Friday, August 31, 2012


Another video, yes.  You know I don't do this very often, so humor me and watch it.

I was a philosophy of science minor in college.  Why?  I loved the feeling of fascination, of vastness, of  the absurdity of our pretensions, of not being sure of what I knew or thought I believed.  The feeling that probably none of us really knew anything at all, although the wisdom of ancient philosophies and spiritualities probably had a lot of things right, first of all being that we need to try to get over ourselves.

Epistemology, ontology, metaphysics.  I loved having my mind blown on a weekly basis, reading things I never knew people thought about.  I only vaguely remember the names of the philosophers or the specific arguments that each contributed to fields such as, say, cognitive theory.

But I remember sitting around a large table (or maybe it was in a room of oddly placed right-handed desks, leaning over my notebook with my left shoulder, the students all vaguely facing the professor at various angles) and listening for the first time as it was explained to me that we could possibly be brains in vats of ginger ale orbiting Neptune, hooked up to electrodes to make us believe that we were experiencing sensory input through a physical body.  I remember the feeling I had.  Almost like deja-vu, it was a melding of the meanderings of my childhood mind (Is it all a dream?  Is it really my birthday but the whole world is pretending it is August 15 in order to surprise me?) with the logic, writings and questioning of a few thousand years of philosophers.

My mother thought I should be a scientist, but I couldn't imagine any fun in working in a lab all day.  I felt incredibly self-conscious in the chemistry lab.  I couldn't imagine pulling data off of machines for hours at a time, or performing operations on the tiny parts of the brains of rats, and I especially couldn't imagine all the recordkeeping.  Lab notebooks!  Living nightmare.  But I loved the awe of science.  Dark matter.  The Copernican Revolution.  Artificial intelligence theories.  What does quantum physics imply about spirituality?  Physicality?  So much fun.

I probably need to return to some of this reading.

The following video explains a bit about why those feelings I had are so appealing, addictive, and actually advantageous.  And the video is visually gorgeous as well.
The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck - by @JasonSilva from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

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