Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Misshapen Mind

How the Brain's Haphazard Evolution Left Us with Self-Destructive Instincts;
A kluge, Marcus tells us, is an improvised engineering response to a problem. It is the product of a tinkerer playing around with odds and ends and creating a functional machine. That, he writes, is what the brain and its package of emotional, intellectual, and logical tools is. It is a series of good but imperfect methods for processing and acting on information, developed over hundreds of millions of years.

Evolution, in other words, produces things that work. That, Marcus argues, is the case with the brain, with how we store memories and how we respond to information. Were our memory systems better designed, they'd store and retrieve memories in the same way computers do. Instead, we rely on context to access snapshots from the past. Moving beyond memory, the logical aspect of higher thought is simply the icing on the cake, Marcus explains -- something that has evolved in an evolutionary microsecond and set up residence in the brain's frontal lobes.
The older parts of the brain, call them our reptilian legacy, had much longer to mature. As a result, in many situations, especially when quick responses are demanded, they simply overwhelm our rational side, stampeding us into actions that don't really stand up to serious analysis.

Thus, we see an act of violence in the media (whether it be a single person being kidnapped and murdered, as with the 1993 celebrated Polly Klaas case in California, or mass slaughter, as with September 11), and we respond with a potpourri of inchoate fear, panic, and rage. We feel that the certainties governing our lives have been shattered. Rarely do we successfully step back and analyze the likelihood or unlikelihood of such an event impacting us.

For both Marcus and Gardner, the result is the emergence of an increasingly irrational political system, a sort of Truman Show in which reality is continually altered by an omnipresent media superstructure.
and THAT - ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is precisely what we seek to resolve, not as in "cure", rather, simply to bring into focus so that it becomes first nature for you to spot it and remember it wherever you encounter it. Liminality is as easy as falling out of bed, once you've accustomed yourself to its terms. Always and everywhere, remember yourself.....,