"Unused processor capacity" ???

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@NIU.BITNET)
Wed, 9 Feb 1994 11:34:00 CST

Last night's snowstorm threw up a lot of interference on phone lines,
and I think this message got lost. Sorry if it's coming through
twice--but I just had to get this off my chest! -- mike salovesh

-------- ORIGINAL MESSAGE FOLLOWS ------------------

All right, Steve Mizrach, I'll take just a small part of the debate
you're asking for.
--------------------------"seeker1" said:----------------------------
7. The important thing about the human machine is that the instruction
manual has been lost. For that reason, no one is fully certain what it is
equipped to do. Some people suggest it is incapable of receiving data
transmitted through a nonsensory modality. The machine uses only about
10-20% of processor capacity. Therefore, to limit it capacities based on
its current operating level is to deny the possibility that hardware
(genetic) and software (memetic) modifications might result in heretofore
unforeseen improvements in performance.

Any comments, flames, et al...?
-------------------------end quote---------------------------------
Sure. First off, in case you didn't notice we have been spending a
lot of time on this list talking about the word "culture". I sort
of thought that concept, which has a long history and its own biblio-
graphy (not to mention the unbelievable compilation of definitions by
Kluckhohn and Kroeber), might be familiar to anthropologists, but
we have shown that we can't even hear each other on that subject.
We use the same word to mean mutually exclusive things. Given that
problem with the word culture, is there any driving, pressing need to
introduce another term to confound the discussion when we already
don't know what we're talking about? Mum's--no, meme's the word,

As to the allegation that thprocessor on our machine only uses
10-20% of its capacity, let me go first to analogy. My stereo/hifi
has a 200 watt amp; maybe 15 watts, with my speakers, is enough
to blast you out of the room. Why all the "extra" power? Because
it isn't extra at all That reserve capacity means transients
are handled smoothly, system noise is reduced to practically zero,
and distortion is at a minimum at peak speaker power.

Enough analogy. Let's look at where the processor power IS used.
Twice in my life I have been in situations that were super-stressed
and life-threatening where I had to act. In both cases some-
thing put my system into overdrive. I did things I had neither the
training nor the conscious knowledge nor the strength to do, I
did them all without thinking about it, and I did them exactly right.
(One of those occasions had me performing a surgical operation,
telling a nurse how to assist me, and simultaneously starting and
running a military police search team to get an MD to the operating
room to take over. Believe me, that was all way over my head--
and it got me recommended for a medal.What's more, I saved the
patient's life and his future use of his arm.)

Sure, our systems run at only a small fraction of capacity nearly
all the time. What that's about is the extraordinary capacity to
go into overdrive on extremely rare occasions where survival may
depend on what looks like superhuman effort. I've talked to others
who've had the "overdrive" experience. They agree that when it
happened they did more than they were capable of had they not been
operating way outside normal limitations. Where did we get the
ability? From that "unused" 80-90% of the processor's power.

Having experienced the overdrive state, twice, I can also say I do
not ever want to go through it again. It's totally draining. Once
you've done what you had to do, and you can look up, you start
shaking without knowing it, you sweat, you probably puke. You never
remember what you were thinking while you were doing the right
thing. (My other overdrive experience was a direct threat to my
own life. I knew it, too. But I just didn't pay any attention
to that while I did what had to be done in the situation. To my
normal view of things, that's crazy. In the circumstances, it was
also exactly the right thing to do. But I hope I never do anything
like that ever again. I hope I'm never even near a situation where
anybody is called on to do anything similar.)
Let me underline the rarity of the overdrive state. Although I have
been in and out of some tight situations (in Nica, just missing a
contra attack; rough spots in Guatemala and Chiapas), my two over-
drive experiences were in 1953 and 1960. (Maybe there was a third
in 1953, but that had to do with the Korean War. War brings a lot
of calls for mental and physical overdrive. That may be just the
point . . . )

mike salovesh <t20mxs1@niu.bitnet> OR <t20mxs1@mvs.cso.niu.edu>