is self-improvement really possible


by mathscience
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mathscience
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Feb14-12, 11:18 AM
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The Greek philosopher Epictetus said , "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid." Which is to say, going against the flow is never popular.

But I was wondering, is self-improvement really possible, or are we just rearranging our existing parts?
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Pythagorean
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Feb14-12, 11:51 AM
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why are the two (self improvement and rearranging) mutually exclusive?
ThomasT
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Feb14-12, 11:51 AM
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I'm wondering why this thread hasn't been locked.

Pythagorean
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Feb14-12, 11:56 AM
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is self-improvement really possible


it skims by on min requirements, asks a question to be safe. But yeah, it's a bit of a sluff.
Greg Bernhardt
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Feb14-12, 11:59 AM
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Quote Quote by mathscience View Post
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said , "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid." Which is to say, going against the flow is never popular.

But I was wondering, is self-improvement really possible, or are we just rearranging our existing parts?
If we are unable to self improve then we must be at full capability at birth? Obviously that is false.
mathscience
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Feb14-12, 12:42 PM
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Some of the best concepts in physics have been borrowed from other fields. Which would suggest they have just been rearranged, as opposed to being original ideas.
ThomasT
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Feb14-12, 01:46 PM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
why are the two (self improvement and rearranging) mutually exclusive?
Yes, improvement would seem to entail some rearranging.
Pythagorean
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Feb14-12, 01:51 PM
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Quote Quote by mathscience View Post
Some of the best concepts in physics have been borrowed from other fields. Which would suggest they have just been rearranged, as opposed to being original ideas.
One can easily argue that all "original ideas" come only from rearrangement. Most of our abstract concepts come from our experiences with our somatic system (which is why we use spatial metaphor to describe abstract concepts so much).
mathscience
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Feb18-12, 07:12 PM
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I'm reading an interesting book about your namesake, Pythagoras, and his discoveries about the ratios used in music. Very fascinating.
Pythagorean
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Feb18-12, 08:59 PM
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I was a musician prior to going into academia; Pythagoras' work in harmonics is what led me to this handle when I was still academically undeveloped. Now there's so many more names. I might have gone with poincare or prigogine nowadays.
ThomasT
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Feb18-12, 09:29 PM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
I was a musician prior to going into academia; Pythagoras' work in harmonics is what led me to this handle when I was still academically undeveloped. Now there's so many more names. I might have gone with poincare or prigogine nowadays.
I think that Pythagorean was a good choice. Harmonics is, apparently, pretty deep stuff, as it turns out.

Wrt to the OP, my take is that yes of course self-improvement is realized every day by some people, and that self-improvement involves the rearrangement of existing parts and the emergence of new, unique, synaptic connections and, ultimately, human-scale behaviors.
chiro
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Feb18-12, 11:23 PM
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I would agree with the Greek dudes comment in the way that considering that you are not knowledgeable will help set the scene to keep learning as if though you were a student and not a teacher.

It seems like a way of saying to adjust yourself psychologically to be an eternal student and to not consider yourself as a 'knower of things' so that you don't psychologically block yourself from continuing to not only learn and consider new things, but also to not worry about looking stupid if you ask questions that other people consider 'obvious', 'trivial', 'ridiculous' and so on.

Socrates said something along the lines of "Knowing nothing is knowing everything" (Bad paraphrase I know) and I see a direct connection between the OPs quote and this quote.
DaveC426913
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Feb18-12, 11:29 PM
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A physical and quantifiable way of measuring mental sophistication is the number of neural connections. As we learn more (and improve more) in virtually any cognitive way, the number of neural connections increases. This creation of connections that did not exist before is qualitatively different than simply rearranging existing parts.
jim hardy
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Feb18-12, 11:36 PM
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Observe the size of self-help section at any bookstore.
Pythagorean
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Feb18-12, 11:46 PM
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Quote Quote by DaveC426913 View Post
A physical and quantifiable way of measuring mental sophistication is the number of neural connections. As we learn more (and improve more) in virtually any cognitive way, the number of neural connections increases. This creation of connections that did not exist before is qualitatively different than simply rearranging existing parts.
I might expect a gaussian or a bell curve or a maxwell-boltzman distribution of "mental sophistication" as a function of synaptic count, or SOME kind of function with a peak. Once you over-express connectivity, you would get too much synchronization, not enough isolation. So I think a hierarchical organization of the network topology will probably be washed away with too many neural connections, and the topology is important to keeping an organism at homeostasis.

In most cases in nature, we probably wouldn't see over-connectivity globally, but I wonder if some regions the brain have diseases associated with too many synapses locally (or shouldn't we include gap junctions, too?)

There's also the issue now of astrocytes, which is a part of the new concept of the tripartite synapse. Astrocyte translation regulates a lot of subcellular trafficking at the synapse that's associated with plasticity.

Though your post does remind me of a podcast I heard by Judith Lauter:
http://www.zebrabrain.com/book.htm

she mentions low-T vs. high-T brains, and I think the stereotype I came away from it with was basically that jocks who only play football were exposed to high levels of testosterone in the womb, and artsy fartsy science kids who like to dabble in all kinds of different things are associated with low testosterone exposure in the womb.

I identified with her characterization of low-T.


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