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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: 2016 Lecture 05: Maps of Meaning: Part I: Anomaly and the brain

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So momentarily were going to return to the basic story.

I want to talk to you today about how your brain organizes your perceptions, and then

I want to talk to you about how thats represented in mythology.

The first thing Id like to point out, is we talked about the difference between Darwinian

and Newtonian viewpoints a while back.

One claim that you might make if you were Darwinian is that whatever your brain is adapted

to is reality.

That seems to be the central claim of Darwinian evolution, is that you cant define reality

any more accurately than that which selects.

I want to tell you about how I think the brain is organized.

Then I want to show you, I hope, that the way fundamental narratives work can be mapped

on to that brain structure.

To me that implies that theres something right about fundamental narratives, because

otherwise why would they map onto the brain structures that have evolved to adapt us to

the environment?

People think about reality in objective terms, and they think about it as decomposable into

tiny subunits.

I think thats a limited viewpoint, a powerful but limited viewpoint.

I think its much more realistic to assume that whatever reality is, is more like a continual

interplay of very, very complex patterns.

I suppose you could make the case that those patterns are ultimately made out of particles,

but even thats not exactly true because the particles have to be arrayed in space.

Thats part of the atomic theory is that theres not just subatomic particles and

atomic particles, but that theyre arrayed in space.

If theyre arrayed in space, that means the manner in which theyre arrayed can

be informative.

And if you reduce the phenoma to the particle, without taking into account the patterning

of array of the particles, then there are levels and levels and levels of information

that you lose.

Those levels of information arethey may not be relevant for our physical understanding

of the make-up of atomic and subatomic particles, but theyre definitely relevant to whether

we can walk across the street safely.

I would say if youre related to reality properly, the kind of information that youre

processing is precisely the kind of information that allows you to cross the street properly;

and to do all the other things during your days, your weeks, your months that you have

to in order to stay alive and fundamentally, in some sense, propagate.

Alright, so well start with the neuropsychological argument.

Now weve already established the idea that these little frames of reference, or maps,

or stories, or whatever you call themIll call them stories from hereon in, are little

gold-directed units.

Theyre units of conception and emotion and perception and behavior; theyre little


The sub-personality has an initial starting point and a destination point, and then it

implements behaviors to transform the starting point into the destination point.

Then you might say, well what forms these little sub-personalities?

The answer to that is very complex, but one answer is: fundamental motivations.

I arranged the fundamental motivations on this particular diagram pointing out that

you can roughly consider motivations, as those that maintain you, and those that propagate


Now its just a heuristic, its just a way of thinking about it.

Under self-maintenance theres thermal regulation, thirst, hunger and elimination, and theres

all sorts of other things as well, but those will do for the time being.

Under self-propagation theres affiliative desire and sexual desire.

The things thats quite interesting about all of this is that there are brain structures

that underlie the manifestation of these fundamental sub-personalities.

Now people tend to think about them either as motivations or emotions, and I think thats

another useful heuristic.

You can say that, roughly speaking, that a motivation pops up an entire frame of reference

and emotion tends to orient you within that frame of reference.

But thats only a conceptual simplification, because what you see when look at the actual

brain structures is that there isnt an emotion centerthere are a bunch of micro-units

in the brain, and there are separable micro-units for different emotions and different motivations

and they dont necessarily have that much in common in terms of their locale, except

that they tend to be relatively deep in the brain.

Some are hypothalamic and some are in the amygdala, and some are in the periaqueductal

grey, which seems to be responsible for pain responses.

So we can classify things as motivations and emotions, but it doesnt map one-to-one

on the underlying brain structure.

Now I think what well do with regards to talking about the brain is well start from

the bottom up.

Its appropriate to start from the bottom up because you are more dependent on your

ancient brain structures than you are on your modern brain structures; in that, if you damage

your modern brain structures, and I mean relatively modern, lets say the ones that have really

evolved in great detail over the last two million years, the cortical cap, in particular,

the prefrontal cortex, a lot of the visual cortex.

If you damage that you can pretty much go on.

Now youre going to have one impairment or another impairment, but you can still stay


However, there are structures that are lower down that if you damage, thats the end

of you.

