A false assumption that was never questioned

By Eli Rejwan

November 10, 2002

The subject

This paper describes life's handling of information, with potential of considerable repercussions in various biological domains.

The brain processes information it receives as the center of communications and sends signals to various body destinations such as muscles. The body acts. What is the nature of the signals sent? Are these instructions to the muscles to act ? This intuitive assumption is wrong.

plane level

To have an insight to what is happening, a seemingly unrelated topic will be examined, the definition of two types of possible organization among the living.

  1. Hierarchical, prevalent almost anywhere we look, such as governments, school, corporations, as well as animal groups, all get organized as masters giving instructions and subjects obeying them. Without hierarchy chaos prevails.

  2. plane level, such as the organization of worker bees and worker ants of the same hives. Extensive exchange of information, but never a bee gives orders to another bee of the same hive. The ultimate in decentralization. It works well. When they have to fight off an intruder they work together in large numbers and are effective. Work force distribution covers a variety of tasks within and outside the hive, and is done efficiently.

Ants and bees can do it, but not humans. For humans, fighting a war without a command centre is doomed to be a disaster. So is running a factory with workers only.

The rule

Humans cannot adopt plane level organization. Any attempt will consistently end in failure. We need to find out the conditions required for plane level organization.

The basic rule is simple and relies on the ability to make identical decisions at the signal sending end and signal receiving ends. plane level organization is possible if the following is always true:

sending instructions and sending information have the same effect. That is, organization member 'A' can act in hierarchical role, evaluate the information and decide on what needs be done, then send member 'B' instructions telling 'B' what to do.

In the alternative, member 'A' can act in plane level role, send to 'B' the information to be relied on in the decision making and let 'B' do the evaluation and carry out the appropriate action. If the outcome from the two alternatives is always the same then the policy of sending information, never instructions, can be put into practice, thereby adopting the plane level organization.

Our instinct tells us plane level is not possible. However, it is widely used in nature. It occurs when all members of the organization have the same aptitude, mentality, and genetic information. If one member were designated the master, that master would consistently make the same decisions as its subordinates whenever the relevant information is made available.

In other words, identical twins having exactly the same knowledge and information will end up making the same decisions (the personal ego is disregarded at this point, see explanation later). Therefore, sending instruction or sending the missing information will lead to the same conclusion reached at the receiving end, and the same action taken. Under these conditions sending information is adopted because of its important advantages.


Worker bees and worker ants of the same hive are identical twins. Therefore they have the same aptitude, mentality and genetic information as their siblings in the hive. That is why they can benefit from the major advantages of plane level organization.

What would happen if bees could not reap the benefit of plane level organization ? Misery ! Many bees would be collecting observations for a large group of decision makers, and another group needed to communicate the instructions. Poor flexibility. Poor adaptability.

Contingencies would be designed for the most frequent circumstances. When the exceptional occurs, the system would function poorly or fail altogether. Just like what humans have to face when exceptional circumstances occur.

Humans and other creatures cannot benefit from plane level organization because nature made them different individuals. They make mostly sensible decisions but punctuated with some randomness: nature does not want to 'put all the eggs in one basket'. There are additional reasons why plane level organization fails in human societies, such as the very strong ego.

In real life nature can adopt plane level for groups of organisms only when their genetic information make them dedicated to the group, with no influence of an individual ego.

When the queen bee issues commands, the worker bees treat them as events and make use of their combined genetic information and life time memory (such as pheromone released by thr queen) in order to decide on the response; therefore the queen's commands do not make the type of organization hierarchical.

The living


Looking back at the question of whether the brain's signals are instructions or information, the answer depends on the organization of cells of the living entity. All cells of an individual are identical in their genetic information and are similar in many other aspects. Therefore they can be considered as identical twins capable of maintaining a plane level organization.

The purpose of this discussion is to find out which of two views is correct:

1. The currently accepted view that the brain controls other organs by way of sending signals to act at brain's desire. Body functions can be likened to string puppets, the brain pulling the strings. They act, but are uninformed. This is the hierarchical organization.

2. plane level organization, where information flows from the brain to other organs, through nerve cells and through cell membranes. Cells in the receiving organs are informed active participants in performing body functions.

The description 'plane level organization' is sometimes used in a broad sense to allow directions issued from source to destination within the same level. It is important to note that this is not what is intended here. Strict rules are observed: the source cannot indicate to the destination that such an action needs be taken. Instead the source says 'I have this information' leaving the initiative for action to the discretion of the destination. The difference is the higher level of organizational maturity required that we humans take for granted and belittle but the living cells do not possess.



