Friday, November 21, 2008

Our Imperfect Mind

ad campaign picture of Corri Fetman 
With this photo, my intention, of course, is not to draw your attention to the "Life's Short. Get a Divorce." campaign of Corri Fetman[1], the Playboy playmate and the hottest attorney (she is also called the lawyer of love because of her invaluable legal input as a regular columnist in the said magazine) in the galaxy, a fact, as it was affirmed by Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Rather, I would like to talk about Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind [Barnes&Noble], by Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University.

Marcus argues that evolution is a terrible designer (those who favor intelligent design can read: [insert your favorite deity here] did a clumsy job); not only our bodies are flawed, our mind is also completely messed up.

There seems to be two systems operating in our minds: an ancestral system and a deliberative one. We have been unable to shake off the ancestral system dating millions of years despite our feeble attempt to develop the deliberative one during our climb in the ladder of evolution.

Marcus, citing Fetman's campaign as an example, shows the tug of war between the two systems neatly. The younger system knows divorce is stressful, expensive, recovery can take years etc, yet the ancestral whispers in our ear "I'm missing out a lot!" Now, he does not claim the ancestral wins over the other; rather, he questions the existence of that voice. It is there and unlikely to go for another thousand years or more.

With chapter headings of memory, belief, choice, language, pleasure, things fall apart and true wisdom, it is a treat for those who have a more advanced deliberative system.

[1]Still, when properly used, sex always sells; Marcus seems to score on this one.

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