Threesology Research Journal
Computer 2s Human 3s

(The Study of Threes)

Brain circuitry findings could shape computer design

Guosong Liu, a neuroscientist at the Picower Center for Learning and Memory at MIT, reports new information on neuron design and function in the March 7 (2004) issue of Nature Neuroscience that he says could lead to new directions in how computers are made.

While computers get faster all the time, they continue to lack any form of human intelligence. While a computer may beat us at balancing a checkbook or dominating a chessboard, it still cannot easily drive a car or carry on a conversation.

Computers lag in raw processing power--even the most powerful components are dwarfed by 100 billion brain cells--but their biggest deficit may be that they are designed without knowledge of how the brain itself computes.

While computers process information using a binary system of zeros and ones, the neuron, Liu discovered, communicates its electrical signals in trinary--utilizing not only zeros and ones, but also minus ones. This allows additional interactions to occur during processing. For instance, two signals can add together or cancel each other out, or different pieces of information can link up or try to override one another.

One reason the brain might need the extra complexity of another computation component is that it has the ability to ignore information when necessary; for instance, if you are concentrating on something, you can ignore your surroundings. "Computers don't ignore information," Liu said. "This is an evolutionary advantage that's unique to the brain."

Behavorially speaking, computers are "hypervigilant." Like an animal (human or otherwise) that is constantly surveying its environment for potential threats or possible sources of sustenance. It is impulsive in terms of reacting spontaneously. It doesn't think, it merely reacts reflexively, without a capacity for reflection...H.O.B., 5 March 2012

Liu, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences, said an important element of how brain circuits work involves wiring the correct positive, or "excitatory" wires, with the correct negative, or "inhibitory" wires. His work demonstrates that brain cells contain many individual processing modules that each collects a set number of excitatory and inhibitory inputs. When the two types of inputs are correctly connected together, powerful processing can occur at each module.

In this sense, there is no binary on/off switching taking place. If a neuron is turned "off," this very likely equates with sentient death, with respect to a particular neuron or brain cell. Therefore, we might well venture the presumption that computation is taking place with neurons that are always "on," though the value of this "ON-ness" may not be servicably equatable with our present categories of definition related to what we customarily assign to an understanding of something that is on; such as a light or other electron-based non-biological "alive-ness." We might want to say there is some form of "sleep-mode" functionality, even though there remains brain activity even when a person (or other animal) is asleep. Many of us have seen the "running in the fields" jerking motions of dreaming dogs while asleep.

Instead of using the analogies of numbers (-1, 0, 1) to label the trinary functioning characteristic of a neuron, perhaps a more "visualable" graphic image would be of value in terms of assisting a larger comprehension base of readers. To this end, I visualize the neuron as a glass with liquid though it is a "glass" shaped in the form of a long tube interconnected with one or more other neurons, and not a drinking glass such as you would set on a table, counter, or shelf. (Choose whatever liquid you prefer such as water, beer, koolaid, coffee, wine, whiskey, soda pop, etc...) The glass always maintains some measure of a van der Waal's force in terms of having some liquid present, or the neuron would be dead. Even though you and I may not be able to see the level as measured by any conventional means, it exists:

  1. This would be what some refer to as the minus one.
  2. The "zero" would be the glass in a half full/half empty state.
  3. The "one" would be the flow to the next neuron that can create a state of negative one-ness/ zero-ness/ or one-ness in it.

At each "height" in the tube, there are what may be called "— if needed —" pressure relief valves that may not necessarily have a single spigot nor exist in the same place from one neuron to the next. The "spigot" maybe in the form of a chandelier fountain sometimes seen at fancy social gatherings (in movies anyway). Changes in the structure of the neuron due to disease, injury or diet can increase or decrease the degree and duration of porosity, with respect to valve action. The speed of the liguid through the tube also has an effect on how much or little is "effused" out. Hence, in this model, each of the three "levels" have three possible directions: up/down/sideways (in/out/sideways, forward/back/sideways). Like the equalibrium functitons of our inner ear. Neuron activity may very well function like the three interconnected semi-circular canals. Perhaps there are other parallels to be made as well... H.O.B.