So for example, the ascending reticular activating system, which is the thing that wakes you

up when youre asleep at night, when a noise occurs that shouldnt occur.

It seems to be the activating center for consciousness, whatever that means.

Its way deep down in the brain, its way deep down at the top of the spinal cord,

roughly speaking.

If you twist your head in a car accident a little bit too roughly, and you sheer off

the ascending fibers, and youre in a coma permanently, then nothing can wake you up.

Thats pretty interestingto know that consciousness, our tendency is to think about

that as a function of the higher cortical systems, is dependent completely on something

that is unbelievably ancient.

So it begs the question, exactly what level of neuronal complexity do you have to be before

you have sub consciousness?

The answer to that is, we dont know.

The relationship between consciousness and neuronal structure is insanely complex.

For example, you have very neuron-heavy structures in your brain, like the cerebellum, which

has a very rough outer-coating like the cortex, and it has about as many neurons as the cortical

sheet does.

Yet, you can take it out of people and they dont seem to show any impairment in consciousness,

but they get ataxic and they cant control their behavior that well.

They have a hard time guiding itbut that seems to be more or less it.

Now it isnt, because there are other things that the cerebellum does, but my point is

that you can have massively neuron-heavy structures that seem to be related in very minimal ways

to our experience of consciousness.

Your autonomic nervous system is sort of like thatthere are a lot of neurons in your

autonomic nervous system, but I think its a mistake to say that were precisely conscious

of our autonomic nervous system; although now and then were conscious of its outputs.

It governs the operation of our organs and all the things that are so complex that we

arent allowed to mess with them as conscious beings.

But its not conscious, and then somehow some neurons are conscious.

I tell you, we dont know anything about consciousness.

We really dont, we dont have a clue.

I think its probably because were formulating the question wrong.

There are people who are materialist reductionists, and they believe that consciousness is an

emergent property of the underlying neuronal function.

The problem with that philosophy is that its predicated on the assumption that they understand

what the matter is thats making up that neuronal substrate.

I can tell you that by the time were able to reduce consciousness to its underlying

material structure, well think of whatever matter is, in a way thats completely different

than the way we think of it now.

So there might be an eventual reduction, but at the same time theres going to be a transformation

of the theories.

Its clear that we dont understand material that well, particularly because when you go

down to the tiny underlying substructures at the subatomic level it behaves in a very,

very peculiar manner.

So anyways, all bets are off in regards to consciousness.

It also does seem to be something thats likely very ancient.

There are people who have attributed consciousness to insects.

Insects, by the way, seem to go out of their way to take hallucinogenic drugs, which is

quite interesting.

So the fly agaric, for example, is the famous red and white mushroom that you always see

in fairy tales and in super Mario brothers.

It pops up everywhere.

Flies will come and take a bite of it and they fall unconscious beside the mushroom

and they stay there for ten or fifteen minutes, and then they get up, but they go eat it again.

Reindeer really like them too and they get blitzed out of their mind on amanita muscaria.

Theres evidence for the desire to transform states of consciousness, way, way down in

the animal kingdom, way farther than youd think.

So God only knows.

Then you think well a big brain is necessary, but if you consider something like Irene Pepperbergs

African Grey parrot, which died a couple of years agoa famous animal which could

speak better than a three year old kid.

It had a good vocabulary, more than five hundred words, and it could put together meaningful


It could speak better than a chimpanzee.

They use sign language of course.

This was one smart bird.

If you think about a bird, it has no brain, a bird.

Its got a brain about this big.

I know a bird isnt very big, and that actually makes a difference.

The fact that that much intelligence could be compacted in that small of an area, means

as far as Im concerned, that we dont really understand very much about how the

brain works.

We do understand some things, and most of the things we understand have actually been

discovered by animal experimentalists.

Which is a useful thing to know.

Because of course there are a lot of people who think that animal experimentation isnt

a good idea, or that we could substitute computer modelswhich is a spectacularly idiotic


Obviously if we had accurate computer models we wouldnt need to do the animal experimentation.

