effect of the process, but it is not to be taken literally. A possible mechanical process that retrieves clue-matching memories is conceivable, but speculative, and will be left out of this article.

The memory objects thus obtained or their attached details, while in short memory, can serve as clues to retrieve other related information. The chain of retrieval is continuous.

Therefore, as we hear a word, the sound serve as initial clue to retrieve past memory objects which contain that word. Each memory item retrieved contains information on a specific use of the word and has with it the details of the memory event. We do not become aware of this activity because it happens within memory cells. Reality is more complex, there must be numerous steps between hearing and memories of the word. This does not affect the concepts as described.

Since memory access is limited to retrieval by clue, retrieval of an instance of a word always brings up all related memory, even when a single specific memory item is the target. We automatically get all memories of previous encounters with the word. This makes the recourse to original use of words not as absurd as a first thought would suggest. It is no more than plain routine memory retrieval: the clue is the sound of the word and the information retrieved is the set of all memories of the word.

The logical operations equal and not equal are in use to process the stored information. No other logical and no arithmetic operations need to be used in the processing of information.

5. Understanding memory contents

Information in memory is meaningful to the cell, but not the actual memory signals. If we could peek into the working of a cell we would find it watching the vast amount of memory activity, retrieval by clue, meaningless to the cell. Then it find a signal that it recognizes because it matches one if its own biological operations. The cell would say 'Ah, I recognize this one'. There is a limited number of cell biological operations that relate to signals and render them meaningful. All else in memory has to be translated in terms of the biologically related signals to become meaningful. Translation is by recall by clues.

Is it possible to translate complex languages such as the genetic code and other languages into the limited number of biology related words? Yes it is because of the nature of those words, such as the time qualifier, the intensity qualifier the affinity qualifier and the location qualifier..

6. Logic

Thinking is exactly the same process as memory retrieval. We always have some information is short memory, and continually retrieve related items from main memory. Some previously retrieved items fade away. A continuous process. There is no distinction between remembering and thinking.

We can visualize the process of remembering or thinking as looking at the surface of a pond. The surface represents the short memory, the bottom of the pond represents the store of memory. We place an item at the surface of the pond, the clue, soon several related items pop up, dragging along their own details. They sink back after a while, replaced by other memory items brought in by different clues made up mainly of whatever is in short memory.

The surface looks like a movie screen. A variety of memories can be seen at the surface of the pond, they may be emotions, fear, any past experiences or thoughts or sensations. To our minds, this activity in short memory imitates very closely the information in short memory as perceived in active sensing. It is like a replay of the activity of signals in short memory as sensed in real time experience. We do our thinking when we bring together pieces of memory from various past events and thought, and make the selection so that the parts relate to each other. The composite picture has no equivalent in past memory: it is a creation of our imagination.

The affinity process may make the items of interest stay longer in short memory, and directs the retrieval by clues to give preference to memories marked important, thereby influencing our thoughts.

Cells do not have awareness as we know it, but they have very efficient logic relying on their high speed of memory retrieval and on the association of the code with internal cell processes.

7. Guidance from memory

The affinity information attached to memory items is essential to the cells. Cells cannot function properly without it. It is relied upon in giving direction to memory retrieval in order to serve best the purpose of the activity. It is also relied upon to indicate what actions are to be performed by the cell in matters that rely on memory contents, which includes genetic memory.

A biological function puts to use the affinity information, without it the stored information is of little use. To clarify this let us personalize the information mechanism within the cell, calling it Professor 'Info', and the biological action within the cell, calling it Vice-President 'Action'. Suppose VP Action is away on vacation and the cell comes in contact with dangerously hot water. Signals fly all over within the cell, others arrive from neighboring cells.

Prof Info brings up related experiences from the past and action taken, all decorated with affinity qualifiers. Then the Prof does nothing and goes on to do useless theoretical thinking on unrelated matters. An investigator says:

"you knew this event has affinity indicating imminent danger, you did nothing to stop the damage".

Prof. Info: "I could see the danger indicator associated with this event. I recovered from memory information on past similar events which also had the affinity code to indicate danger. I looked at past actions taken at those occasions. These are fact which I brought up. I make no judgements. I did not initiate any action, since taking actions is not something I can do".

The investigator: "you discontinued retrieving information related to this matter".

Prof Info: "memory and thought preoccupy me for a short while then I move on to other thoughts depending on where the chain of thoughts leads me. I dig further into the same thought when there is a request to do so. I view all that information as raw data. I feel no desire to prefer one matter over another regardless of the associated affinity value".

Now let us assume Prof. Info is away on vacation. At the organic quarters of the cell, VP Action is tense and scared even before the cell comes in contact with the hot water. The memory functions are inactive, and the VP is not getting the affinity information. Information on what to do is not coming.

The investigator: "you did nothing to stop the damage to the cell when there were plenty of signals indicating hot water".

VP Action: "I looked at all those signals flying around, but I could not obtain their affinity value from memory, nor the memory of the actions I took in the past when similar events happened. I have no way of telling if what happened is good or bad".

The investigator: "You have experience from numerous past events, didn't you learn what to do ?".

VP Action: "Learning ? There is no such a thing. Learning is a human illusion".

The above description served to shed light on the nature of intelligence. Intelligence is based on the two components which act on the memory information: the memory server and the biological driver, each trivial by itself. When put to work together they produce the marvelous intelligence as we know it in humans and in animals.

8. The spoken language and genetics

Useful information is accumulated in memory during life time but not passed to the next generation. Among these is the language we speak. Memory capacity is not a problem, but there are a few difficulties.

External information are collected and stored in millions of cells. The information would have to be collected and duplicated in all sperms or all eggs, together with indication of their original location. Redistributing the information in the new generation would also be difficult. The brain's functions would have to be reshaped.

Using the same reasoning, we cannot expect stem cells to succeed in repairing damaged brain cells. The new cells' connections and the information in them would not be the same.

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