The best analogy I have is to think of your smartphone from the perspective of a normal user. You're used to it working fine. But suddenly it stops working fine. So a technical friend hooks up a cable and turns on debug logging and all you see is a wall of gobbledygook.  You ask what's going on and he starts describing an enormously complicated array of components and systems, and explains that he doesn't really know how most of them work, and that there are a bunch he probably hasn't even found yet. He can try this and that and the problem maybe gets better and maybe gets worse. You're forced to realize that the phone you trusted and thought you understood is beyond your ready comprehension.
Even that analogy fails in that a) minds are much more complicated, b) they aren't designed, so there's no expectation that they should make sense under the hood, and c) you cannot buy a new brain. If it's broken, well, maybe it'll get better and maybe you'll just have to get used to it being kind of broken and be grateful it works at all.
I have no idea how that plumbing is connected, but I have seen it happen myself, and apparently it's a not-uncommon experience for people with Alzheimer's: https://www.alzheimers.net/2014-04-03/connection-between-uti...
And yes, it is entirely freaky when somebody you have known for years starts talking utter gibberish and clearly expects to be understood. It feels deeply unreal.
In the case of my late mother, it manifested as a fixation on and paranoia about money.
Definitely one to bear in mind.
Perhaps more common, but still quite rare at about one person per year worldwide, is something called foreign accent syndrome. In which a head injury causes someone with one regional accent to speak the same language with a different accent afterward, often resembling the accent of another region. Examples have included from US to British, US to French, an Oregon woman developed an Australian one, etc.
Sensory changes, changes in personality, and other things can happen with stroke or accidental brain trauma, too.
One particularly interesting case is hinted at in this article, but if you're interested your favorite search engine should turn up many more cases.: https://www.thecut.com/2016/10/the-boy-who-came-out-of-a-com...
I wonder if could use this to learn languages more effectively. This kind of changes after a trauma shows that we remember more than we think.
The Neuroscience of Consciousness – with Anil Seth
The Neuroscience of Memory - Eleanor Maguire
Also, any book by oliver sacks is great if you'd rather read books rather than watch lectures.
This means that at best we can have a cause-effect understanding of the brain. Until we can describe the mechanics of the brain with a strong enough model where the resulting behaviours can be predicted, we can't truly understand what the brain is doing.
If we knew where to look better, it wouldn't be a problem. Chances are experts know way better, but there are really few who know enough to see a bigger picture and can guide the search. I'm trying to say they are breaking it open, inserting probes and imaging it working. But as far as the "output" is concerned, everyone is naturally aspiring to be an expert. A lot of unguided superficial theorizing may be informative as well, to great length as it concerns psychology and related fields.
 - https://github.com/ajalt/fuckitpy
It accepts input and responds according to its own training. Disobedience is a feature.
It does seem like a reasonable statement, but when you take a bit of time to think about it, billions of people disagree with it. A sobering thought.
> so there's no expectation that they should make sense under the hood
What doesn't make sense is that at first you deny a religious explanation, then without skipping a beat you ascribe (what can ironically be described as divine) mysteriousness and inscrutability to a body organ.
This not only doesn't pass the Occam's razor test, but also assumes a defeatist position that "we might never know for sure".
EDIT: I've taken uncharitable tone with this comment, and it may come across as too personal, which wasn't my intention.
You're also wrong about the religious part. Plenty of people who believe in a god or gods believe that humans were created along with the rest of the universe, but many don't believe that they were designed in any useful sense of the word. You can talk to pretty much any scientist who's religious about that. E.g., a Christian astronomer may believe that his god started it all going with the big bang, but does not specifically intervene in the unfolding of creation except at specific points where miracles happen.
> you ascribe (what can ironically be described as divine) mysteriousness and inscrutability to a body organ
I don't in the slightest. I'm pointing at the contrast between my expectations about a) a system that has been expressly designed by minds similar mind to serve me and be comprehensible to them for ongoing work, and b) something that evolved over time with no such constraints. One can eventually come to understand something like that, but I think it would be foolish for an electronics expert to crack open a skull and expect that it would make sense in the same way that they would experience if they opened an iPhone.
> I've taken uncharitable tone with this comment
Yes. And given that I'm talking about my close relatives with brain tumors, I think you've picked a terrible place to do it.
Genesis 1-27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
If you create an MMO and then host it somewhere where it can run in perpetuity and then you move on and never touch the servers again, can you in good faith make an argument that the game wasn't designed by programmers, artists, composers, etc?
So the players might have stumbled into a game (they were born) and believe that the game itself was created, but not designed?
The people you talk about might believe in "a" god, but certainly not the christian god. It doesn't make sense to say that you are a christian, but you believe in it à la carte.
Also, your argument from that chunk of Genesis is weak. Created "in his own image" could mean quite a lot of things. Imagine that tomorrow humans get the ability to create new universes where they can speed up the flow of time. Pretty much the first thing we'd do is to run a bunch of universes along the lines of our own to see if intelligent life like ourselves turns up.
