Two Faces of Feedback
two kinds of feedback loops exist in nature -- negative and positive.
These aren't value judgments, only descriptions of how different
kinds of learning occur and how we deal with adversity. As you know,
adversity is unavoidable. It comes in all shapes and sizes and doesn't
discriminate. Who we are and what we are capable of has much to
do with how we've responded to adversity. Learning to differentiate
the two feedback loops will illustrate why we often fall short of
realizing our true genius potential, despite our best intentions.
feedback loops create "comfort zones". A common illustration
of these loops is a thermostat. If you set a thermostat to 72 degrees
and turn it on, the heating/air conditioning unit will take constant
measurements of the temperature. If it gets too hot, it will turn
on the AC. If it get too cold, it will turn on the heater. Thus,
the room stays within a predetermined "comfort zone."
Adversity is considered anything that causes it to move outside
the comfort zone (thus triggering whatever mechanisms it has to
feedback loops create expanding patterns. A common (yet annoying)
illustration of this is a public address system (PA). Whenever a
microphone picks up the output of a speaker, it feeds the sound
back into the amplifier, which then goes back out through the speaker
even louder, which then goes back into the microphone. What soon
results is a piercing, high-pitched sound. Positive feedback loops
don't require adversity. They naturally spring up everywhere growing
physiological systems are primarily negative feedback systems that
are designed to keep all of the various levels (temperature, hormones,
blood sugar, etc) within acceptable "comfort zones". For
example, in order to keep your blood sugar level within an acceptable
range, your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin whenever
sugar (carbohydrate) is ingested. Whenever protein is ingested,
a different hormone called glucagon is secreted. This process creates
a negative feedback loop that maintains blood sugar levels as long
as the body is able to manufacture just enough insulin and/or glucagon
(which is a topic in itself).
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feedback isn't very useful in most of the systems in our bodies.
In fact, it would be dangerous. Imagine eating a piece of fruit
(a carbohydrate). What would happen if a second organ sensing the
increased insulin levels would send the pancreas the signal to secrete
more (to expand its pattern)? It wouldn't be long before you'd go
into insulin shock and die?not a very useful process.
of the only bodily systems that thrives on positive feedback is
the neurological system. Whenever the brain responds intently to
perceived stimuli, it often builds newer, higher quality patterns
on top of the existing patterns. In other words, it goes into a
positive feedback loop as it expands on previous perceptions to
take in more information. Higher quality perceptions can be measured
in a lot of ways? the amount of detail, the number or size of patterns
brought into conscious awareness, the diversity of the sensory patterns
(visual, auditory, kinesthetic), or simply the relevancy of the
perception toward the organism's goal. All the brain needs is an
evolving outcome and its natural genius will flourish.
there's a catch (you knew it wouldn't be this easy, didn't you?).
brain is first and foremost a biological organ. This means that
its primary function is to contribute to the organism's overall
welfare by avoiding life-or-death threats. It does this through
negative feedback loops, much like any other organ. Genius levels
of mental skill are of secondary importance to the brain (and a
very recent evolutionary addition to neurology). And this is where
things can get really complicated.
the best layman's explanation of how the neurological system creates
negative feedback loops is the book Natural Brilliance by Paul Scheele.
Psychologists have observed that most people will do far more to
avoid pain that to experience pleasure. Yet, no one really knows
why. Well, I do?and so does Paul, even if he uses a different model
to explain it.
what we know so far. Contrary to what geneticists and $200/hour
psychotherapists believe, most "neuroses" are not the
result of defects in the brain. Most aberrant behavior is the result
of the brain working perfectly within a negative feedback loop.
Whenever the brain senses a threat to survival, it learns to avoid
whatever behavior or environmental situation is associated with
that threat. Whether those associations are "real" or
imagined (created, generalized, or distorted) doesn't matter as
much as protecting the organism. The brain, always operating with
a positive intent, creates a limiting pattern that inhibits the
individual past a certain point.
these negative feedback loops come in quite handy when there are
legitimate threats to the individual. However, given the relative
absence of real physical threats on modern Earth, the brain often
creates most of its negative feedback loops around imagined threats.
These imagined threats often trigger emotional pain.
all, what is pain? Pain is nothing more than the neurological representation
of what is bad for the individual and/or species. These emotional
expressions are meant to convey important messages. Unfortunately,
emotional pain is so ubiquitous in most of our lives?whether from
family, friends, authority figures, or even strangers?that the brain
often overproduces needless limiting patterns that ultimately inhibit
the purpose of the negative feedback loop is to protect the organism
from potential harm in order to promote its primary outcome?survival.
And the brain will often use its chemical/hormonal triggers in order
to inhibit what it perceives to be dangerous behavior. So while
a "neurosis" and its manifestations may seem self-destructive
to the outside observer, it makes perfect sense on some level of
that individual's subjective reality.
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purpose here is not to show you how to "rewire" limiting
patterns that hinder your progress to achieving your outcomes.
only pointing out the difference between the two feedback loops
so that we can better understand accelerated learning. If you wish
to pursue negative feedback loops, I suggest studying Neuro-Linguistic
Programming (NLP), hypnosis
and their derivatives. But I do wish to return to the positive
feedback loops while keeping the limiting factors of negative feedback
brains start out heavily seeking and creating positive feedback
loops. This is how we learn and grow so quickly (we're all born
geniuses). Unfortunately, as we get older, negative feedback gains
prominence. We begin to learn of "failure" and bivalent
judgments (right/wrong) that promote limiting patterns. Many of
us find it easier to avoid adversity rather than seek it and conquer
it. Our ranges of behavior begin to narrow, and we begin exhibiting
a consistent "personality" and "intelligence".
continue to seek only one level of positive feedback at the expense
of the others. For example, some seek intellectual gains (higher
mental skills) as a way of compensating for poor physical or social
skills that were stifled through negative feedback (limiting responses
to adversity). The levels of intellectual ability they are able
to achieve can be remarkable, but ultimately their failure to pursue
physical or social competence will limit them. Others exclusively
seek physical gains (the dumb jock) or social gains (the socialite)
as a means of compensation. Many have chosen to isolate themselves
and "play to their strengths"?a euphemism for settling
for what they think God limited them to.
few use adversity to fuel them toward well-rounded greatness (physically,
mentally, and socially). The processes are nearly the same for achieving
all types of genius-level abilities?create positive feedback loops
and avoid imaginary negative feedback loops. However, it is rarely
achieved on all three levels. Adversity has created most of our
historical geniuses (as well as famous idiot-savants). Unfortunately,
they knew not how the reached their heights, and thus left us with
only scattered clues.
streaming and its derivatives are probably the most powerful positive
feedback loops your brain can create. By verbally describing your
internal perceptions (especially your reflexive ones), your descriptions
are fed back into your brain (via your senses) and prompt higher
quality patterns. Therein lies the key to increasing any skill/ability,
and thus overall intelligence.
long as a limiting pattern doesn't inhibit a skill/ability, true
greatness is inevitable. Unfortunately, life is rarely kind enough
to let us thrive without having to master the elimination of negative
feedback loops. Any irrational fears, lack of motivation or any
incongruence that you feel toward an outcome that you desire is
the result of those deep-seated limiting patterns that rob you of
your true potential.
pay attention to both types of feedback. Learn and enjoy image streaming,
photoreading, and all the other great accelerated learning techniques.
But don't let limiting patterns rob you of the ability to fully
express the natural genius that you were born to be.
by Matthew Turco