Tips on Approaching a New Paradigm

New ideas are challenging Then are often confusing, difficult to understand, and contradict one’s current beliefs.

When it comes to a set of ideas which form a new science paradigm, the challenges are magnified. A paradigm shift is an entirely new way of looking at a topic. A new paradigm has nothing to do with the current one. It will seem strange and alien. Einstein’s relativity for example was an entirely new way of looking at how the universe works, on a large scale. It was fundamentally different from Newton’s conception. Almost all his physics colleagues had no interest in it.

Given this backdrop, I thought I’d offer a few tips for those interested in my new cognitive science paradigm – the MA (Memory Activation) Method.

Exercise Patience: I am not perfect. My communication skills are not always the best. In my defense I am a mind/brain philosopher and engineer not a writer. I define the mind — as a set of (connected, weighted) memory networks — and show how to map these to the brain. This has been my focus for the last few years. Writing is different from thinking and building a (functional and structural) model of the mind/brain system. Be patient with me — I’m working on it!

Patience is also required to learn a new paradigm. The MA Framework won’t make sense, at first, to anyone who believes the brain processes or computes information similar to a computer. Or who believes that once “processed,” experience has nothing to do with the brain. Those with a background in brain science — neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience etc. — will (consciously or unconsciously) believe this. It’s a struggle to see past this underlying conceptual framework. It takes repeated exposure to a new way of seeing the brain (as a memory-forming, memory-activating, mind-expressing entity) for it to “sink in.”

Tolerate Confusion: What happens when old ideas meet contradictory new ones? A lot of confusion is created. The mind is in the brain, so its physical right? Its about neurons, neural networks, etc. So why is he talking about subjective experience?! The brain processes or computes information, doesn’t it? So why is he talking so much about “memory activation?”

The good news is confusion is a sure sign the paradigm might be right. If it were easily understood, it would HAVE to be wrong. Given the intense interest in understanding the brain, most brain scientists would have already thought of an easy-to-understand view of the brain!

Put Ego & Emotion Aside: It’s natural for anyone – myself included – to become emotionally invested in one’s beliefs. Ideas which contradict these can seem like an “attack.” One’s ego is invested in being right, not wrong..

As I try to remind myself, relax, breathe… it’s just an idea. If you find it potentially useful or interesting pursue it. If not don’t worry about it. As the song goes, “don’t worry, be happy!”

I would argue momentary passions and emotions, especially in science, aren’t important anyway. What is important is the truth, and the pursuit of it.

The good news is recognizing one might be wrong is the first step toward truth, humility, and being right!

Recognize the Opportunity: The MA Framework in my opinion represents an exciting opportunity! Both mind and brain can be better understood — given the correct cognitive neuroscience framework. It’s true new ideas can be difficult. But think of the payoff – what an improved understanding would mean. Neuroscience data and knowledge more clearly understood, and applied more readily to real-world problems. Specific projects in CNS medicine, brain computer interface, neuroprosthetics, and other fields enhanced (in both the short and long term). Tolerating a certain amount of confusion, challenge to one’s ego, and imperfect communication will be well worth the effort!

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