This work provides the first experimental evidence supporting a theory proposed more than 20 years ago by MIT neuroscientist Tomaso Poggio, the Eugene McDermott Professor in the Brain Sciences, in which he proposed that neurons use an excitatory/inhibitory form to process information.

By demonstrating the existence of tiny excitation/inhibition modules within brain cells, the work also addresses a huge question in neuroscience: What is the brain's transistor, or fundamental processing unit? For many years, neuroscientists believed that this basic unit of computing was the cell itself, which collects and processing signals from other cells. By showing that each cell is built from hundreds of tiny modules, each of which computes independently, Liu's work adds to a growing view that there might be something even smaller than the cell at the heart of computation.

Once all the modules have completed their processing, they funnel signals to the cell body, where all of the signals are integrated and passed on. "With cells composed of so many smaller computational parts, the complexity attributed to the nervous system begins to make more sense," Liu said.

Liu found that these microprocessors automatically form all along the surface of the cell as the brain develops. The modules also have their own built-in intelligence that seems to allow them to accommodate defects in the wiring or electrical storms in the circuitry: if any of the connections break, new ones automatically form to replace the old ones. If the positive, "excitatory" connections are overloading, new negative, "inhibitory" connections quickly form to balance out the signaling, immediately restoring the capacity to transmit information.

The discovery of this balancing act, which occurs repeatedly all over the cell, provides new insight into the mechanisms by which our neural circuits adapt to changing conditions.

This work is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the RIKEN-MIT Neuroscience Research Center.

Some readers coming to this page may never before have encountered the "concept of threes," much less the notion that the human brain may have an underlying pattern-of-three functionality. Some may not even be familiar with the idea that computers are based on a binary formula due to the on/off switching coincident with electrical circuitry. Some of you may be like so many who are being forced to play catch up with computer program design, that in many cases is not actually any better than a previous design, it's simply that those who are in charge of the design are imposing their will on those who must do as they say or be confronted by unemployment.

Again and again and again the question arises as to why humans persist in putting so many views into a pattern-of-three, and whether the circumstance is increasing or that more people are merely becoming aware of our proclivity for doing so.

As Threesologists, are "job" (interest) is many fold, for example:

  • Document patterns-of-three occurring in all events, whether they are actual or merely interpreted as being actual.

  • Document the absence of patterns-of-three, what pattern(s) is/are prevalent and what pattern(s) appears to be most dominant.

  • Identify the occurrence of a pattern-of-three with or without the presence of another pattern(s).

  • Identify changes to and/or from a pattern-of-three such as the presence of "fusion" (The religious meditation chant known as "OM" is actually three letters: AUM; with the A and U "coalescing" into an "O.")

  • Rethink one's premises for the threes phenomena in order to improve upon an acceptable hypothesis of consideration for other Threesologists whose own research may add to, reformulate, or subtract from one's own; in an attempt to establish a theory of clarity and testable credibility for all those interested.

  • Help to confirm the reality of a belief by substantiating resource material. We can not afford any attempt to develop a structured consideration consistent with a religion based primarily on the expenditure of intellectual eccentricity, egotism, or emotion. Religions and other philosophical conjectures eventually die out because they are no longer credible survival mechanisms. Those religions and philosophies that better adapt to the gamut of changing environmental conditions are better equipped to evolve for sustained viability.

