Acting on Intentions

The work of a curious fellow

This page is on a topic that I have wondered about. I would appreciate any feedback that you might be able to provide. Especially errors in concept or calculation. Please send an email to if you would care to comment.

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Fruitless is insight without activity, fearsome is activity without insight...

On the previous pages in this series I have argued that the activity most specifically human is to redirect the stream of events, reshaping the future. We are at the point now of closing this topic out by examining how that might be possible. Once the intent to take action is in place, a person has to resort to the only mechanism one has to get a grip on the flow of events. All we can do is move our bodies in such a way as to change the state of small objects within reach. The objects must be small because the human muscles cannot generate much force. The average person cannot lift much more than his body weight, and that not very far. I will try to go through a trivial example in some detail.

I see that my pencil is near the left edge of my desk and being right-handed I want it to the right of the computer, for easy access. The thinking thread mentioned on the "Forming an Intent" page has formed the intent to move the pencil and this is not the sort of intent that requires a lot of testing before carrying it out so the thinking thread sends the necessary motor control signals to my muscles to reach over and pick up the pencil. The sensory input thread monitors the progress of the motion and sends feedback to the the motor control portion of the brain to make any necessary corrections in the motion so that the fingers close in on the pencil.

At some point the fingers of my hand get so close to the pencil that my finger atoms and the pencil atoms begin to exert significant force on one another since both kinds of atoms are surrounded by negative particles and negative particles repel one another.

Pencil in Hand
Being an experienced pencil pusher, I know that if I do not arrange some fingers on either side of the pencil I will not be able to pick it up, so I am careful to make use of my opposed thumb to do that. The sensory input thread reports back to the thinking thread that the fingers are in contact with the pencil and holding it with enough force that it can be picked up. Signals are sent from the thinking thread to the muscles to lift the pencil, swing it across the body until it is where I want it and set it down on the desk.

The skeptical reader might well ask was all that agonizing detail necessary. Well, perhaps not, but that trivial example is the prototype for all human activity. We decide and act in just this same way whatever great or small deeds we do. No person can act in any other way than this. Peasants, poets, priests and presidents can only alter the future of the universe by moving their own bodies and other small objects within reach. Society has created some power multipliers like bulldozers and bombs and entrusted some people to use them but the additional power is in the machinery, not the people.

I have been writing about changing the future state of the universe and giving only the most trivial of examples, like moving a pencil. In fact the pencil-right state is different from the pencil-left state but most of the universe does not care, or even know of the change. Some state changes, even more trivial perhaps, end up as the cause of noticeable differences later on, particularly in chaotic systems. With regard to Earth's weather this has been called the butterfly effect. The premise is that the beating of a butterfly's wings in Africa might be a critical event in producing a hurricane in North America. This is a manifestation of sensitivity to initial conditions that is a hallmark of chaotic systems.

In all this consideration of life on earth I have not addressed the environmental conditions required for the our kind of life to be possible. It might be interesting to consider how those conditions might come about. I will wonder about that in the remaining pages in this series.

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