BigBlueSoapbox.jpg David Purdy – Amateur Brain Surgeon

David Purdy – Amateur Brain Surgeon

Brain Surgery 037Why are people so weird? I have always wanted to know. Haven’t you? Thirty years ago I read something that started me down the path to my current profession as an Amateur Brain Surgeon.

I was sitting on the porch of a Smith College ‘cottage’ reading a book that I hoped would impress my girlfriend. It was The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.

Impressed? (She wasn’t!)

What I read was the most counter-intuitive idea I had ever considered and ever since it has sat on a musty sofa in my brain, like John Belushi in the Thing that Wouldn’t Leave.

Dr. Jaynes said that thinking is an unconscious process.

I have loved and coveted that idea ever since. It’s just so deliciously absurd, so seemingly mutually exclusive, that it just must be true.

Thirty years later I was kayaking around a little lake in the Poconos listening to the Brain Science Podcast — Ginger Campbell, you are a goddess! — listening to her interview Jeff Hawkins, founder of the Palm Computing and the Redwood Institute for Theoretical Neuroscience. Frustrated by the lack of progress in the development of artificial intelligence, the authors created a theory of how the mind works. And here’s the advantage of being an amateur like me. I don’t need to understand it all to learn something wonderfully important. And here it is.

Our minds are like a massive multimedia memory machine — think YouTube with touch, taste and smell. We see a cat, we see a piano and we know what’s coming next. Our minds are full of memories like that. But unlike computers we don’t store data in binary form. We remember stories and project them on the world. Sometimes we become so riveted with the story we’re playing in our head that we hardly notice what’s really happening. It’s why eyewitness testimony has proven so unreliable.

Our experience of life is not just as a camera — recording objectively what happens — but also as a projector sometimes coloring what we see.

Isn’t that cool?! Doesn’t it explain a lot?

And this is a really big deal when it comes to actually connecting and communicating with others. If we’re all standing around ‘projecting’ what comes next, we’re likely to miss what actually does.

So it’s stuff like this that I’m trying to figure out. I hope to share my thoughts with you and that you’ll help me do a better job at it!

If you’d like to know more check out the books below.

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