25 Februar 2013

Building Brainscapes

The more complicated the landscape, the more the wanderer relies on patience. The more confusing the scene, the more tolerant his outlook becomes. He not only has an awareness of his own ignorance, but of his own weakness in the face of it. He knows that his mind will seize on the first bit of data it comes across and build a universal theory around it. This is the fallacy of anchoring. He knows that his mind will take his most recent experience and try to impose the lessons of that case onto this one. This is the fallacy of availability. He knows that he came onto this scene with certain stereotypes of how life works in his mind, and he will try to get what he sees here to conform them. This is the fallacy of attribution.
He is on guard against his weaknesses. He pays attention to the sensations that come up from below. He makes tentative generalizations and analyses and focuses on sensations anew. He continues to wander and absorb, letting the information marinate deep inside. He is playing, picking up this and that. He sees a section of the landscape and slowly feels his way to another side. He meets people in this new landscape, and he reenacts pieces of their own behavior and thinking in his own mind. He begins to walk the way they walk, and laugh as they laugh. He sees the patterns of their daily existence, which they are no longer aware of. His mind naturally oscillates between the outer texture of their lives - their jewelry, their clothes and mementoes - and what he intuits of their inner hopes and goals.
At some point there is a moment of calm, and disparate observations integrate into a coherent whole. The wanderer can begin to predict how people will finish their sentences. He now possesses maps in his mind. The contours of his brainscape harmonize with the contours of reality in this new place. Sometimes this synchronicity will be achieved gradually. Sometimes there are bursts of inspiration, and the map comes into focus all at once. After these moments, the mind will interpret every old piece of data in a radically new way. What seemed immeasurably complex will now seem beautifully simple.
Eventually - not soon, not until after many months or years of arduous observation, with dry spells and frustrating longueurs - the wanderer will achieve what the Greeks called métis.
David Brooks, The Social Animal 

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