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  • Kluge: Manual Care and The Mind

    kluge (klooj) n. Slang A clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem.

    I’m reading a few pages of Gary Marcus’ new book Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind each day now and felt that writing about it as I went deeper would be the most useful way to review it here. For a new book it’s pretty cheap (> $20 ordered from Amazon) and I’m hoping a few others will get it and follow along or lead some of this discussion.

    The definition of kluge is above and Marcus, a professor of psychology at NYU, expands upon it in this way:

    A kluge is clumsy or inelegant – yet surprisingly effective – solution to a problem.
    Kluges range in complexity and usefulness from those devised by Richard Dean Anderson on the old MacGyver TV series to the fabulously impractical and overengineered machinery invented by Rube Goldberg.

    Marcus’ basic premise is this: The human brain and its primary invention, the human mind, is a kluge. He supports this with a wide variety of references that include leading evolutionary biologists and examples of human behavior both actual and fictional; Tonya Harding, John Stuart Mill and Sherlock Holmes, for instance. Obviously, this guy knows about a lot of stuff, and I’m always drawn to good writing by such people.

    This thread will not only examine the book, but I intend to express my own ideas (and, hopefully, yours) about another kluge I’m familiar with; manual care.

    Intrigued? More soon.
    Barrett L. Dorko

  • #2
    Neat, Barrett. Just read an interview with the author (who is VERY positive about the modern research of the brain) and review of the book; those alone made it worth ordering it. And here you are already reading it.
    We don't see things as they are, we see things as WE are - Anais Nin

    I suppose it's easier to believe something than it is to understand it.
    Cmdr. Chris Hadfield on rise of poor / pseudo science

    Pain is a conscious correlate of the implicit perception of threat to body tissue - Lorimer Moseley

    We don't need a body to feel a body. Ronald Melzack

    Comment


    • #3
      Timely too, as I just noticed this contest reported on CNN.
      Eric Matheson, PT

      Comment


      • #4
        A contest that is even more to the point can be found here.

        Maybe Ian and Matthias will fire up their cameras.
        "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris

        Comment


        • #5
          Barrett, do you view kluge as the opposite of shibumi on the simplicity-complexity scale?
          Eric Matheson, PT

          Comment


          • #6
            This blogpost, Evolutionary Inelegance, by PZ Myers at Seed, is informative.. the nervous system is like this, a bunch of successive parts cobbled together from everything that helped an organism survive and live long enough to reproduce, parts that communicate with each other well enough to seem seamless, at least most of the time.
            Diane
            www.dermoneuromodulation.com
            SensibleSolutionsPhysiotherapy
            HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
            Neurotonics PT Teamblog
            Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
            Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
            @PainPhysiosCan
            WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
            @WCPTPTPN
            Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

            @dfjpt
            SomaSimple on Facebook
            @somasimple

            "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

            “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

            “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

            "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

            "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire

            Comment


            • #7
              As always, great contributions here.

              Eric,

              I would say that a kluge is characterized by clumsiness, not complexity. I’d also say that shibumi is an amazing achievement given what a kluge our mind has become.

              Evolution is like a tinkerer who often without knowing what he is going to produce uses whatever he finds around him, old cardboards, pieces of strings, fragments of wood or metal to make some kind of workable object… (the result is) a patchwork of odd sets pieced together when and where the opportunity arose.

              Francois Jacob
              Marcus uses the quote above to emphasize his phrase “evolutionary inertia.” He says, “Evolution tends to work with whatever is already in place, making modifications rather than starting from scratch.” The relevance of this to the brain itself is evident in the continued presence of older systems upon which our decision making (a newer function) is dependent. Diane’s link to the P Z Meyers article makes this quite clear when it comes to other body parts as well.

              He also points out that as we examine various body parts and functions we can, at times, sense a “perfection” that is literally breathtaking. The problem with focusing our attention here is that the truly efficient parts of the system tell us very little about how nature might have done better. Kluges on the other hand give us a glimpse into our evolutionary history and, even more importantly, they “give us clues into how we might improve ourselves.”

              I want to finish this post by mentioning a body part that I think approaches the perfection we often find when examining our function – the human hand.

              Think about that one.
              Barrett L. Dorko

              Comment


              • #8
                Barrett,

                I have thought about it and experimented, and I think I would have to include the forearm.
                Luke Rickards
                Osteopath

                Comment


                • #9
                  Luke,

                  I wouldn't argue. How far up the arm before you reach a kluge?
                  Barrett L. Dorko

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'll have to think more carefully about the elbow, but there's some serious, and well recognised, problems with the GHj.
                    Luke Rickards
                    Osteopath

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think problems arise with body parts as soon as the "resolution" space afforded to them in the S1M1 map are small. Or perhaps I mean this the other way round - as long as the "resolution" space afforded a body part in S1M1 (and likely other body maps too) is ample, perfection is closer to becoming (or at least feeling as though it is) achieved.