If we succeed, did we create life? Yes. In our own image? Yes, definitely, as long as your reading of "image" is not extremely literal. Did we design it? No way. And a similar argument would apply if we jumped in further and directed evolution toward particular ends by artificial selection. We would create, but not design.
If, on the other hand, you're very literal about "image", then it requires all sorts of questions. Does your god have a nose? Does it have boogers? If not, why do I have a nose and or boogers? Is he not good at designing in his image? Et cetera.
And regardless, an approach to biblical hermeneutics that boils everything down to one sentence is generally quite weak. It's a big book. Hinging a conclusion about a complicated topic on a single verse is like doing interior decorating while looking through a toilet paper tube: an excessively narrow focus means you're going to miss things, and you're very unlikely to get the whole thing in balance.
Are you saying that if we don't understand something, it follows that it must be of divine origin? That hardly makes sense. I don't see the contradiction in the op you seem to see here.
just because there isn't any intelligence involved, doesn't mean that the brain isn't a meticulously crafted piece of perfection.
Take the eye as an example. There's no need for us to have a blind spot. Octopus have eyes almost identical in design, but without a blind spot - convergent evolution meant that both species ended up developing very similar eyes but with one crucial difference: in humans, the retina is wired the wrong way round.
The retina is like a huge array of light detecting cells. In octopus, these cells are connected to the optic nerve on the back side. In humans, they connect on the front side. The blind spot in humans is because of the need for a hole in the retina for the optic nerve to pass through and split and connect to the retina proper.
I suppose it could be perfect, by some particular criteria. But it seems unlikely. And in the case of the human brain, it's definitely untrue. The selection criteria for the human brain have been shifting wildly over the last few million years, so it's guaranteed not to be perfect.
Note, for example the long list of cognitive biases that we've so far discovered: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
Ultimately we, as a species, designed our own brain.
It's actually not clear if brains are more complicated to understand than modern smartphones. Modern smartphones are designed using numerous abstraction levels - it makes it easier to design, but harder to understand if you don't know those abstractions. Brain, on the other hand, might have fewer fundamental algorithms/methods. In fact, most of the brain complexity could just be evolutionary quirks, some to make to make it's slightly more efficient, others to make some biological functions easier, etc. In the end, it might turn out that the actual human intelligence is not that hard to understand once we got through understanding all those design quirks.
This might sound ridiculous - after all a human brain looks so much more complex than an iPhone! But if you didn't know anything about transistors, analog circuit design, digital logic design, computer architecture, OS architecture, and software engineering (not to mention the complexity of cellular protocols), you would have a really hard time reverse engineering a smartphone.
I'll add that the neurologists I've talked with understand a great deal about the hardware of the brain; the organ has been receiving intense study for a long time. But even for them their most common reaction is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when confronted with basic questions like "why is he doing that?" and "will he get better or worse?"
The brain is perfectly understandable, it's just that we need to learn to understand more things about it before we get there.
We designed everything in a smartphone and can say with confidence that it works a certain way, and even explain why. The brain was designed by evolution, and while we mostly understand what it does, we aren't quite sure of the how and why yet.
Perhaps. While the mobile phone might be more complicated than the human brain (I suspect not), that doesn't mean that the human brain is perfectly understandable.
The smartphone was designed by a large number of groups that all built and shared abstractions with the express purpose of these being understandable by other groups. The smart phone's design is purposely built to be comprehensible to the human mind. There is no clear reason to expect that there are clean, human friendly abstractions we can make about all the different layers on which the brain inter-operates.
To analogize to software, it may be like the difference between diving into well documented code that has: clean separation of concerns, standard libraries and design patterns, hardware agnostic implementation, a modern programming language vs code that was coded by a self-taught developer using design patterns that they made up, employs no separation of concerns and relies on hardware timing and interference quirks.
The former may have far more complicated functionality, but still be easier to understand and reason about than the latter because the former was designed to be easy to understand.
By comparison DNA is actually a fairly reasonable, program 3 Billion base pairs, but fairly compressible and that’s covering far more than just the brain. But the brain lacks those easily separated chunks, making it harder to decode but not nessisarily more complex.
All those things you mentioned: clean separation of concerns, standard libraries, etc, are only easier to understand if you already know about them. If you have no clue what a standard library is, what it does, or how it fits in the design, then you're faced with more complexity to understand than a code which implements everything from scratch.
Took months to get it all back.
I have had a poor sence of smell my whole life, it seems, and have considered looking into why and how it might be fixed.
I was on my way back home in Montreal. I consider English to be my second language. I have two mother tongues - Ukrainian and Russian. And, due to living in Montreal, I had passable French. So I lost ability to speak or understand French for a few days. After I re-gained it, it became visibly worse. Also I had short term amnesia - didn't know who I was, where I lived or where I was going from/to. Luckily, most of the things came back to me within the next few hours or days.
Brain is a bizarre device...
Brain injuries are EXTREMELY difficult and time consuming to recover from, far more so than more typical injuries. The woman in the article was almost certainly going through a massive adjustment and needed tons of help. It's not a simple matter of a bump on the leg and shoulder, and whoops, she's living in a country where she doesn't know the language, as if she was a tourist.
