Your inner Google

I just heard a comment by Braddock of Lovesystems that was brilliant: All that your brain does when you ask it a question is hit “search” and return the first hit it finds. So be careful how you phrase your question.

Say you just arrived at work, and realized you once again left your security pass at home. You ask yourself, “Why do I keep forgetting my security pass?”

If you believe you are a rational agent, you might think that you pass that question to your brain, and it parses it into its constituent parts and builds a query like

X such that cause(X, forget(me, securityPass))

and queries its knowledge base using logical inference for causal explanations specifically relevant to you and your security pass.

But you are not rational, and your brain is lazy; and as soon as you phrase your question and pass it on to your subconscious, your brain just Googles itself with a query like

why people forget things

looks at the first few hits it comes across, maybe finds their most-general unifier, checks that it’s a syntactically valid answer to the question, and responds with,

“Because you are a moron.”

Your inner Google has provided a plausible answer to the question, and it sits back, satisfied that it’s done its job.

If you instead ask your brain something more specific, such as, “What can I do to help me remember my security pass tomorrow?”, thus requiring its answer to refer to you and actions to remember things and tomorrow, your brain may come up with something useful, such as, “Set up a reminder now that will notify you tomorrow morning by cell phone to bring your security pass.”

So, try to be at least as careful when asking questions of your brain, as when asking them of Google.