Monday, July 27, 2009

Coincidences

Every now and then a certain sequence of events occurs that makes you wonder if there might be a reason behind their occurrence. A similar thing happened to me recently.

Yesterday, while coming back from Papi Hills, on the boat, I noticed a girl reading 1984 by George Orwell. We got talking about the book and how it makes one depressed. By and by, we started talking about dystopia in general and I recommended her a book named The Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I told her that even though both the books talk about a dystopian society The Brave New World is not as depressing as 1984 and seems more relevant today. Fast forward 8 hours and the first thing I clicked in the morning was this comic strip which, quite surprisingly, talked about almost the same theme that I had in mind.

Now, I could say that my first reaction to all this was to explain it as a simple coincidence brought about by mere chance, but that would be lying. The 1.5 kg of pulp between our ears is not wired that way. It always tries to make sense of whatever pattern it can get hold of, even if no sense exists thereof. So my conscious mind had to step in and do some explaining to my intuitive mind about why its perfectly reasonable to attribute these things to chance.

If you think about it, our brain (the subconscious part at least) is quite crude in its functioning; it only has a few circuits, evolved over the time and found beneficial for survival, that it tend to apply to almost every situation. This recognizing-a-pattern-and-seeking-its-meaning is also one of these circuits. And it's easy to see the benefits of this circuit; it acts as a bridge that connects human experience to knowledge. Without it we would be no different than most of the other animals.

But this circuit in itself is only helpful to the extent that it points us toward a number of possible patterns and meanings. We still need to figure out a filter mechanism which rejects the false alarms - be they about some mundane coincidence or about finding the meaning of life.

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2 comments:

cadi said...

Nice thought
So I should read 'Amusing ourselves to Death' and get the modern perspective

veer said...

Have added "Brave New World" and "Amusing Ourselves to Death" to my reading list.

Although it looks like Huxley's version is turning out to be true, I think Orwell was not mistaken either.