Overcoming the Amygdala Part 70


If human beings had no inner worlds at all, they would probably be fairly logical creatures.

They would observe factors in their surroundings and come to rapid and accurate determinations of what needed to be done. If they made an error because something wasn’t quite perceived correctly at any particular time, it would simply be a matter of recalculating the situation and issuing new instructions. Very machine-like, in other words. I expect a science fiction robot would operate along these lines, and most artificial intelligence being developed today probably has this kind of operation in mind.

It’s well known, and easily observable, however, that human beings are not logical in this way. Yes, they observe their surroundings, but often come to erroneous or inadequate conclusions about them, leading to incorrect or non-optimum decisions and reactions. That’s the downside. The other aspect is that human beings are capable of interacting with their surroundings in ways which create all kinds of things far beyond the limited abilities of a machine.

Why is this so?

Well, its pretty clear that something else is involved when a human being looks around at the external world. From somewhere within, human emotion, imagination, with elements of the unknown, enter the picture, blurring the scene or adding to it, depending on the context. Instead of seeing a street, we see the route we walked as a child to school or a pathway resembling something faintly mythical, or a road leading to a hospital with associations with trauma. In other words, we see more than a robot would detect. We see the external world plus what we project onto it.

The amygdala, in this scenario prompts the individual into fight/flight reactions often after he or she has already projected onto the environment in this way.

But if you were a robot, operating entirely logically, things would be a little different: your ‘scanners’ wouldn’t necessarily be projecting anything onto anything. As a robot, you would simply carry on going about your business — no projection, no sense of ‘departure’, no bypassing of consciousness to switch on your nervous system. A robot’s equivalent of a ‘projection’ would be its databank as programmed into it by a human being: the human being would determine the threat level of factors in the environment. In the absence of such items in the databank, there would be neither a reaction nor any need to bypass consciousness because ‘consciousness’ as we understand it would not be present.

The robot’s behaviour might be argued to be entirely logical, possessing no emotional baggage whatsoever. The robot isn’t doing any projecting, only receiving, and therefore it behaves ‘rationally’ in relation to the environment it can ‘see’. Its attitude makes perfect sense, but it is also flat and lifeless. Like the machine that it is, a logical robot would simply trundle on through the jungle, ignoring threats entirely (unless its human programmer had decided otherwise). The big difference between a robot’s behaviour and that of a human in the same conditions is that a human has