During these last days I promised to explain a few things ... here goes nothing.
Without much ado, I give you the simplest possible, abstract view of how I think the human mind works. This is the "good enough" theory of Human Nature I've referred to many times in the past. Such a theory is the sine qua non of understanding human behavior and the eventual fate of our species Homo sapiens.
I have a private vocabulary to describe the phenomena I write about. I call the simple, "good enough" theory of mind Flatland, loosely based on the book by Edwin Abbott. Speaking metaphorically, humans seem to live within a highly constrained "2-dimensional" space (defined in the graphic below) from which there is rarely any kind of escape.
Escaping Flatland implies an expansion of consciousness/awareness into "3-dimensional" space where Flatland itself becomes partly visible. Clearly, you can not explain what a 3-dimensional space looks like to a person who lives entirely in 2 dimensions. This metaphor seems to capture much of my experience of writing DOTE, and also explains this blog's lack of reach.
Reading certain comments on this blog, or looking over something I intended to write about, I would say to myself "so and so lives in Flatland." But then again, who doesn't? — at least to one extent or another.
Welcome to Flatland! This simple schema leaves out lots of stuff (e.g. language, sensory data processing, low-level anatomical functions like breathing, etc.). I'm interested in explaining the stuff I've discussed on DOTE. The list of drives which reside in the unconscious may be too long, or not long enough. Click to enlarge.
1. You may be saying "this theory way too simplistic!" Well, of course it is, dummy! You've got to start somewhere. God only knows how the interplay between the unconscious and awareness actually works, or where consciousness comes from (see below). Neuroscientists don't know, and neither does anybody else.
2. The key observation is that information/control only flows one way—from the unconscious into awareness, and not the other way around (text in lower left above). This is the fundamental human flaw. This simple theory attempts to explain all the problems I pointed out in my recent post The Reality Of The Unconscious.
3. The existence of various unconscious drives can only be inferred by close, unbiased observation of human behavior. This is much harder to do than it is to say. Needless to say, the workings of the unconscious are opaque to awareness. See my post Seeing The Signal In The Noise.
4. Such an "architecture" could only arise by means of standard evolutionary processes working over the period of idiosyncratic brain expansion (encephalization) in the human animal—our lineage among the hominins—which occurred over (at least) the last 2.5 million years. If you think about it, you will quickly conclude that there is a fundamental integration problem regarding awareness and the unconscious. In short, these two mind components are poorly integrated in accordance with the observations in note #2 above.
5. If this "architecture" of the mind is conceptually correct, it implies that consciousness itself (awareness, the Ego, the sense of self) arose as an evolutionarily useful byproduct of bigger, better connected, unconscious brains. If that were so, we would expect to observe the basic illusion that awareness is running the show, whereas it is actually the poor dependent in a master/slave relationship.
6. This theory is easily falsifiable. Take my two "favorite" (and related) disasters, anthropogenic climate change and wanton destruction of marine ecoystems. To falsify Flatland, we would have to see something like this—
And so on, considering everything I have said over the last 42 months. I would love to be proved wrong.
- Humans generally change their behavior such that they stop overfishing the oceans and putting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- Humans generally become aware that their behavior is driving a mass extinction, and manage to come to the sensible conclusion that this is not a good thing.
- Humans generally abandon the illusion that technology solves all problems (the hammer and nail problem) and gravitate toward behavioral solutions instead. Humans manage to overcome the technological instinct.
- Humans consciously reject "growth instincts" governing population and consumption. These instincts, along with the rest of the Flatland mess, will probably lead to the (near?) extinction of Homo sapiens within the next few centuries.
- Humans generally abandon their apparently innate Optimism and start assessing risks realistically. See my post DOTE Has No Natural Constituency and follow the links therein.
7. If you look at complex interactions between various components of the unconscious, apparent, resultant complexity in human behaviors and beliefs grows very fast, very quickly. In fact, the resultant complexity is identical to the God-Awful Mess we call the Human Condition. For example, the Technological Instinct + innate Optimism = Matt Ridley or Elon Musk or Ray Kurzweil (or any of the other techo-optimists I have ridiculed on this blog). Or we get plans to live on Mars. Look at any of my Mars posts or my techno-optimism posts. Why do you think young people walk around all day with their heads buried in smart phones? It's their social instincts at work. And when you tap into those, you're sure to make money! And isn't making money what it's all about? (See growth, survival, etc.)
That's enough to chew on for today.
You may be thinking what the fuck do I have control over?
If you find this kind of Determinism depressing, be sure to look at my post Mysteries Of The Human Brain. If that doesn't make you laugh, nothing will.
I first used the hilarious video below in The Astounding World Of The Future.