A Brief History of Me (2000)

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This is a 2000 lecture that i gave to students of San Jose's CADRE.

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A Brief History of Me (2000)

  1. 1. A History of Me piero scaruffi
  2. 2. Origins • I was born billions of years ago...
  3. 3. The Computer Age • A digital world • We fear machines • Each generation has been afraid of the new tools available to their offspring • We fear the way machines will change daily life
  4. 4. The Computer Age • We are a tool-making species. • And tools have always shaped the mind. • We are not the only tool-making species, and we are not the only species whose "cognitive life" is shaped by tools. • Even a spider, that has built a spider-web, will have a "mental" life that revolves around the spider-web.
  5. 5. The Computer Age • Each new tool, whether it's fire or television, has shaped the mind of the humans who used it. • Tools have "created" the mind as it is now. • That includes our "artistic" expressions
  6. 6. Mind • Where does the mind come from? • Why do we think?
  7. 7. The Origin of Thinking • Darwinian paradigm: – It must have evolved from something primordial and it must have evolved because it had a useful function for survival. – The most primordial mind one can think of is a mind that has very basic emotions, possibly only pain and pleasure.
  8. 8. The Origins of Thinking • The evolution of emotions – Emotions evolved, as much as any other organ. – Emotions had an evolutionary value, as they helped bodies survive – It is unlikely that humans are the only species with emotions… – ...but it is likely that humans are the species in which emotions evolved in the most spectacular way.
  9. 9. The Origins of Thinking • The evolution of tools – Tools relieved us from many daily chores. – Our emotions had been invented to help cope with those chores, but tools made them less and less necessary – Our mind was nonetheless still producing emotions, just like the immune system is producing antibodies all the time – Those emotions flowing through our mind eventually got organized, and yielded thought.
  10. 10. The Origins of Thinking • The evolution of thought – Thought eventually yielded a continuous flow of emotions and a concept of the self: consciousness was born. – Consciousness was born because our mind had nothing to do most of the day, and that happened because we invented tools
  11. 11. The Origins of Thinking • The evolution of thought – Co-evolution of tools and emotions – At the same time there was evolution of the body – And several scientists would add evolution of language and evolution of memes – They all evolved together (co-evolved). – It was evolution on several parallel tracks.
  12. 12. The Origins of Culture • As tools became more and more sophisticated, we also started using them for thinking. For example, language. For example, writing. For example, music. For example, painting, cinema and comics.
  13. 13. The Take-over of the Mind • We started identifying with our mind. • We are no longer bodies with some organs that helped the body survive (including a mind) but minds that have a body • If we transplant Helen’s brain to Jim, is Jim getting Helen’s brain or Helen getting Jim’s body?
  14. 14. The Mystery of the Mind • So we started wondering where our mind comes from, not just where our body comes from. • Little by little we have been able to rediscover our past, and understand how our mind was created, how "I" was created.
  15. 15. The Mystery of the Mind • Unpleasant discoveries – The more we realize that we are mere accidents of evolution. – We are not what we think we are: we do not think, we are thought – We only see and hear and ultimately think what makes sense in our ecological niche. – We are driven by the environment in what we do and what we think
  16. 16. The Mystery of the Mind • Unpleasant discoveries – Our mind is recreated all the time, whether we want it or not. – The amount of control over our mental life is extremely low – The brain works all the time, and most of the time we don’t know what it is doing – Most of the cells of the body (including neurons) and most of the connections between the neurons change in one year
  17. 17. Creativity • Creativity is something we do because we have to do it. • Our mind is continuously reshaped by the tools we invent, and continuously explores them. • We are always creative or we are never creative: there is no difference between the two processes.
  18. 18. Creativity • Our mind has no choice but to create meaning all the time out of the flow of emotions using the tools it has invented. • We are both the creators and the products of our technology.
  19. 19. Bibliography Damasio Antonio: DESCARTES' ERROR (1995) Donald Merlin: ORIGINS OF THE MODERN MIND (1991) Edelman Gerald: NEURAL DARWINISM (1987) Gibson James Jerome: THE SENSES CONSIDERED AS PERCEPTUAL SYSTEMS (1966) Jaynes Julian: THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND (1977) Kauffman Stuart: THE ORIGINS OF ORDER (1993) Macphail Euan: THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS (1998) Maturana Humberto: AUTOPOIESIS AND COGNITION (1980) Neisser Ulric: COGNITION AND REALITY (1975) Ornstein Robert: EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS (1991)
  20. 20. Bibliography Penrose Roger: THE EMPEROR'S NEW MIND (1989) Pinker Steven: HOW THE MIND WORKS (1997) Searle John: THE REDISCOVERY OF THE MIND (1992) Stapp Henry: MIND, MATTER AND QUANTUM MECHANICS (1993) Unger Peter: IDENTITY, CONSCIOUSNESS AND VALUE (1991)
  21. 21. Bibliography

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