Some cultural anthropology aficionados may argue that other cultures have traditionally used other than a pattern-of-three world-view such as some Native American tribes subscribing to a pattern-of-four, five or otherwise. Myself and other Threesologists would agree. I for one am thankful that such a difference is pointed out. This difference only makes the stark realization of patterns-of-three that more visible. But the fact remains such cultures are not dominant cultures. They are becoming supplanted by larger cultures with either a bi-partite or tri-partite orientation, as might be described from one perspective as a traditional Chinese yin/yang and present day Korean yin/unity/yang difference. No doubt the next great conflict may very well be between those with a preference for a dual as opposed to a triple orientation. But don't let the numerical values mislead you. This is not a difference between inferior and superior. It is between characteristics of dominance established with an underlying environmentally influenced biological adaptation. It's not that patterns-of-two, patterns-of-four, patterns-of-five, etc., don't exist, they just are not dominant in terms of a multitudinous application in a variety of subject areas because simple environmental circumstances may not call for complex behavioral or mental skills:

  • With respect to twos, for example and in particular, they quite frequently co-exist with patterns-of-three... which evinces the opinion that there exists a one- two- three maturational development sequence frequently overlooked by some researchers (such as the occasion of a single- double- triple Germ layer development).

  • As for patterns-of-four, I have frequently found them to exhibit a characteristic 3 to 1 ratio such as the so-called four directions concept "North-South-East and West," with the "and" serving as a point of demarcation between the first three and the latter one.

  • Patterns-of-five may, for example, alternatively exist as another directions concept with the person themselves taking up a central position between the four compass points. Hence, the four become a 2 X 2 (front/back, right side/left side) + 1 (the "self" at center). While some readers may prefer another type of arrangement, the fact remains that a clear-cut pattern-of-five dissolves when under scrutiny. Whereas those abiding a pattern-of-five view may see nothing but a pattern-of-five, we of the present form of consciousness very often impose our present day form of tripartite consciousness on the information.

Many of us in the present day actively utilize one or more patterns-of-three, regardless of whether the pattern is symbolically illustrated with a geometric portraiture exhibiting a one, two, or three form. For example, years ago while working part-time as a furniture delivery person, I assisted in delivering a bedroom, living room and dining room full of furniture to an otherwise fully furnished and lived-in house. Everywhere I looked I saw items arranged in patterns-of-three. The towels on the bathroom rack, pictures on walls, books on shelves, knick-knacks in (3) curio cabinets, magnets on the refrigerator, vehicles in the driveway, the number of pets, the number of kids, and perhaps even the socks and underwear if I had gotten a chance to look in the dresser drawers. My furniture delivery counter-part was totally oblivious to the exhibited pattern. And when I mentioned it, they not only thought the home owner was weird, but so was I because I had noticed it! HA! When we had returned to the warehouse, he mentioned the circumstance to our boss who was aware of my interest in threes and told the driver that I thought different because I had a 333 IQ. We both had a good laugh about it afterwards since the driver took the remark about my IQ as an actuality "to explain" why I was so different from the other workers he was used to working with. All the female employees understood the joke but only about half the guys did. It took several of them more than a week before they "got" the joke. And they did so only after talking about it with other people.

In other words, whereas someone may use a triangle, another person may use a circle or a line, or numbers, or words, sounds, etc., yet nonetheless use the singular object to represent an underlying pattern-of-three whether or not they themselves are even conscious of their activity to singularly represent a pattern-of-three. For example, a person may overlap two circles creating a third entry for them to discuss. Another person may claim there is one god with three aspects such as Father- Son- Holy Ghost/Spirit; completely unaware that this concept, like the activity of praying while facing the East, has their roots in solar (Dawn- Noon- Dusk) worship. Still another may use three cups under which an item is placed, typically described as a three shells game. However, as Threesologists, let us not overlook the fact that some may be using pattern-of-three symbolism to represent their preferred usage of a pattern-of-one, pattern-of-two, pattern-of-four, etc..., irrespective of motive.

The question as to why we find a continued usage in pattern-of-three thinking, may influence some to speculate that our brains are configured in this manner. A few might even venture to supply what they think is evidence of this by citing processes with or near the brain such as a triune brain concept, or that there are three membranes (pia mater- dura mater- arachnoid process) which surround the brain and spinal cord. We cite such examples because most of us are not directly involved with any hands-on research. For the most part, we utilize the research findings of those who are involved. Yet, in some instances, when the information seems contrary to what we would like to find, we begin to look at the experimental process itself to uncover any possible flaws, and in some instances we may even look at the researcher(s) if we suspect untoward bias.

