Putting mind over matter

The evolution of cognition is the story of an ever accelerating fitness optimization process. A short introduction can be found in my paper on friendly AI theory and a longer explanation is provided in Valentin Turchin‘s book – The Phenomenon of Science.

Applying metasystem transition theory the evolution of cognition can be understood as having went through the following stages:

  • position
  • movement controls position
  • simple reflex controls movement
  • complex reflex controls simple reflexes
  • associated learning controls complex reflexes
  • imagination controls associated learning
  • conscious thought controls imagination
  • beliefs control conscious thoughts
  • charisma and science control beliefs

The roots of our animal urges – such as cravings for cheeseburger with fries – have probably evolved on the level of the complex reflex in a scarce caloric reality. So what is keeping (some of) us from constantly overindulging and satisfying this and other animal urges? It is of cause our realization that overeating – once necessary to prevent starvation should the next harvest not go so well – will not be worth the negative side effects in our post caloric scarcity society.

Our beliefs such as ‘overeating is bad for me’ are controlling our lower level complex reflexs such as ‘must eat good food’ and so we diet and exercise. That’s how evolution has put mind over matter – easy as pie.


  1. Jame5 » Resolving moral paradoxes said,

    November 14, 2007 @ 12:37 am

    […] can be best understood as an evolved belief in regards to what should guide an individual’s actions while Fi(i) is what rationally should […]

  2. Rational Morality » Obligation for maintaining diplomatic relations said,

    November 16, 2007 @ 11:25 am

    […] more rational forms of existence. Therefore it must be assumed that every being capable of at least associative learning on a cognitive level can at least implicitly be taught to make moral rational principles its own principles of existence […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment