Monday, August 06, 2007

Hard wired

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of "The Black Swan," writes:
What are our minds made for? It looks as if we have the wrong user’s manual. Our minds do not seem made to think and introspect; if they were, things would be easier for us today, but then we would not be here today and I would not have been here to talk about it---my counterfactual, introspective, and hard-thinking ancestor would have been eaten by a tiger while his nonthinking, but faster-reacting cousin would have run for cover. Consider that thinking is time-consuming and generally a great waste of energy, that our predecessors spent more than a hundred million years as nonthinking mammals and that in the blip in our history during which we have used our brain we have used it on subjects too peripheral to matter. Evidence shows that we do much less thinking than we believe we do.
I guess this explains the popularity of "Dancing With the Stars" and "300."


Cary said...

Does it also explain the NFL, MLB, and U2?

Eric said...

No, but it does explain the popularity of NASCAR and "Two and a Half Men."

Cary said...

Does it explain any entertainment forms that you enjoy...or just entertainment form that you don't like?

Really, how much different is the NFL from NASCAR at the core? Personally I love the NFL and am totally bored by NASCAR, but I bet the people that like NASCAR would probably site the same reasons for loving it as I would for loving the NFL.

Eric said...

It explains any entertainment form that appeals to our reptilian brain--the entertainment forms that are the equivalent of an orgasm: it feels good, so I like it.

Orgasms are totally awesome, don't get me wrong. I'd love to experience one myself some day. But I just think that entertainment is best that appeals to both the heart and the mind.

The two examples I concocted for the post are simply two entertainments that I thought might be hard to defend on those grounds, though I am sure some people could do so.

But, as you alluded to on Rob's blog, the financially successful entertainments almost always are the ones that appeal to our reptilian brain, which means that my theory of aesthetics is not shared by most of my countrymen. It doesn't mean they're wrong. It just means that they think I'm an elitist and I think they're foolish.