Saturday, May 19, 2007

Serial consciousness

Serial consciousness.
We can focus our attention only at one thing at the time in a conscious way. If we try to listen to two simultaneous stories that enter our left en right ear respectively, then we can follow only one story at the time. By shifting between the stories we can try to emulate a double focus, but essentially you follow only one story with your attention at any given time.

Parallel unconsciousness.
In contrast we can do unconscious parallel processing on a vast scale. While you sit and read this you are balancing against gravity, for every word you read you have to look in an internal dictionary, if a word has a double meaning you choose which one is appropriate, your eye muscles are constantly adapting, your hart beats etc., etc.. All this happens unconscious. All this happens parallel at the same time.

Serial and parallel.
In order to store any information from the outer world into your memory, it is ABSOLUTE NECESSARY that it is processed in a serial conscious way. When the focus of attention puts the information in the light of consciousness, the information becomes available for all the parallel unconscious systems though. Only then all the unconscious systems are triggered to do their job, so far it is appropriate for the given information. Although the conscious part takes only 1% of the total efforts, without it the 99% unconscious work will not start. So the idea that you can learn a foreign language by playing a taperecorder under your pillow is utterly nonsense. You MUST make a conscious effort. And since that can only in a serial way, it will take a lot of time.

The unconscious modules of our mind can work miracles. It is unbelievable what they can do. We can create access to any part of the brain using consciousness (Baars).
To control a single spinal motor neuron we merely pick up its electrical activity and play it back over headphones; in a half-hour subjects have been able to play drumrolls on their single motor neurons! Of course they are not conscious of the details of control. Conscious feedback mobilizes unconscious systems that handle the details.

Suboptimal training.
I have done all sorts of training to improve my chess. Given the results, I always had the feeling that the methods I used weren't optimal. That something was missing. Now I have seen the importance of the conscious part of learning, it is just logical that I am prepared to go to any length to optimize this part of the job.

There is an astonishing relationship between a conscious effort and the output of the unconscious modules that are triggered by that effort. On the one hand, the unconscious systems seem to add intelligence and organisation, and on the other hand the result is very precise. If you sing a song and you focus on pitch, your pitch is corrected. Your notelengths, rests, lyrics, intonation and timbre remain uneffected. If you sing the same song and you focus on your timbre, all the other aspects remain uneffected.

So you must be certain that during your conscious efforts of chesstraining all single important details get focus. If you forget to give conscious attention to just one detail, you cannot expect a change in your unconscious chessmodule for that detail.


  1. It's because of considerations like this that when I get a tactical puzzle wrong in CTB I try to impress in my brain the seed of tactical destruction that I overlooked (often it's the ability to exploit a queen and another piece on the same diagonal).