Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Evidence for Snowcrash's human computer theory

The New York Times today ran a story about the neuro-basis of speaking in tongues.


The article suggests that the neuro-basis of speaking in tongues (a Pentecostal practice of spewing random syllables in a trancelike state which I saw for the first time in the new Borat movie) is consistent with God. For me, what is more interesting is that it is consistent with Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash.

One of the most wild but interesting conceits of Snowcrash is that the human mind (basically being a computer) and our thought processes were designed with some inherent genetic structure. Chomsky and Pinker find evidence for the genetic basis of language (from completely different methods). Stephenson suggests that the brain has an underlying operating system, with a universal programming language, that allow cultural memes (ala Dawkins') to be transferred like computer programs transferred across the internet, but here, it is behavioral patterns transferred between people. So a program that called for obedience to God could be transferred to others who hear the underlying coding for the program.

What does the coding sound like, this assembly language/machine code for the human brain? Stephenson proposes that the Pentecostals' practice of speaking in tongues is a way to access the underlying machine code driving human behavior, and let it rise to the surface. The brain imaging study the nytimes reports on is at least consistent with this interpretation.

Aside: Stephenson is perhaps my favorite fiction author. Here are two reviews I wrote of his books:

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