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.

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Belief control II: cults

Today I ran into an article on The Psychology Behind Cults/Religion on Digg.

The article introduces the similar processes in which beliefs of new recruits are being controlled in religions, cults and other belief circles. It neglects to mention however, that it is far from certain that these belief circles are actually consciously manipulating their recruits for the extraction of cash.

Remember: an unconscious lie is spoken as conscious truth – making it far more convincing and dangerous.


Belief control I: manipulation

The trick about manipulationHaving read my book or the corresponding paper (2007/11/09 UPDATE: latest version here) you will know how I see believe control as the most effective way of manipulation. Well – seems that at least one cartoonist agrees with me. Look what I found on reddit this morning:

“The people must believe that they are not being manipulated in order for them to be manipulated effectively.”

However I would like to add that a conscious manipulator as depicted in the image is far less effective than someone who does not even perceive him or herself as being a self serving manipulator in the framework of whatever internal rationalization there might exist.

I would argue that an extraordinary ability for manipulating others paired with self deception in combination with a set of misguided personal believes has cause more suffering in the world than anything else. For those are the false prophets that can rally the masses for war – and for the wrong reasons at that.

Remember – you are not lying when you believe it to be true.