With respect to thinking in threes, I must admit that my very first efforts in collecting examples was amusedly simple but nonetheless overwhelming since there were so many of them. I was astonished to discover there was no one making a concerted list of threes from the different subject areas. This realization bespoke of a very strange peculiarity given the human penchant to follow so many other esoteric trails of interest. This of course was long before I discovered Professor Dundes' chapter "The Number Three in the American Culture" in the 1967/68 book entitled "Every Man His Way." Not only was I searching for and collecting various threes examples, as well as beginning to think consciously in threes myself, I was thinking about threes thinking (or if you prefer, thinking-in-threes). Such considerations were brought poignantly to the fore front of meditative review after I started using a computer for more than just an occasional divergency so very many years ago.

Computers are frequently considered to be time saving because huge tasks can be accomplished quicker, when in reality workers are being forced to do more. The fact of the matter is businesses are using computers to hire less workers in order to stay competitive with their competitors who are requiring their employees to be multi-functional so they can do more, whereby a business' profit margin is increased. If someone were to design a computer to get rid of all employees except for the business owner, businesses would get rid of all their employees. Businesses are only good to employees under current computer design because it is profitable to do so. So-called computer-based business enterprising is not humanistically altruistic, it is masochistically greedy. "Family owned" businesses (however defined: blood, religion, gender, etc.,) are exceptionally self-centered. Their desire is to keep most of the profits and benefits in the "family membership," which usually describes a very select minority of people, be it a married couple, extended family relations, legislature, or government workforce.

Problems in computer design will become more evident as more people become savvy to the ludicrous nonsense computer software designers are trying to impose on the public. In other words, the general public will not be fooled nor entertained by designers trying to sell items designed with an underlying architecture that is nothing more than compounded stupidity. There are far too many young designers convincing themselves that they are more intelligent than their predecessors simply because the old design was on one side of a page and theirs is on the opposite side. Some of them presume a self-designed standard of exceptional talent based on their ability to type eighty words a minute instead of seventy. I've sat next to these would-be proto-type computer programmers. They can type very fast, but what they are typing amounts to little more than the old Dick and Jane series of readers. To them, speed is being equated with some level of enviable superiority in mental processing, even though that which is being processed is nothing more than the simplistic wailings of an infant needing their diaper changed, like so many of the droopy-pants generation who claim their manner of dress is a "style" to be emulated by all. Thank goodness we have more young who truly have more important things on their mind.

When I began encountering various problems with the first computers I was using to replace my old upright typewriter, the recurring problems brought to mind the realization that computer design was in a very infantile stage of development. I still think that today, though I encounter less than a tenth of the problems I was previously plagued with such as computer crashes, low memory, slow processing speed, etc... I freely admit that my interpretation of present computer design is based on an arrogance of presumption about the human brain representing a better computing design; whether or not the human brain is deserving of such a blue ribbon... particularly when humans have engaged in so many less-than-thoughtful enterprises.

two-part perspective used to portray a three-part boolean description(4K)

Many years ago while searching for patterns-of-three, I was at first somewhat dismayed that computers were designed with a binary code. Yet not long afterwards it dawned on me that this is the reason computers were so stupid! Computers "think" (compute) in BINARY terms [Zeros and Ones] instead of my assumed predilection to assert that humans thought in terms of a Trinary formula (whereby this formula would surely be evidenced in computer design,) as a means of explaining why so many ideas in so many subject areas exhibited a pattern-of-three.