Nature had a choice between establishing plane level or hierarchical organization when multi cell organisms emerged. Since plane level has important advantages over hierarchical, it is fair assumption that plane level was selected and maintained thereafter.

Observations of real life confirms this. Indeed, upon close examination, it will become clear that hierarchical would be utterly impractical. This will lead to the conclusion that the brain is sending information via the nerves, contrary to the general assumption that the signals sent are commands.

How it


Running can be used as an example of activity initiated as a result of a brain desire. When plane level is assumed, the activities are simple: Information expressing reasons and circumstances of the desire to run is sent from the brain to a large number of recipients in areas of the body which may be involved in the activity of running. The forwarded information is further disseminated through cell membranes.

Some recipients of information will find they have a role to play in the activity of running, and start acting as needed, while others may find the information irrelevant to them and do nothing.

While the running activity is carried out, the exchange of information continues for updates. If the information comes from reflex when emergency action is needed, the proper response will be made by those muscles that need to act. This emergency activity will be treated as routinely as the original desire to run. The source of information can be any of the organs taking part in the activity. This is necessary for coordination.


When hierarchical organization is assumed, the description of events become immensely complex.

In order to initiate and maintain the activity of running, separate and diverse instructions emanating from the brain would be needed to drive the many muscles involved in the activity. These have to be timed correctly and coordinated with the feed-backs

The connecting nerves need the ability to identify the addressee of the various commands in order to channel them to the desired destination. This is not necessary in plane level where all recipients received the same information.

In case of imminent danger such as the loss of balance, a complete set of instructions to all muscles involved would have to be produced by a different system, the reflex, to carry out the necessary action. This is not a problem in plane level where the reflex system needs to do no more than communicate the loss-of-balance details to all.

The hierarchical organization presumes the existence of an action code used in sending brain's commands to its subordinates (muscles). This code would have to be developed and maintained for this sole purpose, as it is difficult to see what other use can be made of the code.

The information signals under the plane level organization would be in the same signal code that the brain receives from the sensory sources, the same code used in memory storage and recall, the code used for the internal housekeeping of the cell and the extensive code relied on for genetic information.

Impact on


A look at the evolutionary implication of plane versa hierarchical organizations makes it abundantly clear that plane organization is at work.

Surprisingly little demand on evolution is made by the plane level alternative. There is the ability of cells to communicate information. The information code of the signals sent would presumably relate to the genetic code, which existed since the early stages of life development.

There is also an extensive network of nerves to carry the information. These are needed regardless of the type of organization. It appears that the only demand placed on evolution by the plane level organization method is the desire to provide information by all to all.

A completely different picture emerges when considering what evolution has to achieve in order to implement the hierarchical organization. Here the complexity of evolutionary needs is limitless.

The genetic code must contain the rules for commands issued: identify the issuing cells and the receiving cells for each sender to receiver combination. In addition to that, the genetic code would have to contain the rules of association between the command signals and the correspondent action required. This is a very heavy burden that the genetic code is expected to achieve and maintain.

Under the plane level assumption this is not a problem at all. The code used in the signals is genetically supported for multiple purposes, and the provider of information is really the information publisher broadcasting to all accessible cells in certain regions, not concerned about the individual recipients.

The transition from single cell to multi cell organisms would require complex changes in order to establish a hierarchical organization. These changes are interdependent, therefore cannot be developed gradually. Evolution would have difficulty in providing the elaborate details essential in starting a hierarchical relationship. plane level transitional requirements are minimal.

The extensive genetic information required in the hierarchical organization becomes an impediment to future genetic improvements wherever coordination is required between the command senders and the command receivers parts of the body.

Referring back to the string puppet analogy, it is like introducing improvements in the dimensions and shape of a puppet that requires a related adjustment in how the strings are manipulated. Nature would have difficulty achieving simultaneous changes in areas where matching is necessary. In a plane level organization this problem does not exist.

The most compelling evidence that cells use plane level organization is the need to introduce variation in the offsprings by combining male and female genes. The genes define the fine details of the structures within the human body and those of other organisms. Considerable variations are also noticeable when comparing one sibling to another.

The make up of every individual is unique. In plane level organization the brain sends the information and each recipient component uses the information optimally as in the previous generation. In hierarchical organization the recipient components are the string puppets that require matching string pulls. Otherwise the advantage from evolution's fine improvements in details will be lost. Furthermore, any combination of gene selection must ensure the integrity of the signals' source to destination map in the genetic codes.