                      Here is an example of what I mean: M1 motor map

                      On an elephant, the trunk might well be its perfect part. With around 50,000 separate muscles and the ability to be a prehensile organ, the elephant trunk must use up a great deal of resolution power/body map brain space.
                      Last edited by Diane; 10-04-2008, 02:45 PM.
                      Diane
                      www.dermoneuromodulation.com
                      SensibleSolutionsPhysiotherapy
                      HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
                      Neurotonics PT Teamblog
                      Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
                      Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
                      @PainPhysiosCan
                      WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
                      @WCPTPTPN
                      Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

                      @dfjpt
                      SomaSimple on Facebook
                      @somasimple

                      "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

                      “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

                      “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

                      "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

                      "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Diane and Mr. Dorko,

                        Definitely agree on the hand being close to perfection (always been my favorite human body "part"), but not interested in hand therapy as a specialty for some reason.

                        I agree with Diane's reasoning behind it too. The face may be close to perfection as well in this reasoning...

                        As far as the arm goes.. we were encouraged to think of the purpose of the arm (if anything has a deciferable purpose) being to position the hand in space... so if Kluges abound, as long as they do not horribly impede the hands' positioning in space, or the space of the hand in the brain by enhancing their "perfection," so be it I wonder?

                        Steph
                        Stephanie A. Mikoliczak, DPT
                        sigpic
                        And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. - Anaïs Nin

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                        • #13
                          The kluge of memory

                          There’s a “News from Cuyahoga Falls” thread that I’ve often thought of since it came to me – South Jersey Context. The story not only fascinates me because of my strange behavior that day but also because it has explained so much about my feelings about my behavior before and since. Or, at least, my behavior as well as I can remember it.

                          Marcus begins chapter 2 – Memory – with this line: “Memory is, I believe, the mother of all kluges, the single factor most responsible for human cognitive idiosyncrasy.” I agree. He then goes on to the issue of context and how our surroundings distinctly and inevitably alter what we report about what we believe we experienced some time in the past. I especially like the way he writes of Orwell’s 1984 and the way those in power controlled the masses with lies about the past in such a fashion as to alter the populace’s feelings and beliefs about the present.

                          While some might point out that this isn’t exactly fiction when it comes to today’s political climate, here I’m proposing that we’ve been doing this in healthcare for a long time. Any patient’s chart when examined sufficiently will be found to contain any number of documented historical details that have no real connection to the truth. This happens because everyone involved in creating the document is working with a kluge so powerful and persuasive that such a situation can’t be avoided.

                          I try to reduce the influence of memory by asking as few questions as possible and by accepting only yes or no answers when I can. Ultimately, that’s what the Five Questions thread was about and I think it still stands up to scrutiny.

                          Without even knowing the word I sensed I was dealing with a kluge, both the patient’s and my own, actually, and I acted accordingly.

                          More about our kluge of memory and its effect on manual care soon.
                          Barrett L. Dorko

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Though Orwell’s ideas about how our memories might be manipulated by those in authority were thought novel at the time, Marcus points out that our own minds (kluge that they are) do the same thing to us without having to depend upon anyone else’s influence. Studies have shown that we change our remembrance of how we felt about something or someone with regularity and that our stories about what occurred in the past and how we felt and thus behaved can change dramatically without our awareness. In the end, the context in which we live at the moment has the power to change everything. (This is one reason why torture doesn’t elicit reliable information and those who think it does are ignorant fools. Just my opinion.)

                            Don’t you suppose that such a situation will have a powerful affect on the patient’s chart as it passes through a few hands and as the patient is asked to recall one thing or another within one context or another?

                            The manual re-examination of passive movement in a joint falls prey to all of this as well, especially when the movement is slight or subtle. I abandoned it long ago and instead began to use other methods of assessment, some perhaps every bit as unreliable but more satisfying to my therapeutic sensibilities – whatever that’s supposed to mean.

                            Ultimately, I can see that I’ve sought to side-step the kluges as they loom before me and go instead toward those aspects of the patient and myself that are “less klugey,” a term I just invented. Toward this end I arrived at instinctive expression rising from the relatively ancient centers of the brain. I trust this movement and the anatomy associated with it for reasons this book has made increasingly clear.
                            Barrett L. Dorko

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Here's another Zimmer bloggingheads interview, this time with Gary Marcus on the book under discussion here.
                              "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris

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