Qik - view from "analipseos" chapel by Elias Polytarchos


Brain Multitasking

Lately, while I was solving a rather difficult problem on IPv6, I read this report about multitasking (on humans, not the iPhone).
multitasking girl
(Picture found at http://www.textually.org)


The article more or less described that human brain is capable of handling two tasks simultaneously, but no more than that (by the way, I think that these tasks resemble processes and not threads, as they don't seem to share a common address space [e.g. texting while driving or watching TV while cooking], but I digress). In order to support more than two tasks humans employ task switching, much like the way single processor (pre-Opteron) computers (and, recently, the iPhone) handle multitasking, but they pretty much suck at it when the tasks become increasingly complex [1] (much like my mobile phone, which I otherwise adore).

Each of these two tasks gets handled by one of the hemispheres of the brain.


My thoughts on the brain multitasking are the following:
  1. I assume that our brain is something like a dual core processor. Based on my personal observations though [reference is missing here], I think that one of the hemispheres is dominant and handles the complex tasks, while the other is secondary and handles more simple tasks and/or provides aid for the more complex tasks.
  2. I also think that the secondary hemisphere is the sub-conscience
    • When you are consumed in a heavy-mental (lol) task and someone asks you something: Your secondary hemisphere will probably successfully answer, but your answer was not actually your answer; it's the answer of your sub-conscious brain.
    • Having conversations while sleeping. This is your secondary hemisphere speaking, who (or which? how much do you value your alter-ego?) is not sleeping at that time.
    • The popular "sleep on this". The primary hemisphere sleeps while the secondary can process the pressing issues, free of worries and distractions.
  3. One form of multiple personality could be the rebellion of the secondary hemisphere. The sub-conscience does not want to be hidden any more and, thus, once in a while, it gets unleashed from the tethers of the conscious brain (\m/).
  4. Ambidexterity is when both the hemispheres are equal and work in harmony towards the completion of every task at "hand".
Multitasking mentioned in all the sections above involves cognitive brain functions. I suppose that lower level functions (such are breathing or heart beating, etc.) are handled by the swarm of living organisms (i.e. the random cells) whose conglomeration forms our bodies via the complex network of nerve fibres that interconnects them using DMA-like mechanisms where needed. This is true old-fashioned fail-safe interrupt-based low-level hardware multitasking (\m/).

Executive Summary-Conclusion

I know that the executive summary is usually at the top of the publication, but this format has recently become very popular in Greece.
In this paper, I have presented my thoughts on the multitasking capabilities of the brain.

License: GPLv3

That's all :)


(links to websites have been deliberately omitted, since they are mentioned using HTML)
[1] Margaret Weigel, Katie Heikkinen, "Developing Minds with Digital Media: Habits of Mind in the YouTube Era", Developing Minds with Digital Media Project, Harvard, November 2007