Brain & Mind

Thinking to survive in a galactic future

I am sitting in an aircraft with an agenda to write this piece while a Whatsapp freak sitting next to me is using his mobile in flight with impunity.

As an arboreal ape, my amygdala is firing because of primordial fear of height. As a law abiding social animal, my cortex is firing because of messaging idiot; and, at the same time, I am also trying to think of what to write.

Our brain is constantly engaged in an incredible game of conflict management. With each part of brain doing its job with a separate agenda, brain has to prioritize between outputs each part generates. With a constant cacophony of outputs emerging at different levels, brain is like a room full of kids, each asking for attention, with amygdala being the most boisterous one.

For amygdala, sighting a tiger will be processed as a threat, but tiger can also be processed by other parts as a majestic creature of savage beauty. So, when the tiger input is processed, brain gets a range of outputs like run/amazing/click-photo. If you are sitting in a gypsy, brain will opt for click-photo over run. But, if the tiger growls and moves towards the gypsy, brain immediately starts shifting its choice from click-photo to get-ready-to-run.

Interestingly, due to our ability to think, we are now able to study tiger behavior that tells us that the choice to run suggested by our instinct in this situation is extremely risky as it triggers tiger’s hunting protocol. This means that we need to curb our instincts because we now know more about reality than what evolution has learnt and instilled as instincts in our brain.

As humanity needs to conquer the unknown for securing its future in this vast universe that is bound to be beyond our instinctive learning, we need to wrest the control of brain from instincts. As energy conservation is a crucial priority for brain, thinking is the only way to prevent primordial responses from finding priority and taking over the executive role.

Though we presume that thinking is constantly happening in brain, it is rarely occurring at a level where it can counter the force of instincts. I suspect that thinking consciously requires training the brain, and, as it demands a lot of attention and energy, brain is not really fond of it.

Acts like writing, designing or problem solving help us develop thinking ability and thus they have been core to human education. Unfortunately, modern way of life is engaging very few of us in such tasks, while the bulk of humanity is spared of the labor of thinking. The effects of it are noticeable in society as baser pleasures are becoming more popular than those that require thinking.

While the need of the hour is a journey towards greater self-awareness, we are traveling in other direction because we are not realizing the importance of need of encourage thinking. If we want people to think, we have to accept it as a central objective of education and build processes that demand, encourage and reward thinking.

Now we use education of define people instead of imparting learning, so we are obsessed with creating examinations that arrive at precise numerical results. This has taken away the subjective and replaced it with objective. The merits of randomly musing upon a subject are lost, and, with it, lost is the art of free thinking.

Need of instilling thinking ability is another argument in favor of how badly Indian examination system requires an overhaul.

It is not just India, the whole world is in dire need of thinking people to take humanity to the next level of evolution.

DNA: 26/6/16

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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