Were not going to build a computer model thats better than our current understanding,

at least not yet; we may in the future.

Anyways you can think of the basic structures that are producing these little sub-personalities

as the output of fundamental biological systems.

Theyre either motivations or emotions.

The structure that appears to be most responsible for this sort of thing, at least initially,

is the hypothalamus.

I should show you a little bit about the hypothalamus.

Just so you kind of have a sense of what it is.

Its not very big, and youll see in this diagram that it sits right on top of the spinal

cord and the base part of the brain.

Thats just that little bitty area there.

It looks from the diagram it seems to be about one percent of the entire brain mass or something

like that.

I think I mentioned to you before that if you take a cat and you take all of its brain

off, except for the hypothalamus, roughly speaking, as long as its a female cat in

a restrictive environment, it can pretty much live a cat life; except that its hyper-exploratory.

Which I do think is quite remarkable, because youd think that it would just lay there

passively, since it doesnt have a brain.

The hypothalamus, Ill show you some more pictures here of the hypothalamus, this is

a rat hypothalamus, and this is a diagram from Larry Swanson, whos a real genius,

and well-worth reading, although very complicated.

Hes a developmental neuro-anatomist, if I remember correctly, and hes interested

in how the brain unfolds across the course of fetal development in all sorts of different


Assuming by doing that in part, you can track the evolution, but you can also understand

the relationship between one brain part and another.

What you see here, you see all of these little sub-units of the hypothalamus, theyre indicated

in orange, green and black, and so the first thing that you can see is the hypothalamus

is not one thing, its a bunch of ganglia, I think is the correct name for the hypothalamic


So, its called a hypothalamus sort of for convenience sake, you can identify it anatomically

and it might be a good short-hand for a rough description of the macrostructure of the brain,

but of course the problem with the brain is, you know, its pattern one at this level

and its pattern two at this level, and its pattern three at this level.

You can go a long ways down before you run out of complexity.

A cell is an unbelievably complicated thing, and you have, God only knows how many of those

things you have in your brain.

I dont remember exactly what the latest estimates are, but its in the hundreds

of billions.

Each of those cells is as complex as really complex factory, and its full of these

little molecular machines and theyre doing things that are so complicated and amazing,

you just cant believe it when youIve seen computer animations of some of these

structures in operation, and the complexity of what they do to take the DNA molecule apart,

and then to rebuild it little bit by little bit, and to do error correction at the same

time, it just boggles the mind.

I cannot see how you can possibly account for that using a straight, sort of Newtonian

deterministic model of clock ward behavior; the stuff is so sophisticated.

It looks more like advanced robotics than it does the interaction of tiny little molecules.

There are molecules that work with the DNA that can walk, and as they walk they carry

other molecules, and not only can they walk, they can walk over obstacles.

Theyre like made out of ten molecules!

Whats going on?

Its just beyond belief.

Okay, so all of these little nuclei in the hypothalamus, theyre all doing slightly

different things, theyre radically different things, although they have commonality in


So, roughly what you could say is that one half of the hypothalamus is devoted to popping

up little sub-personalities that are devoted to the satisfaction of fundamental biological


Its not obvious what a fundamental biological requirement is, because thats a heuristic,

its not a category, its a fuzzy category, but we can agree on some of its contents.

So of course thirst, hunger and the need to breathe would be in there, and might also

add pain, and sexual desire and the need for play, although thats a separate circuit

and its not mediated by hypothalamic structures, theres a different circuit for play.

Play slash affiliation.

Roughly speaking what an animal basically chases and requires on a day-today and week-to-week

basis is mediated in large part by the hypothalamus.

And the hypothalamus is also a crucial nexus in the brain for identifying whats going

on in the body and then telling the brain what to do about it.

So for example the hypothalamus is the thing that makes you hungry and the thing that makes

you thirsty.

It does that because it monitors levels of substances such as sugar in your bloodstream,

and also the degree to which youre hydrated.

You can sustain tiny little bits of damage to the hypothalamus, which has unbelievably

extreme consequences.

So for example, if you get unlucky, you can develop hyper aphasia or, uncontrollable thirst.

