The following is an abstract summary of my book, tentatively titled The Ancient Way of the Mind.
Between 100,000 and 10,000 years ago, humans embarked on a significant journey. During this period, we developed the capacity to think abstractly, employing logic and reason to create narratives and symbols that fostered cooperation and unity within our societies. As we advanced, we established agricultural communities and developed advanced technology that propelled us to the modern era. However, our analytical minds progressed at a pace misaligned with our evolutionary biology. The brain networks responsible for analytical thinking impede our ability to maintain a state of mindfulness, which is vital for long-term mental and physical well-being. Consequently, while constructing a magnificent ivory tower of progress, we are inadvertently falling ill within its towering walls.
The interconnection between mental and physical health is best explained through what I call the Calm Pond Theory. Consider that the brain receives a deluge of neurotransmitters to comprehend the state of the body and the external world. To do so, it constructs a model, constantly testing, refining, and rectifying to enhance the model’s accuracy, a process we experience as consciousness. Now, envision the brain as a pond, where raindrops represent neurotransmitters, gently hitting the pond and forming ripples that serve as the key to interpreting information. When the pond is calm, these ripples are distinct and easily discernible, enabling accurate interpretation. However, the demand of our modern world imposes perpetual mental rumination, causing a rainstorm of neuronal activity. The numerous ripples formed in a rainstorm collide and interfere with one another, making it significantly more challenging for the brain to construct an accurate model of the world, since understanding individual ripples becomes nearly impossible.
Mindfulness meditation assumes immense importance due to its ability to quell the rainstorm and create a calm pond. A mindful mind enables the brain not only to regulate the body’s internal systems effectively, but also to comprehend the external world more accurately. This sheds light on why meditation practitioners often describe experiences that feel more real than our usual perceptions. Ancient humans, prior to our intellectual revolution, commonly experienced such states, possibly accounting for the reverence ancient cultures held for the ineffable – a concept modern humans tend to dismiss due to our limited experiences and the inability to describe it analytically.
This perspective places the computer in a profound context. Alan Turing’s creation of a thinking machine, which birthed artificial intelligence (AI), can relieve us of laborious tasks. Additionally, Bitcoin signifies a profound step forward in resource management, where trust and excessive contemplation become unnecessary. These technologies exemplify how computers are poised to lift the burden of constant thinking from our shoulders. They can continue constructing the ivory tower on our behalf, allowing us to return to a lifestyle that aligns more harmoniously with our evolutionary biology. Not only will these advancements offer the expected socio-economic benefits, but they will also facilitate a revitalization of human beings, enabling us to rediscover inner peace and self-awareness in a way that resonates with our essential nature.