Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Engineer's View of the Mind

Ideas really are like viruses, except just more elegant. They can enter your mind, and literally take over it, for good or otherwise. You become the carrier and transmitter of a strong idea, compelled by an unseen yet compelling force, almost as if the idea was alive and had a mind of its own driving you forward. Our minds are like pawns in a game of chess between ideas.

Whether a virus is a living thing is analogous to whether we think ideas are alive. Ideas have physical components, they exist as a bunch of words, or within the neural network of a brain, and so they do exist. It's almost as though our brains are designed for control, like a superbly-programmable computer, but there are only viruses to control it, made from fragments of code.

Mental effort seems to be a dangerous thing, our mind goes to extensive lengths to contain it. The only obstacle in our way toward all the knowledge ever learned by mankind is our own mind, through the constructs of boredom and mental fatigue. Thinking seems like a resource we can hardly afford to spare, hence the prudence by its caretaker.

And so we have a supercomputer which does not want to compute, for which maximum idle time is hardwired as the ideal goal. And so the viruses of the mental domain, have come to realize, by natural selection. The strongest ideas are those which minimize processing and computation by the brain; simple ideas which are easy to understand, and discourage thinking. Simple ideas reinforced by the mind's desire to conserve mental effort.

Such a design has dangerous consequences. A conflict between 2 ideas may ultimately be decided by just which one requires lesser mental effort, rather than the actual validity and logical basis, which could be evaluated by reasoning using mental effort. Bad ideas can become strong ones by destroying the one opposition that could identify them - reasoning.

I remember someone pejoratively dismissing the field of science as inadequate because it hasn't been able to synthesize or "create" a human life in a lab, and I was left wondering. What life would we be creating? Another supercomputer? Another pawn at the mercy of the ideas that control its mind?

It's as though these ideas are kings in their kingdoms, in the territories of the mental domain. And yet the wars between these kings are fought in the real, physical world, between real people, the selfless pawns sacrificing themselves in a state of amusing ignorance about the nature of the beneficiary and with the illusion of control. It takes an epiphany of mental effort, somehow escaping under the radar of the watchful and fearful controlling virus, to destroy its very foundations, like casting the Ring into the Fire under the eye of the Lord of the Rings. And hopefully this post spurs some mental effort, and an awareness of the prime mover of your actions; the puppeteer controlling your strings.

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1 comment:

Mind-pen said...

That was quite a spin of words! :)