If that part of your hypothalamus is damaged, people just cant keep you away from water

supplies, youll just drink and drink and drink and drink until you drown.

You cant control it.

So the hypothalamus is no joke and hyperphagia is the same thing, except in relationship

to food.

There have been reports of people who developed- I knew a guy in Montreal, who used to work

at Harvard.

His name was Frank Irvin.

He did some of the earliest studies in the world on the physiology of violent crime.

Frank had identified the role of epilepsy as a progenator to violent crimes.

The defense rage circuit is part of the hypothalamus and if youre unlucky you can have a particular

form of epilepsy that will activate the defense rage system.

I knew someone who had a seizure condition like that.

Then they get uncontrollably aggressive.

Now this guy has quite an interesting story.

So it first happened to him when he was about eighteen.

He was out drinking in a bar.

Now, alcohol lowers your seizure threshold.

So hes out drinking in a bar and all of a sudden he got up and tore his shirt off.

He was in an aggressive stance and backed into the corner, and his friends were coming

towards him.

He told them to go away or Ill hit you.

Now he was a very well socialized person, so I think what happened is he went into this

defensive rage state, but because he was so well socialized, he could tell people to stay

away from him, but he couldnt stop himself from hitting them and attacking them if they

got close enough.

So anyways, I believe at that point he slapped a police officer who came to rescue him.

They took him to the hospital and on the way there he hit his fingers against the hood

of the car and put dents in it, and then when he got to the hospitalnow I dont remember

the particulars of thisbut he picked up a kidney bowl, which is like an enamel

covered steel bowl, and twisted it in a figure eight.

Its like, try that, its not so easy.

The next time it happened he was in another bar, so what the hypothesis was then, was

that someone had spiked his alcohol with some sort of drug, but that was never demonstrated.

He got off of all that because he had no record, he was a perfectly peaceful person.

Then the next time it happened he was in another bar, and he did the same thing.

He backed into the corner and he ripped off his shirt, and he told me that when he was

looking, he looked down the hallway and all he could see was fire.

A policewoman came to get him, because the bar called the police, and he hit her.

Then after that he had EEG testing, which showed that he was susceptible to seizures

so he swore off alcohol.

He never had another drink and hes like thirty-five now.

He never had another drink in his life and it never happened again.

Its just a good example ofthere was a kid at the University of Texas, at Austin,

about thirty years ago, who seemed to have a perfectly reasonable family life and so

far, a reasonable upbringing, and he started to become increasingly violent in his fantasies.

He climbed up onto the tower, because theres a high tower at the University of Texas at

Austin, and he took at high-powered rifle and I think he shot sixteen people before

they finally got him.

When they did an autopsy, they found he had a high-pressing tumor that was growing on

the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is no joke.

For those of you whos introduction to neuropsychology has made you assume that the cortex is in

control, let me tell you, the cortex is only in control when all of your other basic requirements

are satiated.

Since youre a modern person, and you live in luxury, thats unparalleled in the history

of the world, all of your fundamental biological sub-personalities are always satiated.

Thats what you think youre like.

Youre only like that because youve never been anywhere where you werent like that.

So anyways, heres one of the things thats cool about the hypothalamus.

The first thing is that you have these different sub-systems, these different nuclei that are

responsible for these different sub-personalities.

Oriented towards sexuality, oriented towards hunger, oriented towards thirst, oriented

towards temperature regulation, etc.

I think of them as sub-personalities because they have a viewpoint, they want something

and they want to go somewhere, they want to accomplish it efficiently, and they have emotions

that go along with it so, you know, if youre going for some water and you drop your glass,

or somebody gets in your way, or the tap isnt working, youre going to feel frustration,

anxiety and irritation.

They come fulyl equipped with emotions, they have their own motor outputs, so they basically

prime, and those would be the motor outputs that are aggregations of habits that you have

been able to learn that have aided you previously in your water-searching behavior.

So for us, that would be getting a glass out of the cupboard, which is a gripping issue,

and a transport issue, and then you have to turn on the tap.

Luria, whos a famous Russian psychologist called those things Kinetic Melodies.

