Although I learn some things fast, I’ve noticed that I often feel that learning fundamental new things is slow and boggy, as if there were some sort of shell around my brain preventing me from seeing and comprehending enough. It’s like I have some kind of anti-learning helmet on. So I’ve tried to get to the bottom of this. Is it only me? A psycho-quirk of mine? Or is everyone like this?
So I dug into neuroscience and learned that we are largely automated animals, almost entirely driven by our unconscious mind, which dominates 95% of our brain function and which we have virtually no access to, and little awareness of, . Our conscious mind only accounts for a tiny fraction ( 1/1000) of our brain activity, and we automatically avoid using our conscious brain because it is literally physically hard work, Our unconscious mind automatically steers us away from hard mental work and prefers directing us to things that make us feel better – e.g that boost chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. We are unaware of how automated we are. For instance, most people do not realize we repeat 90% of our daily activity from one day to the next.
Not only are we driven by our unconscious impulses, we even have a brain component called the “interpreter” which gives us the illusion that we are in charge and consciously making decisions. Most of the time we are not.
Daniel Kahneman has written an entire book; “Thinking: Fast and Slow,” that elaborates on all of the behaviors that result from having a very slow, limited conscious mind, in conjunction with a high-powered, very fast and dynamic unconscious mind. For instance, we will often procrastinate conscious work (which is hard) for virtually any unconscious impulse or distraction that makes us feel good.
In light of all this, It’s amazing that we have accomplished all that we have! (moon shots, science etc.) When people are persistent at doing hard conscious work, they can accomplish unbelievable things. But most of he time, it just ain’t happening.
In fact not surprisingly, even though we are less violent than previous civilizations, most of humanity is caught up in tribal wars over both resource and ideologic conflicts. We have serious trouble learning to live together and doing what is necessary to share the planet. We are not all that different from other animals!
So on the one hand, we’re capable of sophisticated inventions, like space travel and automation,..while on the other, we seem to be dominated by our primitive instincts, prone to violence, self-destruction, and other irrational behaviors.
it’s an amazing and bizarre schism we humans have,.. with our tiny smart brain component built on top of our amygdala and other primitive parts, We’ve evolved further than our ancestor species in most respects – but not “that” far. It’s no wonder I often feel like an advanced rodent with a space helmet on.