This appears to completely rule out the hierarchical organization. Unlike mutation changes, where selection of the fittest provides corrections within a few generations, failures here ought to be very rare. This is because evolutionary process has little chance to play a role. The possible combination of genes is very large, and the exposure occurs with every birth.

plane level organization allows the maximum independence of individual organs or parts of organs from the structure of the rest of the organism. This comparison is evidence that plane level organization is in effect.


A superficial look may lead some to say 'I agree that signals are being sent, and I do not care whether they are commands or information'.

In fact what was said here is a framework that calls for the rethinking of many domains in biology. This will be the consequence of recognition that all cells of an organism are informed active participants in what they do.

The brain

One domain of particular interest is the brain. The brain's handling of information will be explored with the assumption that cells are informed participants within the scope of their activity. Subsequently the mind's role will be assessed. The biological aspect will be avoided to the extent possible, concentrating on the information aspect of biology.

Is brain's organization an exception to the rule of plane level ? We expect to find either all relations in plane level or all in hierarchical. We cannot reasonably argue for a mix. There appears to be no valid reason to expect the history of evolution starting with plane level and later develop the brain differently. It will be assumed plane level applies to all cells of the human body, and of other animals, without exceptions.

Another assumption made is that multiple brain cells participate in every brain task, since relying on a single cell would leave us with a disabled task when that cell dies. When multiple cells share in performing a task they are expected to apply the rules of plane level and communicate the information they have to other cells as needed.

How are decisions made ? Thinking is a brain activity in which brain cells exchange information on a specific matter and, at the end of the process, all cells in that part of the brain are of the same views because they have the same information. Sometimes such information is suitable for transmission to inform other parts of the body. A decision to run is an example.

At this point we need to know more about the nature of signals used in information exchange and about the code in use. Unfortunately these remain unknown, but the following should be helpful in shedding some light. Suppose you make the decision to run, and the day after you recall the details of your decision. Your brain recorded the details. They come back pretty clear the day after, and the recall takes a small fraction of a second. Nothing obscure so far. Now imagine that while doing the memory recording, your brain cells send a copy to various parts of the body, the legs. This is the suggested nature of information that plane level relies on.

Although the recipient cells are able to evaluate the information equally well as the sending cells (brain), they cannot imitate the other functions of brain cells because they lack the vast amount of memory information available to brain cells, they do not receive the incoming sensory information, and they lack the large network of connections to other brain cells. They also lack the mechanism that gives us awareness of brain activity, the mind.

Indeed it seems that signal recipient cells always accept brain's wishes and opinions as valid. We know that when brain's judgements are impaired due to alcohol or for other reasons, the recipient cells cannot detect the inadequacy to make adjustments. They are not equipped to do the type of reasoning done in the brain, although it appears that cells of many organs are able to make decisions in matters that are in their own domain.

The conclusion is that all body cells process information similarly, with variations that are related to their specialization. Brain cells may receive sensory information, memory information, warnings, then they enter into a dialog to reach consensus, and finally, if necessary, they inform other cells. So do digestion system cells: they obtain sense information, communicate with other cells, coordinate their action. It is likely that brain cells do not have a special status under plane level.

Brain cells may fulfill other important functions with which we are not concerned in this discussion about the handling of information in plane level organization.


An imaginary flow of information in the speech activity can serve as an example, keeping in mind that this example is hypothetical.

While talking, you may decide on a familiar whole sentence. At other times you chose your words before speaking. In reality it could be that the brain sends a package of information about the desire to say the whole sentence, or about each of the words as you chose them, to the speech section of the brain. Vocalization details from the memory of the speech section are added, and the whole package disseminated among the speech organs.

The information allows cells of the speech organs to act with knowledge of what needs to be done and why. While the spoken items get vocalized, the brain goes on doing other preparations. In plane level we can expect the speech organs to exchange information for timing coordination without involving the brain. The function of vocalization of speech can be described as a decentralized activity.

These comments on the brain are not complete without mentioning the mind. Any discussion involving the brain is a risky venture. Much more risky is involving the mind. One aspect will be mentioned here, the interface between the brain and the mind, because plane level organization appears to indicate a possible explanation.

The mind

Two of the most prominent functions attributed to the mind are thinking and decision making. These are now reassigned to the brain by virtue of our recognition that cells are informed active participants in their domain, including brain cells.

Another function of the mind that is of a major importance, awareness, remains a mystery and appears to be very difficult to crack. The interface between the mind and the brain is well within the subject of this discussion, and will be examined.

