Sunday, May 02, 2004

MayDay + 1

Well, I was going to blog yesterday with the snappy title "MayDay, MayDay, Derby Day, Derby Day" -- but, I correctly decided I should cut the grass, which left me not a lot of time for the traditional Kentucky Derby bourbon consumption -- so, no blog yesterday.

My son sent me a link to a good nebula award nominated sci fi short story by Cory Doctorow. Definitely reads as written by and for computer geeks. Good premise, computer interface to let you control your autonomic systems. Kind of like an early version of the glanding capabilities of future humans in Ian Banks Culture novels, where you can produce hundreds of designer drugs in your head by thinking about it. Still, this got me thinking. If we had such capabilities, it is hard to see how we wouldn't just bump our dopamine levels up to the max and bliss out. Kind of like the rats with the levers to give them cocaine -- they keep hitting the levers until they starve to death.

I was talking to my wife about a female friend of hers who had had a supernatural experience -- a visitation by a spirit. The read a book that told her to put a cross on the wall and tell the spirit to go away, so she did it and, shazam, it worked! No more spirit!

My wife also told me a story she had shared before, about how at age 5 she had three times in a row known what number would come up in the the church carnival chuck-a-luck wheel. I of course counter-argued, that I had things happen in my life that I thought might have been out of the ordinary, but when analyzed, could (of course) be accounted for with a scientifically sound explanation. My whole life, I have watched carefully for any "break" in reality and, damn, I just haven't seen any. But, like in the Piattelli-Palmarini book on cognitive illusions I've already blogged, the human mind is great at ignoring large number of negative results when given very small numbers of positive results (the principal by which psychics make money).

The two things together got me thinking tho. There is probably some evolutionary value in believing in miracles, luck, and all the rest and ignoring bad results. In times of crisis or quick-thinking, having to rationally justify all actions could have been a bad thing. Being able to get a group moving together quickly and cohesively would definitely be a good thing. And rallying behind a magical idea, leader, whatever, at times might have been just the ticket.

Plus, total rationality is clearly the wrong way to go in courtship and breeding. With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, a rational person might decide to steer clear of the whole thing. Falling in love enough to try marriage requires a "leap of faith" that is probably totally irrational, but is hopefully worth it in the long run. I tell this to some the rational young males I know, they don't seem to be buying it.

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