Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pattern Recognition and Language

We seek patterns, make distinctions, distinguish between those people we like and others not so much, and we do it all with a rabidness that would make Mr. Hyde howl at the moon for a scotch.  Because of pattern recognition we have big brains.  Because of pattern recognition, we stay alive, can navigate waterways, can create narratives, have fights, talk, and do it all again, and a lot.  We look out into what there is, and we lay claim to it by sorting, documenting, naming, and sharing the names we've come up with into a common system that we can all rely on.  We have tremendous capacity in this sense, so it makes sense that, once a pattern has become apparent in our mind, we likewise stick to it, mostly because we believe, as has probably been evidenced, that it provides predictive capacity.  In other words, that we can rely on it to guide us out of difficulty in the future.  After all, we expect others to go out and do the same, strengthening our ability to rely on their actions, and making our lives more efficient.  Drive on the right side of the road.  Coordinate with others.   Be nice. 

It makes sense, then, that when we face real conflict, it is because someone else has found a pattern that they can rely on that also, simultaneously, intersects or contradicts a pattern we've found.  Happens all the time. 

At the same time, we want to be lazy. Our laziness makes a lot of sense.  Given an appropriate amount of energy storage (food) and other basic necessities, we shouldn't go out into the world and cause unnecessary accidents, or risk them, just for the sake of it.  We should have a purpose when we choose to act. 

Oddly enough, though, to get really good at pattern recognition, we need to be able to practice safely, without the cold hand of death or injury or other sundry misfortune sweeping down to take us away.  

So maybe there's a balance in there somewhere, I'm not sure yet.  Historically, the most able pattern recognizers could then also be the laziest people, which strikes me as odd.  That's probably because I think we should work for what we have, because I buy into a just world theory.  I probably buy into a just world theory in turn because a norm of fairness keeps coordination between us as a group higher, increasing efficiency, so I don't like anyone that would profit at the expense of the group even though my ability to profit at the expense of the group, if I can control it, yields some incremental degree of power to me, extending my resources.  It is a tricky thing that I'm going to have to think about more than I can right now.

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