Remented is my exploration of the experience of being in a human mind, peeking at some of the hidden workings, to understand how and why the mind senses, makes decisions, and acts in the world. I suspect that, to our rational self and command centre, these workings may seem surprising, wonderful, unhelpful, or even harmful.
Each page of Remented will take some topic or aspect of human experience or behaviour and talk about some of the processes that go on to make that happen. I will in most cases have a game or animated illustration that shows a perspective on this; a visual way of thinking about things that are hard to grasp just by words or thought alone.
The scientific fields of neuroscience, neurobiology, social sciences, psychology, behaviour economics, cognitive psychology, and many others (sorry if your flavour is not captured here), have made some staggering breakthroughs (and glorious mistakes) about how we work, and they are freely evolving, learning, testing, contradicting, reinforcing, collaborating.
These are disciplines where the practitioner is looking in from the outside to make observations and draw conclusions. They may use the subject or patient’s own experience as part of the data, but this gets aggregated with others, and the personal perspective becomes disconnected from the more statistical view. If, like me, you are not a member of this group, there are many books, essays, articles, blogs, podcasts and other media that cover past and current thinking on these subjects. Remented’s perspective always starts with some experience of being human, on the inside. It will stray into the findings or opinions of current scientific thinking in psychology and neuroscience especially, but we have to connect it back to some human experience and some human outcome.
Your Mind – Working for You
The fact that your mind is not always taking orders from the conscious you, can be uncomfortable. But by learning more you can at least be aware of how your behaviour seems to go with or against your good intentions. You can either learn ways to be more in command, or roll with the inevitably tricky mind, and be less surprised, less troubled, use this knowledge to make different choices, and avoid some of the mental health triggers and tendencies.
Level Playing Field
Some of the tendencies of human senses, psychology and behaviour are exploited by those who need to persuade or influence us. Advertisers and marketers, media organisations (traditional and technology), product designers, sales people, entertainers, shop/bar/restaurant designers, policy makers, government agencies and many other groups use what they know about us to skew what we see, what we believe, how we choose, and how we behave. Many of these tricks are so well documented and exploited, they have probably ceased to have any effect, while others are more subtle and powerful. Some of these altered behaviours and choices, across populations of millions, can alter society (for good and bad). Right or wrong, it would be great for us to at least be aware. Being aware does not mean you won’t continue to be affected, or that you should feel bad when you are. It just levels the game between exploiter and exploited.
Human Intelligence before Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is both exciting and terrifying, but it is definitely coming. For many of us, our lives are already heavily assisted and extended by technology. A lot of that is driven by unsupervised algorithms that guide us and influence us, based on our own data mixed in with that from millions of others. While they meet some need for us, they are ultimately there to satisfy the needs of investors and organisations whose goals, beliefs and ethics might be very different from your own. The science fiction visions seem to be a long way off, but the ethical challenges of AI are with us already. While some technology seeks to automate tasks, some is developing new ways to interface more directly with our brains (bypassing the slow and unreliable senses, speech, typing). Given that our brains are not under the total command of our conscious minds, Remented sees its role as illuminating this gap.
I want to appreciate the spectrum of human experience. I cannot hope to represent even those in my own country and culture, sex and ethnicity. When I take into account those with wildly different belief, those from other cultures and products of other kinds of upbringing, those with different biases, desires and drives, those with a completely different neurological condition to mine, those suffering disease or deficiencies, those prone to mental illnesses, those with degrading mental faculties, I am on shaky ground trying to draw any conclusions. Where possible I will challenge my own views with a shot from one or more of these perspectives, but the starting point will always be from my experience.
Being a non-scientist and non-specialist, I am bound to oversimplify, or misrepresent some idea from time to time. This is a big risk, and this is why scientific papers are so very specific in their claims, why they and science books are so particular about citing the sources for any assumptions, proofs, or supporting theories that underpin the claims made.
I will challenge myself to avoid this in my posts, and keep my claims general or cited.