Pulpo con CachelosTo fully understand what I am getting at here you have to have some context: Neural Tribe meme  and Skin of Being.  The point of my recent blogs (about the Neural Tribe) is a pattern-interruption attempt to loosen up our inflexible sense of identity, or, as I have previously stated, to change the human narrative to enable us to relate to more life on this planet.

Neural tribe that we are, we take our origins in skin. Indeed, embryologically, brain (CNS) begins as an enfolding of a skin patch called neural crest or neural plate (through a process called “neural tubing”). I have previously blogged about the connection between melanocytes (pigment-filled cells) and neurons: both sport dendritic processes and apparently use some of the same molecular signaling dynamics. I have also recently quoted Andre Virel who spoke of the reflective nature of the skin, likening skin (and the resultant mind) to a magic, information-processing mirror of reality.

Now, let’s take a look at some of our neural kin that occupy octopus body-form.

Octopuses are notorious for making themselves invisible, i.e. for skillfully camouflaging themselves. Such an ability is what I call “surface intelligence,” or “skinthink,” a Zen-like spontaneity of adaptation.

Katherin Harmon with Scientific American (Aug 2012) reports: “How do these invertebrates manage this quick-change feat? Small pigment-filled cells, called chromatophores, and reflective ones, called iridophores and leucophores, in the skin of most octopuses allow them to create nuances patterns of color and luminosity and even to harness polarized light to fool other ocean life.”

The old paradigm views this phenomenon as follows: an octopus uses its skin to camouflage.

The Neural Tribe (NT) paradigm takes a different interpretive view of this:

There is no octopus.  The word “octopus” is a construct (just like the word “human” is a construct).  An octopus is no one thing (as the word “octopus” would imply).  An “octopus” is many things, many micro life-forms that live in cooperation, i.e. a multicellular organism, i.e. an alliance of numerous cellular tribes.  An octopus is home to neurons and to the thinking skin that embryologically gave rise to neurons.

So, from the NT perspective an octopus is enveloped in thinking skin and is populated by a neural colony (a colony of neurons that we traditioinally and reductionistically lump into the construct “brain” or “nervous system”).

The end result is still the same: a marvel of nature, an amazing example of adaptation, a jewel of collective intelligence. But the interpretive path – as you see – is somewhat different. Instead of giving credit to octopus-as-a-construct, the NT perspective says: this miracle of adaptive camouflage is the working of a couple of different cellular tribes that of thinking skin and of neurons (that originate from thinking skin (by way of neural tubing)). The alliance of these four cellular tribes (that possess surface intelligence of reflection and self-reflecting intelligence of interneuronal communication) is what accounts for this success of adaptation.

Why does it matter?

Viewing an “octopus” as a fellow neural colony (that inhabits a different body-form) allows us to identify with and relate to an “octopus” rather than just looking at it as another protein source.

Resource: Skinthink: Dualistic Nature of Consciousness (Somov, 2012, e-book)

See video: Octopus Camo

Creative Commons License photo credit: touring_fishman