Thursday, July 13, 2006

The mind is like an iceberg, but much smaller. And warmer.

It still strikes me, from time to time, how amazing it is that we can "use" our minds without understanding them.

It's like driving. We can use a car without knowing how it works. We just know which buttons to push when and we get what ge want. More accurately, using our minds is like using some amazing alien spacecraft, the hood of which we can't open.

its also easy to underestimate hö much of that our mind does is unconscious. We can't describe faces very well, or even picture them very clearly, yet we are remarkably good at recognizing them. We understand the sound "bored" in any context, but have difficulty recalling every sense of the sound at once: (being bored with a book, a wooden board, a hole bored in a board, a board of directors, the first sound in "bordello", room and board, to board a train, etc.).

It's a little like being a CEO of a company, being the conscious part of your mind. You've got a huge hierarchy of workers below you whose job you could never do. But when things are needed, for the most part, they show up. You're watching a movie and someone pokes their head in and says "There's a Tarantino influence here."

And we have no idea how we come up with the sentences we create. Like Magic they show up from god-knows-where, extraordinarily fast. Think of the common but uncommonly strange situation of two psycholinguists using language effortlessly to argue about language generation.

It's sometimes daunting, terrifyingly difficult to figure out. It's also the most important thing in the world.

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