The Problem with You

Placing_StoneI was sitting at my desk wrapped in futile concentration stuck on how to finish a post I was writing.  My office colleague, who I have recently taught to play WeiQi, had caught up on his work and said, “Hey, do you want a quick game of Go?”   I had writer’s block so said, “Sure, I could use a break”.   We were about half way through a game, I was setting down my stone when all of a sudden the words I needed to finish my post came rushing into my head.  I jumped up, excused myself and ran over to my desk to typed out the end of my post.

Part of my brain was working on the post while another part was playing the game.  And when the post-writing brain came to a conclusion, it grabbed my awareness from my go-playing brain told me to take action and before I knew it, I was grabbing my computer to write down my thought, interrupting our game.

So it seems that was I playing WeiQi and writing at the same time.  Or was my brain doing both and my brain just called “Me” to the picture when it needed some action?

We have all done this a thousand times.  For instance, you daydream while you drive and don’t remember the last two miles of scenery.  So who is driving your car while you daydream?  The problem with the word “you” is that we misunderstand who/what we really are.  We can think about a few different things at the same time and yet be unaware what another part of us is doing it.  I think this explains why some mood shifts happen. Imagine part of your brain rehashing a certain felt offense from a week earlier while you talk to an unrelated person.  You mood becomes irate and you are not sure why.  It is all because the is a problem with you !  You are much bigger than you imagine, and have less control than you want to admit.


Related post:  No-Self, Many Selves
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Filed under Consciousness, Philosophy & Religion

2 responses to “The Problem with You

  1. Ian

    Seems to me that your excellent discussion of ‘self’ could also be seen in a psychological sense; qua. what is consciousness. Particularly the passage about having your ‘Me’ dragged back into the blogging world.

    Would you be happy to unify those two concepts, self and consciousness?

    I’d recommend having a look at Marvin Minsky’s seminal work in cognitive science: Society of Mind. It deals with these issues. In particular, how can a conscious mind be built from a series of distinctly mindless components. How does language function in such a federated view of consciousness, and so on.

  2. @ Ian (thanks for the compliment)
    See, there is a Buddha !
    4 months ago I was reading an Atheist’s blog (I forgot who) where they mentioned the authors that most influenced them. I had read all the books the blogger listed (including “How the Mind Works” by Steven Pinker) and agreed that the works were great. Then I saw Minsky’s book, “Society of Mind” — which I had never read. I was surprised by the Amazon summaries of the book — this guy sounded identical to me. His theory was the same as the one I had been spouting for years. And Minsky’s book was written back in the 80’s. I guess this is a variant of the “Computational Theory of Mind”.
    Anyway, I recently bought it and indeed ( only to chapter 8 ) we agree. Everything I have read so far, is stuff I have said for years. Of course Minsky is much better — but then, I have my own style. Thanks for the recommendation, though. You were right on !

    Oh, and yes, my views of self and consciousness come from the same source. You are right.

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