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YMIAFT Chapter 2 Part 8


“Humor, to be comprehensible to anybody, must be built upon a foundation with which he is familiar.”

~ Mark Twain

The activity in your brain and the structure it flows though influence each other. As activity determines which connections stay and go, over time the structure of the neuronal network is altered. The shape of the neuronal network then influences the direction of the flow of activity in the future. In this way, your current thoughts help determine who you become, and who you are helps determine how you think, in a constant back and forth that dynamically forms your identity.

The flow of electrochemical activity could be said to represent your current thoughts, right now, in this moment. The structure of the neuronal network could be said to represent your personality and how you as an individual interpret your current thoughts. A bit of a simplification, but true enough, and the model that will be used going forward. The brain's structure is you, the activity is your thoughts, and the neuroplastic nature of making and breaking synapses is the cutting edge where thoughts will either disappear as fleeting notions or become a part of you.

Your personality, your memories, and the context in which you receive input from around you is dependant on your particular brain structure. Where you have a flow that goes through well established channels, with strong synaptic connections, those thoughts, in essence, are obvious to you. Where you don't have channels at all, the flow of thoughts will run into dead ends, leaving you unable to follow. In other words, ideas that are too weird. Where you have a lot of weak connections being lit up by activity, you have a thought that was neither too obvious or too weird.

Seinfeld's model of a gap is now physically manifest in the brain. Jumping across that metaphorical gap and just making it is a matter of getting connections that are, in essence, only just able to make it from neuron to neuron, by passing through synaptic connections neither too well established nor disconnected.

That flow doesn't have to be any particular type of thought, though, and that's how we go beyond a model for jokes and reach a model for anything that has potential humour. The flow of activity in your head can represent any kind of thought, feeling, perception, or concept. Which means that anything can be funny.

When you think of how it is that on a cellular level the construction of our brains are completely unique and changing every moment, it's kind of amazing that any two humans can look at the world the same way and come to a consensus on anything. However, not only is it possible, our brains have evolved to do just that so that we could cooperate in groups and get to where we are now. Without that capacity for coming to a consensus on things, we wouldn't have accomplished more than any other species of animal on the planet. Nonetheless, it's no wonder that two people can respond entirely differently to the exact same potential humour, which explains why people don't respond to humour with the same consistency that they react to pins. Even when two humans do laugh at the same thing, we can tell that the flow in their minds had a similar quality in terms of strength of signal, as indicated by the laughter, but the specific neuronal structures that underlie the flow of mental activity are almost certainly very different. The craft of the comedian, to get whole rooms to come to a consensus and laugh, is no small task.

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