01 The Animal and the Machine

A man with a mechanical brain, cogs on show.Listen Now

Who Am I? - The Animal Part

Know Thy Self

The best thing you can do for yourself is to know yourself. This naturally extends to your environment, your social structure and your genetic history. You are a specialised logic box made from a universal sponge built on a biological framework of automated systems. You are the animal and you are the machine.

Your brain is the second best place to start. It is made up of approximately 86 billion neurons that self-build circuits based on feedback and so it is the ultimate learning machine. There is no reason why you couldn’t plug in an artificial sense and add it to your perception of the world. It’s an input output computer and the only limitation so far is our ability to add inputs. That all said however, it is incredibly important to understand that your template has shortcuts and a hierarchy that is driven by evolutionary imperatives from limitations arising from reality.

The Earth was created from a coalescing mass 4.5 billion years ago and a billion years later the first life appeared. A chemical accident led to the first life and anything that replicates has decedents remaining. Evolution isn’t a thing in itself, it’s the encapsulated concept of things being kind of there at a later point of time. It’s physics and applies to more than life. Every time we label something we need to understand that label as its a view into our own mind. How we apply labels tells a lot about the shortcuts in our mind.

So the first life used an acid and we now call it DNA, a deoxyribonucleic acid. This life could not generate much more energy than it took to keep itself alive making any form of appendage to expensive and so it remained what we call ‘single cell life’. You could say it had a problem or that it wasn’t happy, but if you do you’re anthropomorphising. It wasn’t aware and so it just was, another opportunity to self-examine.

Single cell organisms proliferated and diverged into every form of single cell life until one day something truly remarkable happened. An event so ridiculously unlikely that it was another 3 billion years before it happened. Something like a bacterium got inside something like a yeast cell, survived in the host, didn’t kill the host and multiplied with the host. The bacterium found itself safe, only concerning itself within the environment within the yeast and giving up its spare energy to the host. The yeast found itself with an internal power-up. These two were symbiotic, their fates entangled. The bacterium no longer needed a cell wall or in fact much of anything, and through natural selection, the ones that used less energy, could give up more energy to the host until all that was left was the power plant. At this point it crosses the human definition of a symbiotic pair back to a single cell loaded with power. As evolution is a constant and continuous logical result of favourable probability, from this cell came multicellular life. They, were your merged ancestors, it is you ancestor and that of every plant and animal on the planet. It is why you share 60% of your DNA with a banana.

With multicellular life came a food pyramid. Although plants have enough energy to grow leaves, they don’t particularly move much. One plant will live one life time and in that life have enough energy to capture more energy from the sun and grow. That’s about it. There is no reason why a plant couldn't evolve arms except it doesn’t have the energy to use them, for that it would need more than one lifetimes worth of energy, obviously ridiculous. What you can do however is have a large slow animal that can eat many plants and gain many plants lifetimes worth of energy. And then if you want to go faster you can have a predator that eats many animals that have eaten many plants and have a lot more energy. You can spot a predator as they have evolved traits that improve hunting. The hunted animals have eyes on the side of their heads so they benefit from a very wide field of view. A predator has their eyes at the front of their head so they can better use depth perception, and their ears focused forwards too. You can also identify predators at the apex of the pyramid by the fact that nothing hunts them. If you look in the mirror you'll see one. You'll see an apex predator that is mostly the same as a banana.

The theory of evolution has been a profound help in knowing oneself. Tracking this back shows you how you as a biological machine work and the most interesting part of our evolution is how it shapes us. We are not singular things and as soon as this old fashioned fallacy is dropped, the happier everyone will be. Some people comically argue that the sperm in a mans sack has evolved a man around it so it can happily swim around in its refined primordial soup as the man deals with world, and this is why men think with their dicks. This is of course the extreme opposite of a sense of self, horribly stereotyped and mostly wrong, but funny because it's a little bit true.

We can look at the first life, with all the various abilities it evolved and accidentally adopted when a virus left some of itself behind in the genome and we can see our heritage all the way to our forward facing eyes. The first animals that gobbled up other plants and animals, maybe even a second iteration of multicellular life the same way one fish walks onto empty land and evolves into a fox and much later a second fish walks onto land and makes the fox very happy with an easy meal that walked to it. You see in us the first and only three priorities of our first animal.

The energy problem. As an animal we must eat other life to gain enough energy to live or we die. Joint first also is the need to replicate. This one isn’t required for the animal to live, however we are some time later and the animals that were only interested in getting energy for themselves lived and died and are gone.

Only the ones that replicated have descendants here and now. So although the universe expresses no preference to life or no life, those who want to live and those who want to replicate are the ones that are found later and we live in that later.

The order we gained preference is fundamental to understand ourselves. The joint three first preferences, the need for energy, wanting to be alive and wanting being to have offspring are absolutely hard baked into our species. Individual variation means that maybe not everyone one of these applies to you, but to most people this is true. This is why it is so hard for most people to loose weight. The desire to eat all that is available is core and overrides any later logical assessment. It is compounded the desire to not exercise, because the core of the animal part of you knows that entropy is a killer and desperately desires to conserve all energy. It’s further compounded by the evolved ‘use it or loose it’ body adaptation. Every part of the body uses energy so big muscles even in rest burn a lot of energy. The body lets these muscles shrink to needs as much as they grow at need.

Ageing is a thing but someone who's unfit at 35 and more unfit at 40 isn’t more unfit because they are five years older. They are more unfit because they've had five more years of neglect. Like many things, the best time to start exercising is 10 years ago, but the second best time is right now. Use it or loose it and not choosing is a choice because entropy is a killer.

