Re: We are our genes

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 08 Sep 1999 10:54:24 -0500

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:
> Given the amount of processing power that the brain has, it seems
> to me that a *huge* amount of stuff is thought about that we are
> never aware of. Some tiny fraction of it gets brought to our
> attention.

I disagree. That's like saying that only a tiny fraction of a computer is "conscious" because the vast majority of transistors in the CPU cannot be directly tested. It takes a huge amount of low-level stuff to support our high-level thoughts. There are no hidden high-level thoughts. There's no "unconsciousness" capable of independent cognition.

There are very few conditions under which a true unconscious desire is more adaptive than a true conscious one - I think these situations are too few, and too inconsistent, to create a selection pressure for suppressing cognition. There are many times when self-deception is adaptive, but that is not actually unconsciousness; that is refusing to admit something of which you are consciously aware. There are a good many emotions which result in inconsistent actions and internal beliefs about those actions; both are still conscious. The discipline of self-awareness occurs first by learning to admit the things lurking in the corners of your mind; second by studying the evolutionary origin of our conscious motives; not, at any point, by bringing unconscious cognition into consciousness.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way