Sep 112008

Here is another insight I’ve had recently:

I know that most of us live our lives on autopilot, letting forces make our choices for how our life will be rather than making conscious and intelligent choices ourselves. The thing I’ve realized is that while people will not admit that they are pushed about by forces that are not themselves and believe in supreme free will, in practicality we’re constantly pushed and pulled by forces we can’t even identify.

Evolution is certainly a force that affects us. Evolution-based biases and thinking biases that seem universal. Evolution has also shaped our minds to include reasoning and emotions and the characteristics of a human psyche, and we can’t very well step out of our experience as human beings. There is also the force of society, which we conform to out of sheer osmosis, simply by being around other human beings, we become like them. For example, we all like to believe we’re different, but try to eavesdrop on strangers about your age some time. I do this on the subway sometimes and am often surprised to find that they think similarly to how I do, they even make some of the same jokes. We’re more similar to other people than we think.

Those are external forces, but there’s the internal forces that push around our conception of “me”. For example, your moral code or sense of duty might cause you to do some things. Perhaps your moral code is inherited and not consciously selected. Our emotions can push and pull us a lot, which are probably the force that we feel the most directly.

Even our notion of free will is constrained by the options we believe are in front of us. Even our ignorance is a force that causes us to do unsconscious things. For example, say you want to quit your job because you hate it, but you don’t know if there’s anything better out there. Your ignorance of other jobs is limiting you.

The antidote to these forces is consciousness and learning to become more conscious. Being conscious means to make conscious choices that are fully aware of circumstances and the realization that whatever happens you can handle it and that it is your choice. Being unconscious is simply letting circumstances, evolutionary urges, society, an inherited moral code, your emotions, your previous habits make important choices for you.

Main Points:

  • Human beings like to believe we’re in control and making independant choices.
  • However, we are greatly pushed back and forth by forces we don’t even understand or recognize. Evolution may not be recognizable because we have familiarity blindness, but it’s there all the same.

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