The palaces of the mind
The palaces of the mind
The main idea of the book is to explain concepts of how human brain works and introduce techniques on how brain activities can be influenced or even controlled.
Kurpatov suggests that humans are not that unique when compared to animals and, although we are distinguished by having consciousness and a wide set of mental skills, the system that controls human cerebral activities is pretty basic. One may argue that in the era of digitalization and new technologies our superiority upon any other living being on Earth should come to its highest point, however the author thinks that it on the contrary brings people back to animal world where the humankind originates from according to Darwin’s theory.
The main justifications for such a bold statement are how gadgets became so vital for any representative of our society and the phenomena of so called digital autization. We could interpret the first justification as erasing the concept of smartphone being artificial object but becoming a legit part of the human body. This is how necessary they have become to our day-to-day lives that we no longer see us existing sufficiently without them. The term of digital autization is based on the idea of substitution real world for virtual one meaning that our thinking processes are delegated by gadgets and all the advantages they offer and people being simply reluctant to use their own mental capacity but choose to rely for example on Google instead. Those factors supposedly have decreased human brain’s activity dramatically. Kurpatov is not the first person to admit this fact. Already ten years ago technology writer Nicholas Carr suggested that our memory scope has shortened, attention span has decreased, and it became easier for us to lose focus. Nonetheless I have to partially disagree with these assumptions because evidence of smart phones, computers, social media and internet influence our brain positively also exists. A lot of people admit that with the help of electronic devices they learnt to multitask, use them as stress relievers and as a source for acquiring new skills and competences. Even some neuroscientists show findings that the brain has become more plastic meaning it has the ability to reprogram itself overtime and it could account for the Internet’s effect on it.
Therefore, in my opinion the author being a bit dramatic about the situation in the society. But the truth is that there is no black and white but a healthy balance between pros and cons that digitalization brings to our lives.
Nevertheless, Kurpatov proposes some explanations and tricks on how to use our brain scope to a decent potential:
- Perception is not reality. Perception is a mental impression, the way that we understand and interpret things. While reality is the state in which those things actually exist. It is self-sufficient and not subjected to human decisions or conventions. We could combine these two definitions and come to a conclusion that perception acts as a lens through which we view reality. It gives perception an unfortunate power to manipulate our brains. Let’s review how perception may influence our working life. For example, if a manager decides (and the decision being completely subjective) that an employee’s effort at the workplace is not enough it can easily result in employee’s lay-off, regardless of actual state of affairs. This is why it is important to remember that we can be easily deceived by our own thoughts, expectations and experiences.
- Mental detox. One way to do it is to dedicate couple of minutes to listing ideas that come to your head on a piece of paper. After that it is time to classify and evaluate those thoughts. Usually things that come in the list first are easily converted into plans and can be transferred to one’s calendar. Second come things that require more detailed examination and could be divided into two subgroups. First subgroup would include ideas that can be progressed and developed by an individual and eventually would result in some sort of an outcome. And then come things that are out of our control and can’t be changed or influenced. Surprisingly those thoughts take a lot of space of our mental capacity not allowing to concentrate on things that really matter.
- Study of default mode network. The idea behind it is that our brain shows more activity when we are not concentrating on conducting a specific task or doing any other mental exercise. It can provoke happy memories and thoughts that can fertilize our efficiency and productivity, but also can bring up unpleasant concerns and even the deepest fears from the bottom of our infinite subconscious. Those negative activities can be really damaging to our brains and can eventually result in having anxiety, paranoid thoughts, panic attacks and other mental problems. There is no instant solution on how to prevent these kinds of thought from appearing, but meditation and mindfulness are considered to be one of possible ways of solving the issue. As it is scientifically proven that they help reduce stress, anxiety, increase grey matter concentration in the brain and improves information processing and decision-making.
I have found the book quite confusing and have mixed feelings about it. It was hard to find a link between several topics mentioned in the book. I shall admit that I had to argue every other statement made by the author. I came to the conclusion that our brain is a machine that operates on some kind of autopilot and it is extremely difficult to control it. That conclusion is the exact opposite of what the book promised to deliver. Although I might not consider techniques used in the book useful, I have found myself reflecting on many things and actually boosting my own brain activity.
The palaces of the mind. Andrey Kurpatov. 2018, Academia Smysla.
Is google making us stupid. Nicholas Carr. 2010, Atlantic.