If you think about it from a Piagetian perspective and a Lurian perspective at the same time,

you think how Piaget talked about how children put together basictheyre not reflexes

exactly, theyre complex sequences of what started as reflexes.

Then those can be linked together in a sort of dance that youre always doing with your


Each of those little dances, you think water-seeking, youre going to have a set of water relevant

dances that you can do that your experiences taught you to become an expert at.

When you get thirsty those are likely disinhibited.

Thats my guess, theyre disinhibited and prepared for execution.

Then the specifics of the circumstance that youre in will determine which ones are

disinhibited enough to actually run.

Its like youre full of little machines and theyre all on.

Theyre ready to go, but theyre all held in stasis in some sense by some cortical inhibition.

I like to think of the brain sort of like a nuclear reactor.

The core is really active, its on, but then you have all of these rods going into

the core to keep it from going critical.

The cortex is sort of like that in relationship to the lower parts of the brain.

Those parts of the brain, man, theyre alive.

Theyre like the Titans of mythology.

Theyre sitting down there, these fundamental forces and theyre ready to leap into action

at a moments notice.

But the cortex basically keeps them inhibited, and it seems to do thatso imagine that

you have a vision of your desired future.

Then a vision of the transformation stages that youre going to undertake to move from

where you are to that desired future.

Then what youre doing is youre comparing your interpretation of the present to your

interpretation of the desired future.

As long as those two things match, which the hippocampus is the thing thats determining

that, its the thing thats computing the match between your fantasy of what you

want to happen with your fantasy about what is happening.

As long as that matches then the hippocampus basically, now we dont know exactly how

this works, although it seems to work to some degree through modulation of the reticular

activating systemif the hippocampus matches what you want with whats happening, then

all these other little sub-systems basically turn off.

If the hippocampus detects a mismatch, which is when novelty occurssomething went

wrong, then you get disinhibition of the reticular activating system.

Its like you wake up, and then everything is primed for action.

That solves the problem of what you should do when you dont know what to do.

The answer is, you should get ready to do everything.

You should be on alert and ready to implement whatever actionsits not even whatever

actions, its more like you should be ready to implement whatever sub-personalities the

situation seems to call for, as soon as youre able to identify what they are.

Otherwise its sort of like an army thats on alert.

You dont know whos going to be called on, but everybody should be ready.

Thats a high stress situation.

Okay, so part of the hypothalamus, lets say for the sake of argument, its popping

up all of these little sub-personalities that have to do with basic instincts.

The words are all wrong because theyre notan instinct sounds like a drive and

people arent driven.

Were not that simple, were much more flexible than that.

Even rats arent driven.

Theres a very seminal experiment that was done at the height of behaviorism.

So the idea with behaviorists, perfectly smart idea, was that the way a rat learned was,

it would start with a reflex, sort of in the Piagetian sense, and then you could teach

it a new routine which was an aggregation of little, tiny reflexes, you could teach

it a new routine by rewarding it.

So lets say, heres what you do with a rat: so you want to teach the rat to climb

the ladder and go across it.

So the rats sniffing around in the little rat cage.

Then it gets close to the ladder, so you give it a food pellet.

Then it hangs around close to the ladder.

Its because youve reinforced the manifestation of those micro-behaviors that are associated

with the ladder.

Then maybe at some point the rat puts a little paw up on the first rung, so you give it a

food pellet.

Then the rat is going like this very frequently.

Then the next thing that happens is it puts two paws up there, and you know if youre

patient, using reward you can get that damn rat to do damn near anything.

Skinner taught pigeons to navigate guided missiles by maps in the Second World War,

by pecking.

They never did use them, but really thats pretty impressive.

You think pigeons are stupid, theyre not stupid they can read maps, which is pretty

damn amazing.

So the idea was is what the animal is doing is chaining together deterministic reflexes.

The thing about a deterministic reflex is that its not flexible right?

If its a deterministic reflex, it really is a drive.

Action A initiates Action B, which initiates Action C and its a fixed action pattern.

Some animals do seem to learn that way.

There are these little animals.

I think theyre moles that do this, its shrews.

Lets say you teach a shrew to go from point A to B by a very inefficient maze-like route.

