Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thinking About Thought: Part 1 (The Introduction)

Hello again, imaginary readers. I have a policy on this blog. I don't edit, revise, rewrite or change any of my posts, regardless of how vulnerable or idiotic they make me feel. It's a freewriting blog and that's exactly what I do on it -- freewriting.
However, this particular post I had to edit. I realized how vast a topic this actually is. Although this post was far too long for easy reading, it still didn't go into a lot of depth on each point. So, I decided to make a series on it. I will divide my ideas into sections, and expand each section into its own post. This is Part 1, The Introduction.

We're incredible creatures. We have the abilities to think, figure out, understand and even imagine. Our minds are fantastic. But what does it really mean to think? Besides the complex chemicals running through our minds, what are we actually doing?

I thought about thinking for a while, and this is what I understand of it. It's like we have a huge database in our minds of everything we have ever learnt. This is not only the things we learnt from school or our parents but also every thought process, emotion, action and experience, and the consequences thereof. Everything new that we learn, every decision we have to make, every thought that crosses our minds is compared to our database, and then added to it.

If I take a simple example: I have to decide whether to eat a chocolate. My mind, subconsciously and at super-speed, runs through all the files on eating chocolate. It examines the consequences of eating it, versus not eating it. It runs through all the information it has on chocolate too, e.g. that it contains insect legs, or improves your brain power. Based on all of this, it makes a decision. I say, "Hmmm...I'll just eat it." My brain then adds this incident to the database. If it has any consequences, it adds this information too. If it doesn't have any consequences, it stores it saying, "No consequences."

This does not only apply to decisions. It applies to everything we learn too. For instance, maths. In order to understand almost any new concept, we compare it to older concepts we already understand. To understand multiplication, we explained it as adding the number to itself x amount of times. Then, this was in our database. Now if we try to understand exponents, we explain it as multiplying the number by itself x amount of times. Once we understand that, it's in our database, and we can understand more complex things by comparing them to it.

Going back to the chocolate example, how will I know if the chocolate tastes good or not? You guessed it! I compare it to my database. If the new thing tastes equal to or better than the average taste of things I've eaten, I say it tastes good. If it tastes far better than the average, I say I love it. If it tastes worse, I say I don't like it.

This also means that we don't really "imagine" anything new. We cannot. I mean try imagining how a colour outside the visible spectrum looks. Could you? Obviously not. Your brain cannot create anything completely original. It can only attempt to combine things from its database. This is what we call "imagining". Why, then, can we have so many "original" ideas? Truth is, we don't. However, think of how many billions and trillions of possible combinations there can be of just all of your knowledge. Everything in your database can be combined in all kinds of crazy ways. And since each person has a unique database, there could be an infinite number of possible imaginations.

Once we apply this understanding of thought to our daily lives, it has profound implications for us. We will explore some of these implications in later parts. In the meantime, try thinking about thought a little. If you come up with some interesting ideas, make sure to share them in the comments! :-)

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