It is abundantly clear that the mind applies its ability of awareness to place us within the various brain thinking and decision making activities, giving us the realization that they are our own. The mind has no access to the brain cells themselves, its reach being limited to the traffic of dialog between brain cells.

This leaves open the possibility that the mind is either abstract or is contained in specific type of cells in the brain. Our mind is a window to brain's activity. Our emotions, whims and fancies, together with the sense information, are all brought to us by the mind by tapping brain cells dialogs. Anything that can be recorded in our memory can also be brought to our awareness by our mind. This leaves the internal information in brains cells out of reach of our minds, and satisfy the rules of plane level organization.

Here is an example: a small child's mind wandering in thoughts, then gets excited about trying to walk backward.

The child's mind wanders in thoughts: that is when the brain cells exchange information about some gradually changing topics. The child's mind reflects this activity and gives the child the feeling of doing the thinking.

The idea of walking backward is raised. Feelings of excitements and feelings of caution may be contained in the exchange of information. The cells end up with identical set of information where the excitement prevails. The child's mind reflects the consensus that walking backwards is the thing to do.

Brain cells communicate the information to other body cells. Not in the form of command to walk backward, they do not know how to produce such a command. They send a copy of the information that is now common among the particular area of the brain. It includes the thought, the feeling of excitement, the elements of caution considered.

The receiving body cells, upon receipt of the information, know all about this action at the same level as the brain cells. Consequently they also feel that walking backward is the thing to do now. Action starts.


Here is what should demystify the process of learning. If at the start of a dialog the brain cells happen to all have similar information, a brain decision can be reached within too little time for the mind to reflect the event. That is when we become used to perform very routine acts without having to give them a thought. That is what we call learning. Learning a song or a new word is to have the same information about them stored in most related brain cells so as to require minimum brain cell activity during recall.



Memory recall, thinking and decision making are brain cells activities that rely on the transfer of information signals. They are sensed by the mind. The mind is an excellent window that allows us to probe brain activities. The recognition of plane level provides us with an opportunity to have a fresh look at the possible inner workings of the brain and the mind.

The research and accumulation of knowledge of the living done over many centuries was always heavily influenced by human's instinctive assumption of hierarchical organization. Rethinking with plane level organization in mind will bring many surprises.

It takes a major mental effort and requires exceptional determination to see clearly the working of plane level. This is true even when you are convinced it is valid. It is because we are profoundly immersed in the hierarchical organization.





Positive thinking of the outcome of a disease has been shown to improve the probability of satisfactory developments. While this fact is puzzling under the hierarchical assumption, it is almost expected under plane organization where cells function as informed active participants in what they do. This area remains in the domain of biology, where doctors, nurses and other professionals can influence the patient. However, their effectiveness may be improved considerably by a knowledge of the forces that make this phenomenon work and by a better understanding of its limitations.

There are two important aspects involved which are information related.

The first is the extensive planning that cells do. When the patient has a strong belief that an affected part of the body will be repaired, brain cells and other cells involved usually need to plan a large number of activities timed to produced the desired results. They continuously make any necessary adjustments to achieve success. Keeping this in mind will help the professional avoid attempting unachievable targets. Setting the cells to plan for a successful outcome is all there is behind the influence of positive thinking. Avoid technical language in favor of describing the current sensation and the desired sensation.

The second aspect is the degree of conviction. Cells operate by doing a continuous search by clues. The exchange of clues between cells lead to a common understanding between cells. The deep conviction of healing will more often resolve the search quickly in favor of the what is necessary for the target. Otherwise the occasional alternative action is taken, which may not be compatible with the effective coordination required.



The arguments presented here in relation to the brain functions are more meaningful when examined in conjunction with other articles which I wrote over the past few years, and which can be found in www.cellknowledge.com. Those articles deal with information processing within the living cell in a domain that relies on a hypothetical information storage and retrieval capability based on particle physics, on the one hand and, on the other hand, the cells' ability to perform the various biological functions. In between is the vast field of information processing, which is responsible for enabling our memory and thinking capabilities as well as the use of genetic information.

It was shown that the main complex capabilities of living cell's activities are achieved by the manipulation of information.

The organization presented relies on an information storage and retrieval system that supports the capability to copy and store information, and do retrieval using a clue to the information to retrieve. It is assumed that each cell contains a number of mechanisms each spinning continuously, retrieving information by clue and using the retrieved information as partial input to the clue for the next cycle of retrieval. The articles show that this continuous retrieval process gives the cell the ability to have memory and exercise logic.


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