via ted.com

There’s nothing new here — at least for rational, non-mad humans. It’s nice to hear someone (more qualified than I?) reaffirming exactly what I think, though.

The best bit — the bit that shows how close we are to knowing what chemically makes us tick — is the bit about dopamine levels in the brain. More dopamine = hyperactive imagination, see patterns everywhere and in everything; not enough dopamine = dull, sluggish, unable to make potentially life-saving associations.

That a single neurotransmitter can play such a vital role in our lives is scary. My point of view is that humans are basically pattern matching machines. We do carry out extemporaneous acts — we do sometimes act without actually thinking of the consequences — but ultimately, living life is a matter of matching objects, ideas, thoughts and people against archetypes held in cranial memory.

I don’t think people realise that without accurate, rational pattern-matching abilities, we basically fail as human beings. Fail to associate a road sign with ‘stop’ — you’re dead. Fail to associate a pointed gun with ‘stop talking’ — you’re dead.

You can take the pattern-matching thing even further. Consider laboratory scientists — specialist humans designed to spot very specific patterns, often at the expense of having weaker pattern-matching in other areas. The same goes for any specialist: they all spot patterns, or make best guesses based on known patterns — a bomb defusal expert (circuits, wiring, smell, sight); a video gamer (peripheral vision, color processing); a lawyer (similar cases, concepts, human traits).

I need to learn more about how dopamine affects our rationality; it’s an interesting vein of thought, that’s for sure.

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Sebastian

I am a tall, hairy, British writer who blogs about technology, photography, travel, and whatever else catches my eye.

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