Reality Blind - Vol. 1

a.k.a. in parallel . After all, predators and prey won’t wait around while an animal chooses which of her skills and senses to activate. When a new ability proved useful, it was tacked on top of the existing neural scaffolding of prior successful adaptations. This is the only way evolution can work; a subsystem that originally evolved to smell things might get better over time at reacting to smells salient to a creature’s survival, but such a “smelling module” wouldn’t additionally evolve to perform something entirely unrelated, like detecting the sound of approaching footsteps. The evolution of any complex brain thus requires modularity to prevent fatal slowdowns. Some of these modules are structural while others are functional, like sub- programs running in general mind-space. But this massive parallelism of idiot-savant mini-minds is a profound feature of mental structure which hasn’t been understood until recently. These modules function subjectively , something like the warning lights in a modern car. There is, for instance, a car module which watches the coolant temperature, one which monitors the ignition timing, one which monitors exhaust-gas catalysis, etc... and when one notices something off, it breaks through into the car’s “awareness” and a light blinks on the console. Our brains function something like that. Right now, reading this, you have a module looking for snakes and other dangers around you, which will only “light up” if the module thinks it sees one (feel free to g oogle “cats and cucumbers ” videos). This and thousands of other modules, tuned for your ancestral environment, function simultaneously. All brains evolved by adding new structural or functional modules to the pre-existing assortment of modules. They operate simultaneously to avoid information-flow bottlenecks. Each of us is composed of multitudes of specialized idiot mini-minds with very narrow opinions, who are given authority to direct our actions only and temporarily when they’re triggered. Prior to this generation, no humans even knew they existed. Learning to see this within ourselves, and understand why we do what we do, is a first step to a more complex self-awareness. TaaL: On any planet, evolution can only design a modular mind, because evolution is incremental and must build on top of what already exists and works. And what already exists is specialized to do something else, so new modules are added. One of the big shocks when any species learns about itself is that conscious self-awareness is just part - and not even a large part - of a functioning brain, and a non- social animal can function perfectly well without it, just doing what


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