The Mind of a Perfect Machine
Some people actually have minds like this – and everyone else believes they do too. These are two separate topics, and I will deal with the first one first.
Some programmers have such minds, and any company with any sense is desperate to hire them. Companies without any sense, by far the most numerous, are willing to settle for second-rate minds – or in some cases complete imbeciles, as long as they know how to please the boss.
I have recently been exposed to a situation where such machine-like minds really shine. I had decided to learn Ruby on Rails, a programming language and application framework. Programming now means programming for the Web, which requires some new ways of doing things.
I had been a programmer once back in the early eighties, and programming then was comparatively simple. But even then it was obvious that I could not compete with the real brains in the field. I didn’t have that kind of mind – and in cases like this, you either have it or you don’t – and I didn’t.
So here I was learning to program again, just for fun – but trying to learn the most advanced stuff. It didn’t work, and I am going to tell you why.
I bought a book, and it described the different tools for using Ruby on Rails. It mentioned, in passing, that real programmers don’t need any tools to help them, and work directly from the command line (giving programming commands directly to the computer). This was not for me, I need all the help I can get – which meant working in an integrated development environment (IDE), which would do all kinds of things to help me.
It listed three IDEs. The first one I tried, from a company in Budapest, made no sense at all. The second used an open-source program that I had heard of before, and should have worked fine – but as I discovered for myself, and by doing some browsing on the Web, it was full of bugs.The third one, from a company the author of my book worked for, was a very expensive proposition – it did not come right out and say so, but if you followed the dots, as I spent some time doing, you ended up discovering this for yourself.
Then I downloaded an issue of Code magazine to the Kindle app on my computer, and found it had an article about Ruby on Rails in it. I started following its instructions, which were of the most basic kind: working from the command line. I learned a lot, in a hurry. Part of this learning was technical: I could see the power of Ruby on Rails (which is awesome) – but I also learned I didn’t have the kind of mind – the mind of a machine – needed for this kind of work. Just trying to think this way was was messing up my mind completely.
After a good night’s sleep, and recalling what I learned from reading The Master and his Emissary, this became clear. The left hemisphere thinks like a machine (a limited human), but the right hemisphere thinks like a complete human. McGilchrist takes great care to emphasize that both are necessary – we need both kinds of thinking – but we are in big trouble when the left takes command and starts giving orders itself.
I have explained how some people have minds that think like machines – but now I have to explain the second part of my opening statement: that everyone believes they have minds just as powerful. Minds that can instantly detect truth or falsehood. This is clearly an illusion, but a powerful one.
It should be exposed for just this reason: as one of the most pernicious beliefs of our time. Consider the sorry state of the presidential campaign. Everyone is lying their head off, knowing full well that the public is incapable of detecting this.
And when I say the public, I also include many of our intellectuals. I subscribe to the New York Review, and frequently comment on its articles. Its initial enthusiasm for Obama was limitless; they were comparing him to Lincoln. Their enthusiasm has slackened, but they still haven’t detected that he is completely fake – someone who says all the right things, and does all wrong things. Something so simple they cannot comprehend it.
They immediately classified him as a good guy, and they are incapable of changing their minds. Something McGilchrist has shown is left hemisphere, through and through. Or, as Ortega y Gasset has also shown, is typical of mass man - which now includes almost everyone. Or to refer to my own writing: the social results of mass production – which also produced mass man.