Interestingly enough, though humans were using a simplistic electronic-based on/off switching dichotomy upon which to delineate successive representations of different symbols in terms of an underlying computer binary language, humans were also attempting to impose more sophisticated TRIPARTITE functioning through the usage of And/Or/Not boolean logic. In some instances, as the image shows, a pattern-of-two overlapping circles is used to represent a pattern-of-three. Nonetheless, try as we humans might, we can not transmutate gold out of lead... at least not in the present fashion.

Nonetheless, I have not lost sight of the fact that computers have resulted by way of a single electronic circuit utilizing a double (on/off) switching modality imposed with a triple (And-Or-Not) formulation that would-be or wanna-be computer language geniuses attempt to surmount into a relegated inferiority by imposing added computer language features that infer a greater sophistication if we double, triple, or quadruple the syllogistic framework. (There is even the usage of "Nand" [n-and], "Nor" [n-or] yet no "Nnot". I guess the double "n" was considered superfluous. There also is no "Nut" for n-but [but]. In other words, instead of a trinary And-Or-Not, they insist on attempting to use But, Maybe, This or That, Because of, etc., whether or not such labels are attached directly to some present configuration. It's like one generation of computer language designers using small- medium- large; the next generation using X- XX- XXX large; and the next one making up something as they go along, yet all of them unable to holistically appreciate the underlying pattern-of-three formula being imposed on a pattern-of-two architecture. Like chess players thinking they are more sophisticated than checker players, yet both have two opposing sides, both use 64 squares, and both move game pieces in a horizontal- "And Or Not" diagonal- "And Or Not" vertical manner. I would hit them over the head with a rubber mallet but they would most likely consider it part of some game they ventured into.

No matter how logically we humans rationalize the imposition of a tripartite formula on an underlying bipartite structure, it still has a two-part functionality. We can make it work as a tool of communication, just as we can make two paper cups and a taut string work. And just as kids are excited to play with this form of communications devise, just as they are with walkie-talkies, a tape recorder or a loud speaker; adult humans are acting like kids when it comes to computers. In order for computers to attain a true underlying three-part organizational formula, we must progress beyond the simplistic on/off (binary) architectural circuitry. We must stop thinking like a bunch of kids looking for their image in a school photo. The computer, and all present day electron-based gadgetry is a very poor reflection of the human brain. We can do better. Yet, it must not be overlooked that such an accomplishment may require that the human species live other than on the planet Earth. Let us not be so stupid as to discount the possibility that the Earth's third placement in this solar system, coupled with the Circadian rhythmed effects of the Sun's tripartite dawn-noon-dusk impression predating the genesis of our biological development in the primordial soup, may influence the present form of threes thinking.

Before leaving this page and my excursion into the world of computing and threes, a word should be mentioned about the application of computing to military-based activities. As we slowly enter an era in which the military relies more and more on computer technology to implement tactical warfare, it should be noted that the purchase of such technology is supplanting the need for larger complements of troops. Some consider that wars of the future may be fought similar to computer games, with a reset (or re-boot) button in the event one side or the other doesn't like the outcome. Whereas some people think this is a desirable alternative to the loss of life, it overlooks the fact humans are being viewed as more expendable because they are needed even less for implementing a sustained conflict. Presently, people are desirable if they have more education than their predecessors of previous military duty. Unbeknown to some is that currently, there are plans for the military to adopt policies in which a smaller, more select military force of humans are able to perform multiple functions, no different than civilian workforces in which businesses adopt computer technology to acquire greater profits. However, neither the business nor military communities are cognizant of the fact that their greatest threat will come from within. That "within" is a whole new way of thinking they can not prepare for. It will involve a threes-based functionality far exceeding their ability to comprehend. Like the difference between the triangle pointed spear of a Cro-Magnon and an Australopithecine wielding a thigh bone or branch. And for the biblical minded, there is no David and Goliath parallel to be had in this instance. The land and assumed wealth sought for by the Australopithcine will be left behind by the Cro-magnon for much greener pastures. It will indeed preface the beginning of a whole new species in the making.

Your Questions, Comments or Additional Information are welcomed:
Herb O. Buckland