21 September 2010

Human or Zombie? The Answer May Surprise You

Can you focus your mind on the things that need doing, or does your mind seem to focus itself on whatever pops up? Humans spend most of their lives immersed in everyday trance states -- almost indistinguishable from the mental states of zombies. It happens when the mind goes on auto-pilot, and may occur on the road, at work, in a lecture, or almost anywhere the mind feels safe enough to "zone."

Mindfulness is the opposite of a trance zone. Mindfulness is on the human end of the spectrum, with trance zones being on the zombie end. If a child is raised well, she will be the master of her attentional apparatus rather than the zombie slave. But if she is like most children, she will grow up to join the zombie horde of like-minded consumers of the trite and stylish fads of the mainstream.

In fact, most people fall into a number of destructive thought patterns and habits. Once the instigating thought or event occurs, it can be almost impossible to turn the mind away from the compelling grip of the habitual pattern. Mental exhaustion can easily set in after just a few seconds of such struggle, leaving the person defeated, falling once again into the same pattern.

It is possible to learn self-control, even as an adult who was not carefully trained as a child. But it generally takes more work than most people are willing to put in. The challenge for therapists and counselors is to make such late training of attention and executive functions fun. The alternative is a life of zombie trance zoning, leading to self-defeating habits.

Interestingly, the brain wave patterns of persons in hypnotic trance are different from the wave patterns of someone in a deep meditative state (PDF). I suspect that the wave pattern would be even more complex for persons specifically trained in mindfulness meditation.

We all have brains, but they do not all work the same. Very rarely do they work at optimal levels, regardless of the genetic and environmental advantages we may have been given.

Are you human or zombie, in the way you spend most of your time? What about your children? Would you spend $200,000 to send a zombie child to university, to concentrate on queer ethnic studies and semiotic basket weaving -- between binge drinking, fornicating, and academic lobotomising? If you did, what sort of person would he turn out to be?

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Blogger Loren said...

Heinlein mentions Samuel Renshaw in a few of his books. Sounds similar.

Tuesday, 21 September, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

If you are concerned about Academic Lobotomization I highly recommend sending your child to Ga Tech. The closest thing to a political discussion we had in class was when a professor asked us to vote for the president by show of hands. When we all voted for bush and not Kerry he said "So there is hope among your generation." The first thing my Econ. Professor said was, I am a Libertarian, this will influence the class and the way it is taught, if you believe in Keynesian Economics drop out of Tech, we do real math at this school.

Any school with the name Institute of Technology is probably very similar. Just because the professors have typically spent time in the field of their degree, and have a very firm grip on how the world really works.

Wednesday, 22 September, 2010  
Blogger Robert said...

Isn't this a question about social “class” (or quality) too? Efficient, fascinated and devoted people who are challenging their ability in their journey to complete what drives them, whatever it may be, probably do not zombiefy in the same manner as ordinary goal-free workers/spenders do.

I guess this is a somewhat heritable behaviour for the masses. For a society to survive and evolve there must be an obeying, child-bearing, consuming, working, morally uncontroversial, maximally semi-rebellious working class. If the masses start thinking too hard or questioning the very basic structures of the society or the present cultural paradigm, they wouldn’t get any work done, and instead they would constantly be debating real issues, dying.

Also, most people, even if they are smart and striving for a goal, they probably wouldn’t get to the philosophical insight that you need to have to understand functions of societies. So, it’s better if they don’t think too much. Thus, surviving societies during evolution have selected for our brains to be able to conform, or adapt, to a hierarchy in “mindfulness”, where some become mindfull leaders and others mindless masses. Probably lots of people could get a lot smarter and less like zombies if they somehow got into a new habitus in a new position in society.


Thursday, 23 September, 2010  
Blogger drivewaycrawler said...

confirms my suspicions these many years that most people sleepwalk through life. Living life awake is shocking on a daily basis.

Thursday, 23 September, 2010  
Blogger PRCalDude said...

This is another good book on mindfulness.

Sunday, 26 September, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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