The Algorithmic Mind: Like A Rock!

To put it very, very simply, the human mind does some amazing thingsLike memory, emotions, hunches, and such. automatically, and then the rest of what it can do is left to us to do voluntarily and deliberately—if we are willing to go to the effort, and if we have learned the few tricks necessary to do it.

For now, imagine the mind as if it had two parts or two types of functions.  One is automatic (called the autonomous mind, or “System 1”).  The other is voluntary, and is called the algorithmic mind, or “System 2”.  This discussion is about the algorithmic mind, and we have an analogy that is designed to help you to quickly understand something important about how this voluntary system works.  The algorithmic mind is “like a rock” in a way.  Consider the following analogy.

Like A Rock!

Ordinary Rock ShortIf you’ve ever been out hiking…and if you’ve ever seen rocks while on a hike, what were those rocks doing?  Chances are, they were doing nothing, and could be seen lying motionless on the ground.  No surprise here; this is what rocks usually do.  And this is what your algorithmic mind does when you are not using it:  nothing!

A floating rock!  There’s probably a cause.

There must be a cause!

Imagine, however, that you were out walking one day and you saw a rock floating ten feet up in the air!  You would probably reason to yourself that some force must be at work to cause that rock to levitate.  After all, it’s not doing what all the other rocks are doing.

And so it is with the algorithmic mind.   It is capable of some very useful and powerful processes, but these things don’t come about by accident.  These processes don’t run themselves.  If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen as the result of deliberate effort on the part of the mind’s owner.   And if it’s going to happen well, it’s going to require that the owner learns some basic information and skill.  So if you were to see a mind that is actually solving problems, you can rest assured that it’s owner is deliberately and voluntarily supplying the energy required to make it work.

Here’s a fact you can hold onto:  Minds that aren’t at work don’t solve problems.

Most people don’t like to think—at least not “too much“!  And even if we enjoy intensive thinking about one topic, we may not enjoy it about another equally-important one.  Certain things may pique our curiosity, but still might not pique it enough to get us really thinking about it in such a way as to come up with the best answers or understandings.

For instance, imagine that Billy is hiking along and sees a rock floating in mid air.  He might examine it a bit, trying to figure out what’s causing it to float.  Anything less amazing than a floating rock, however, might not compel Billy to crank up this powerful computer in his head to charge it with figuring things out.  For instance, he might find a monument while hiking out in the middle of the desert, and not have the least bit of curiosity about what it is, how it got there, or why.  It’s all up to Billy, of course, how he chooses to use his algorithmic mind—or not to use it.

ObliskWhen we do crank up our algorithmic minds, we can figure out some pretty useful things.  It comes at a cost, though, as use of the algorithmic mind almost always creates a power drain that we can sense.  Being a  deliberate and diligent thinker requires mental energy.

And there’s one more thing:  since we live in a real world, the best thinkers think in such a way as to keep a deliberate connection with reality.  For example, an engineer who could design and build an obelisk would have to plan for certain realities such as the force of gravity, the firmness of the ground underneath the monument, and the strength of the material she plans to use for the structure.  If she doesn’t take all this appropriately into account, the structure might fail.

High-Energy Mental Effort

High-Energy Mental Effort

He’s the cold fact of the matter:  If we’re going to make great use of our brains, we’re going to have to switch on the high-energy parts of the mind more often than most do–and probably more often than we might wish in our lazier moments.  But when we do that, we begin to discover some common cognitive errors that plague low-energy thinkers.  Things like biases and logic errors are quite common, though they frequently go unnoticed by those committing them.  And why is this?  It’s because they’re in low energy mode—and you can’t detect errors like that very well in low energy mode.

Don’t get us wrong; switching into high-energy mode will take some getting used to, just like switching from a low-exercise lifestyle to a more active one.  And look how many millions of people think that physical exercise is worth the effort!  (And look at how many more millions don’t!)

This had better be worth it!

This had better be worth it!

Buff in Gray

Ta Da!

It’s all about making good investments.  When we start working out the mind, all we can do is to hope that it’s going to pay off.  But then, once we begin to make some progress, it becomes obvious quite quickly that we’re getting somewhere.

And that’s our goal at SRBT:  getting somewhere.  We believe that through applying deliberate and informed effort into our thinking, we can improve our own lives significantly—not to the point of perfection, mind you, but enough that we’ll be thankful for the difference we’ve made for ourselves.  And we are also quite aware that a great deal of what’s messed up in the world today is the result of people not keeping reality firmly in mind when they think.  So we want to promote Reality-Based Thinking to the general public, because the more people who are using it, the better off we’ll all be.