The Architecture of Life: Forget the Planet - Five: Moving Pictures

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Friday, October 19, 2007

Forget the Planet - Five: Moving Pictures

(Fifth of seven related posts)

The “me” we give so much attention to in our day to day lives is really just a secondary byproduct of the functioning of the brain.

“I” is a just a good story. Our identities are nothing but artifacts of the brain’s penchant for storytelling. There is not a person walking around on this planet that fully walks their talk.

As a species, we are incredibly talented at creating BS and selling it.

I’m not saying the brain is a liar. It is just trying to do its job. All your grey matter is trying to do is get a good meal, avoid being eaten and get lucky in the sack.

This is proven by how our eyes work, and how what we see impacts our perception of reality. Let me explain.

Each of us experiences a seamless interconnected high-resolution world as though our eyes are IMAX camera recording every detail around us. But in truth that is not what our eyes are seeing.

What our pupils do is jump from point to point in a reflexive way common to a wide variety of animals. It’s one of many techniques we picked up while trying to avoid being eaten. Our eyes really only see a small clear focal point surrounded by increasingly blurry outlying areas.

They dart here, then there, then to another place over there, and then to the left…and so on and so on.

Our eyes don’t actually see the world we perceive as a cinematic masterpiece. The movie we live in is fictionalized in the brain – and like a historical novel - strongly influenced by movies we have “seen” in the past.

The brain predicts the likely contours of reality from past experience, and is amazingly good at it when it comes to features of everyday life.

Quite a feat, really.

However, that brilliant suite of skills is not as good at dealing with complex issues it can’t see with its own eyes - like wars in Iraq, health care, immigration and hedge funds – which is aptly demonstrated by the performance of the President and the U. S. Congress.

Poor George W. Bush is constantly being criticized for “living in a dream world” and being unrealistic about foreign policy. Well duh! What do you expect?

Most of the people reading this article think Coca Cola is the “real thing.” Seventy per cent of Americans worship things they can’t see, and think Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie live in the “Real World”.

A big part of our economy is driven by the concept that fancy cars, tight blue jeans and beer are required for reproduction.

Like George W., our legislators, Paris and Nicole…most of us haven’t the slightest idea that we are living in made up worlds.

That is by design. The last thing our brain wants is for us to quit reacting like robots, so it keeps us high on hormones and neurotransmitters. If we realized we are drugged up puppets in a B movie produced by our noggins, we might lose our motivation and quit feeding ourselves.

That would be catastrophic for the brain as it is the biggest energy consumer in the body. So to protect us from the dangerous fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, it makes sure we haven’t got the slightest idea whose really in charge, and what is going on around us.

That’s the purpose of the unconscious. We are simply being protected from taking on more than we can handle. Lucky our brain patronizes us. Consider what happened to Adam and Eve. Who wants to go through that again?

If not for phenomena like teenage boys, the inability of middle-aged husbands to find things sitting right in front of them, and the results of national elections; we would probably never notice this dysfunctional part of the brain’s functioning.

So the brain makes up our worlds on a bet, and since every storyteller needs an audience, it creates our identities. So you and I are simply characters in the brain’s moving picture - and in an amazing feat of tail-biting efficiency - its audience.

We don’t need a Matrix to be trapped in a cybernetic world. We evolved in one.

No wonder we have such a hard time electing a capable President.

Forget the Planet Six is here: