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Robots. Automation. Welcome to the Digital Age, an era that has now pushed humankind onto a whole new trajectory. Luddites aside, fans of the conveniences provided by Alexa and Siri look forward to the further “deep learning” of machines. Modern science seems to have an inescapable desire to reconstruct consciousness and see it mapped out before our eyes.
In regards to artificial intelligence, Byron Reese writes in his book, The Fourth Age, “Those who predict we will make conscious computers haven’t come to that conclusion because they know something about consciousness that others don’t, but because they believe… that humans are fundamentally machines.”
I guess it’s not difficult to see why. Our subconscious functions much like a cloud server. We store every memory, every event, from cradle to grave in files deep within our subconscious. Why can’t that be replicated? Maybe if it was, we could better understand the mysterious dark matter in our brains and why it works the way it does… like when we are triggered by something seemingly innocuous and are then suddenly besieged by a past trauma that rears up from the storage locker of our subconscious to literally take our breath away. As for the conscious mind, couldn’t we compare that to the items we save on our desktop? Easy to access, convenient to remember.
But why try so hard to replicate something when we already have it? We possess conscious and subconscious thought. We have dark matter in our brain that begs to be explored.
Yet as technology progresses, we are encouraged to rely less and less on our subconscious and conscious minds and let the machines do the remembering, the collection of tasks, and in some cases, the thinking for us.
What happens to a muscle if it’s not exercised? In the long run, if technology offers the support, does it matter?
Human thought should matter because it’s free and already at our disposal.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “the power of prayer.” Gather enough people in one room who are united in one belief, and you’ll feel an electric vibe in the air, a positive charge, if you will. There’s something to that.
As an author, I find that thought is one powerful substance. As Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “The ancestor of every action is a thought.” Every novel begins with a thought.
Every invention begins with a thought. What’s strange is that we don’t seem to own them. Ask any writer or inventor—anyone who becomes inspired (which is most all of us) and he will tell you about the spectacular idea he had, which, due to some hesitation or procrastination, fast became someone else’s great idea. We’ve all cried out “But-I-thought-of-that” at one time or another.
Thoughts are like cars on a highway, they can get clogged up because there are too many and yet, if you happen to be exchanging ideas with a like-minded individual, thoughts can flow so fast and easy that you swear sparks are flying.
So, what is the genesis of thought? Let’s take a trip back to the era before the Digital Age, before the Industrial Age, before even the dawn of language. Were we simple cave dwellers grabbing at someone’s hair when we wanted his or her attention? Or did a language of the mind exist? A way to communicate beyond simple hand gestures and facial expressions. Consider it. Have you ever received a call or an email from someone you were just thinking about? Yes, you could put it down to coincidence, but sometimes, it happens more often than coincidence can explain. For instance, some random person or event will pop into my mind and I’ll bring it up to my husband. Nine times out of ten, he says, “I was just thinking of that.” It has occurred too many times for me to rationalize it away as simple coincidence, especially when the subject matter is something far off of my radar at that given moment.
We need to exercise the mind-muscle. It begins with you giving credence to every one of your thoughts. Believe each one is part of a vast network, an internet in which we are all connected. How liberating is that idea? To know that because you are part of one network, your thoughts do matter and they do make a difference, even before you have put them into action. Part of giving credit to your thoughts is to take them seriously. My writing improved when I finally caved in and began to write on paper those annoying thoughts that always arrived at three in the morning (i once heard that the membrane between the conscious and subconscious is the thinnest in the early morning hours after a deep sleep). While a few of the ideas I chose not to use in the rational light of day, most were well worth the early-morning wake-up call.
Next, remember that distraction is your enemy. All good things come with focus. It’s impossible to create the alchemy that comes with turning your thoughts into reality if you are continuously allowing yourself to become distracted. Unplugging and meditating will help alleviate this. It will show you how to differentiate between what is important and what is a mere distraction. Try not to get sucked into our world of soundbites, flash-fiction, tweets, and quick fixes. Attention deficit is not conducive to thought exploration. Now we all need Alexa to do things for us. Train yourself (and trust yourself) to “read through to the end.” This will encourage you to slow down, take a deep breath, and explore the inner workings of your mind.