Sometimes you read or hear something and for a long period of time you’re like Kubrick’s chimps around the monolith. You don’t know what it is, but it’s big and you can’t leave it alone. Bashing at it doesn’t help.
Usually its @interfluidity’s fault but in this case the problem is neurobiological. Epicurean Dealmaker linked to a quick interview with neurologist Robert Burton who thinks even brain researchers are still monkeys:
because we have an innate sense of agency and yet simultaneously believe that mental states must have preexisting physical causes, we are left debating free will versus determinism. If we didn’t have a sense of agency, I’m not sure that the free will question would even arise.
I take this to mean that we’re nowhere near the point where any researcher has enough perspective to understand something by using that same thing to analyze it.
Add to this the findings of another neuroscientist, David Eagleman, who wrote a book concluding that:
Brains are in the business of gathering information and steering behavior appropriately. It doesn’t matter whether consciousness is involved in the decision making. And most of the time it’s not. Whether we’re talking about dilated eyes, jealousy, attraction, the love of fatty foods, or the great idea you had last week, consciousness is the smallest player in the operations of the brain. …, most of what we do and think and feel is not under conscious control. Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it.
I’m not thrilled with this. I’ve lived my whole life thinking my conscious brain was the quarterback and the subconscious was a combination of reference library and haunted house.
In corporate terms, what it sounds like now is that what I consider “me” is actually a satellite office taking vague orders from an all-powerful HQ based in Liberia or an underground lair or somewhere else deeply foreign and unsettling.
Instead of corporate profits and legal compliance, the subconscious imperatives would include – basically in this order – physical security, sustenance, acceptance at the highest rung of social status possible because it leads to widest mate selection.
Quick example and, although I cringe, it actually pretty much happened:
You’re in 10th grade. There’s a very cute but quiet girl who sits next to you in math class but you’re obsessed with a girl on the cheerleading squad. At some level, you even know the math class girl is not only cuter more physically attractive – rounder [redacted] and bigger [redacted]. But you want the cheerleader and you don’t know why.
Well, you think you don’t know but your subconscious sure as fuck does. Social status. Bragging rights. These are head office initiatives, you’re just following orders.
No wonder everyone sucks at investing. Corporate policy is out of date by 20,000 years. What we convince ourselves is a good investing idea – buying Apple at $600 say – is mostly conforming to the HQ’s corporate initiative for acceptance and belonging. The 5 per cent chance of a ten bagger in junior mining is associated with dreams of wealth that will get us laid and provide security for our
genes offspring. The bulls versus bears battle of the tape gets the same lights up the same dopamine pathway as protecting the tribe from an onrushing lion.
I’m not saying re-programming isn’t possible and biology is destiny. There are at least hundreds of professional investors who have hacked the mainframe and changed the code – or at least deactivated it. But Eagleman says that for most of us, our conscious minds don’t have security clearance for the vast majority of the calculations and policy decisions being made – in our own heads. How the fuck are we going to push out the old management?