Food & Sex

Sex is deep. The replication drive is why you can have sex with someone then afterwards be disgusted with yourself. “I want to have sex” is deep and it deprioritises lesser concerns like general hygiene, social status and well, everything. On a par with energy it only shuts down when you are really drained. It’s why the stereotypes exists of men thinking with their dicks or why people have ‘ugly lays’. These are of course stereo types and shouldn’t be held as rules. In fact all of this is a rule of thumb as we are all different and a product of evolution. Some people are asexual or aromantic and we should believe them when they tell us they are different. This is in fact true for any sense of self-identity.

Sex also continues the next level up. When we’re more than a blob of cells. The first animal of our ancestry. We gained advantage where we were nurtured and looked after by our parents and so did our children when we did so for them. Stronger as a couple we become bonded for children. It is unsurprising then when the act of sex creates and increases the bonding. The joy of sex releases dopamine, the reward hormone of the brain. It’s why new couples go at it ‘like rabbits’, we evolved to do so and any relationship that looses sex will find the bond weakening from it. Some couples look to have children to fix a relationship, but this isn’t the answer. For them they should just have the sex without the children. In fact children are a hard drain on energy, sleep, time, personal freedom. You need to be in a place where you are strong and you want children because what they give you is more then you loose.

The first animal needs a little more than just energy. It has what to us is the brain stem, now located in the very middle of our brain. The brain stem controls the most basic functions of our body including breathing, attention and motor response. It’s why we can walk without thinking about it and why we don't have to spend time thinking ‘breath in, breath out’ in normal circumstances. It’s the origin of the idea of ‘force powers’ and the idea of ‘chi’ behind that as it reacts faster than we can think about it. Our conscious mind sets the time frame of one unit of time so anything faster than that is perceived as magic. Our brain stem doesn’t have to contemplate anything, just react. Just dodge the punch before you understand its coming. You let yourself go, don’t think and just let it work, using your chi, the force, your brain stem. It is what the military call muscle memory. It is riding a bike.

This first level of multi-celled animal however requires a bit more than energy. It needs nutrients for its specialised functions. Your body needs salt to balance out the fluids in your body. It needs vitamins and minerals found in fruits and berries like cranberries and not the poison of bad sweet fruit. It needs protein. You have developed Sweet, salty, sour aka acid, bitter aka alkaline and umami and you have an appetite for all these things you need. Again a singular version of yourself is archaic. You have an appetite for each of these types of food and if you eat processed food that seems high in protein but is in fact low in financially expensive protein, you will remain hungry. You will keep eating more and more until you are satisfied. Your body feels it MUST have protein and will very happily have an over supply of energy before it tells you you are done. It is hard to keep weight off if your food isn’t in the ratio of your appetite.

With this you have the first inkling of the two sides to yourself. The Animal and the Machine. Your logic processing higher functions are trying to fit in a society by managing the animal. You have the word ‘hungry’, that allows the thought ‘hungry’ to be associated with feeling of being hungry. Children have to learn this. Even burping touches on higher functioning as babies have to learn that too. Before they do babies generally solve the problem through the more animal approach of vomiting.

Maslow did a great job with his Hierarchy of Needs, describing what people need in what order.
The next level is nutrition, we have five appetites and oh what a surprise, we have five tastes.
Inner peace isn't something you can choose to have unless you have the building blocks to gain it. You can’t find inner peace if something is tearing you up inside.

So you are an apex predator who is mostly the same as a banana.

The Animal

The animal is where the emotions are. It’s happiness, sadness, grief, boredom and all the others. If you want to be happy do aspire to please the machine. The machine is incapable of caring, please the animal. The machine is the calculator you, the traditional ‘head’ but the ‘real’ you is the animal, the ‘heart’. Of course both are you but the animal feels like the real you because the animal feels, the machine does not. Please the animal.

Don’t think that what I mean by please the animal is being hedonistic, brutal, hard on people or anything that would satisfy an ego. Holding your baby skin on skin is pleasing your animal. Walking up a mountain and taking in the view is pleasing the animal. Going out and getting leary with your mates is pleasing the animal. If you are doing anything which harms another human being you are doing it wrong. Obviously this is broad guidance as a surgeon that is saving your life is doing right by you cutting you open. People may have called this getting in touch with your emotions but I think it’s more than that. It’s recognising your humanity and planning your life for maximum joy over your lifetime, even if it means giving everything you’ve got to your kids. On that note, know that kids need happy parents so giving everything to your kids may mean taking a little for your self.

There are two mes and I need to please them both. There is the parent and there is person. Parent duties comes first. I try to take every moment, stopping to look at birds with my child rather than yanking forward to putting them in nursery. I don’t always succeed as life is a many faceted thing and I also recognise that if I’m a little late for work because I had a nice time getting there with my child, I am privileged. Such things are not available for everyone so I here only point out what I try to do and I make no judgement on anyone else.

Who am I? - The Machine Part

The machine is your voice. Including your inner monologue, if you have one. It is the probability engine that does your maths. It’s why you can’t drown out your sorrows with alcohol and it’s why you can get home when you’re drunk. In many ways it’s immune to alcohol, at least some of the multifaceted self.

Your brain is is a bundle of evolved functions that each do tasks. As always energy, until recently has been a constraint and so your brain has evolved to prioritise need and has appropriate weighting. The easiest example of this is facial recognition, massively important to our ape social structure. If you can't recognise who’s in your tribe you’re going to have trouble. Also it’s really hard so a massive part of your brain is dedicated to facial recognition. So much so that you see faces everywhere before discarding them, like the man in the moon, or potato, or on a knee. You can’t help it.