A lesson the American school system could stand to learn too. :/
But baseless assumptions are ok?
For the example above, it could be
"i don't remember"
=> memory blocked
=> too much information interference
emotional hinderance like fear of remembering
insufficient information to recall
Here is a theory: Prior chronic emotional pain can stymy recovery of cognition permanently. Beneficial emotions can activate new parts of the brain and create new personalities unlike what existed before.
Source: Sapolsky's lecture about language: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIOQgY1tqrU&list=PL150326949...
If you want to understand better how the brain works, I really recommend watching the whole course.
If I were to guess, my brain would probably place Mandarin and English in "mother language" part of the brain and Japanese and Spanish part in the adjacent region. I wonder what I would lose if I were to sustain an injury. Would I lose one group over another group?
On another note, as with many American highschool students learning Spanish, I fell out of practice and now I can't really communicate in Spanish at all. When I do attempt to speak Spanish, I notice that I sometimes replace words in Spanish with Japanese ones. Can't be sure whether or not it's because of phonological similarities of Japanese and Spanish, or maybe my Japanese overwrote some of my Spanish.
I put Sweden in parentheses with a question mark because I can’t be sure that is in fact Sweden. It could also be the US. I read about it awhile ago and not in English. Sorry.
I have had a few incidents where, for an hour or so, I was exhausted and distressed and couldn't manage to speak English, only German. I could understand English, but not speak it.
I only found out recently (while reading The Story of Human Language) that he's actually huge[ly disruptive] in the field and came up with this line of thinking. That language isn't just an expression of culture or of general intelligence but is genetic.
His justifications were that 1, in cases where children were isolated from outside contact from birth, once reintegrated at an older age, they can become "generally intelligent and cultured" but can fail to ever learn a language which is very peculiar. 2, that culture can be wildly diverse but there are no non-speaking human groups just like there are no non-reproducing human groups. And 3, this particular case. Where damage to the brain affects very particular parts of not just speech but language without affecting other cognitive functions.
The term grammar is rather formulaic, but the problem is broader, if language ability is seen as an important factor for intelligence.
Theres an episode  of Helen Zaltzman’s fantastic podcast The Allusionist that deals with a similar story: a woman who has to essentially re-learn how to speak and understand English after a brain aneurysm.
I highly recommend giving it a listen if you’re interested; it’s only half an hour or so and really deepened my appreciation of how plastic and resilient our brains can be.
I was fine after that first week. During it, I'd just gone from intensive French (zero to third-year college level conversational and academic proficiency/placement in seven weeks) to a German class, with a week or two in between the one ending and the other starting.
In all my secondary language learning, I've worked hard to leave other languages behind/alone and just function, including mentally, in the target language. I wanted to express an idea, and it came out in French. Not words or phrases; my brain was simply in "French mode".
That's what I'd been doing for a couple of months (in Vermont, not even in another country), and it took a while to regain some flexibility in that pattern.
Normal day occurs and I rent a movie from the school library; 'M'  starring Peter Lorre. German spoken, English subtitles. I functionally don't know German; English is my native language. All is well.
Partway through the film I notice my migraine symptoms coming on [grey-green soup-static eating into my vision from my optical peripheral, tingly numbness spreading up from my fingers, &c]. I know I'm screwed for the night, the best I can do is take pills and hope to "sleep it off" at this point. I decide to trooper it out and keep going with the movie 'cause I'm at a loss either way and I know this dance.
But then I realize that I could no longer understand the English subtitles, a new symptom for me at the time. I could read the subtitles, I knew they were English, I knew I knew I should be able to understand them, but I couldn't take their meaning. So here I am watching a movie where I don't understand the spoken or written language at all. All I had was my enjoyment of Peter Lorre, my appreciation of film noir, my love of film, and the inherent fundamental understanding of body language and facial expression.
About 75% through the film, one of my roommates comes in and sits down. "So, what're you watching?"
I swear he thought I was drunk.
Me: "This guy ... kill kids ... whistle. People ... not like guy."
Him: "Take your time."
Me: "This ... the people. Police ... no nothing. People ... this! ... these! ... people ... get guy."
Me: "The town... guy on trial. No police. Him! Bad guy. Whistles. Dead ... kids. City people ... guy on trial. No police."
Him: "I think I understand. Are you ok? Had too much?"
Me: "OK. Migraine. Watching movie. See? This ... Peter L-L-Lorre. Buggy eyes. Actor. Like a bug."
Him: "... yes. He's in this movie."
Me: "Famous actor! Now ... guilty from ... mob. The city. Death no police but ... dead whistling."
Him: "OK. Sounds like a good movie. See you tomorrow."
Me: "Yes. Tomorrow good ... movie."
I'm not kidding, I actually did talk like a drunken over-acted dramatization of Shatner. My actual language skills were out the window that night. I can't tell you how many times I dropped my Imitrex pills onto the floor before dropping myself into bed.
Yes, I'm better now against the migraines so I have little worries there on that matter but back then it was a going concern.
But yes, look out for strokes. "FAST" ... Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency services. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FAST_(stroke)