But the shrew could just walk straight there, but once he learns to do this, but he cant

figure out that hes going from here to here.

Whereas if you train a rat to do this the rat will figure out, to hell with all of this

circuitousness, its just going to go straight from point a to point b. that finding was

part of what indicated to early neuro-psychological researchers that animals produced a map of

the environment.

In some sense what were talking about when were talking about these structures, the

A to B structure, is a map.

Thats another way you can look at it.

So youve got this rat and its behaviors are all chained together.

So I already told you, I spoiled the story in some sense, because I told you that the

rat could learn to take a short cut.

One of the earlier demonstrations of the independence of rat learning from the reflex of conditioning

was that - so lets say youve trained a rat to run down a maze.

Okay so hypothetically its using its front legs and its back legs and its

learned to chain all of that together.

Front leg, back leg, movement, turn left.

Front let, back leg, movement, turn right.

Etc.” so then, what if you put the rat, you tie up its back legs and you put him

in a little rat wheel barrel, so its got wheels instead of legsits like the

rat zooms through the maze.

So much for the reflex theory because obviously you didnt train the rat to use a cart with

its rear-end stuck in it, it figured that out all by itself.

So anyways there is a system in you that allows you to chain reflexes together.

Its a very primordial reflex system and the behaviorists got that right.

Its fast, very very fast, because it requires few neural connections.

So there are some advantages to simple learning but once you get up to even the moderately

higher cortical and sub-cortical functions, youre past the point of mere reflex chaining.

Okay so, lets for the sake of simplicity the hypothalamus says, you need water.

So youre current state is that youre thirsty and youre desired state is you

get to go to the tap.

You can feel your mouth dry and so forth, and some fantasies of drinking water start

to come to your mind, and then all of sudden youre kind of possessed by that.

So its starting to interfere with your conscious goal-directed behavior at that point,

and finally its insistent enough like something knocking at the door so you think, man Im


Maybe you enough think that youll work better if you have something to drink.

So you go off to the fountain, and what your hippocampus is doingyouve got this

little idea, which is your desired future which is about how this trip is supposed to

go, and then youre watching to see how the trip is actually going, but thats an

interpretation too.

If theres a match between the two then the hippocampus just leaves you the hell alone

and you dont get anxious, you dont get knocked off the track.

You go there, you have the water, that satiates that system, thats a form of reward its

called consumeratory reward, and then that systems disappears.

It goes back to the dungeons from which it emerged and in all likelihood another one

pops up.

Now, its an oversimplification of human behavior to assume that you just go from one

hypothalamically mediated state to another, although I would say thats what two-year

olds do.

In some sense, thats what animals do.

The two-year olds doing it because that little creature hasnt gotten any more organized

than hypothalamic.

You can see this if you watch two year olds.

Its like theyre laughing and then theyre crying.

Then theyre hungry and then theyre hot and then they need to go to the bathroom and

then they want to play.

Its just one, pure, motivated or emotional state after another.

Its quite fun to watch.

Theyre also relatively hyper-exploratory and playful.

Theyre cycling through those things all of the time.

So you cant say that thats really what an adult human does.

The reason for that is that the problem with the purethe reason you need a cortex

and other sub-cortical structures that arent hypothalamic is because the world is too complex

for those primordial systems to solve the problems theyre supposed to solve A, in

every possible situation, and B, across multiple time frames, and C, in an environment that

consists of the interactions between other very complex beings.

So its almost like an arms race of complexity in some sense thats driven our evolution

the smarter you get in some sense the more variable you get.

Thats a problem because as I got smarter, say over the course of evolution, well you

people got smarter too.

Were all competing and cooperating with each other, so the whole damn system is getting

more and more complex.

You have to grow a brain in order to manage that at least, or you keep it simplewell,

we didnt keep it simple.

So we decided to grow a brain instead.

I dont know if you know this but youve looked at a chimpanzeethey dont look

a lot like human beings.

There are obviously some things in common, their hands are quite human and their ears

are quite human, but their forehead comes down to about here, and theyre kind of

shaped like this.

Theyve got a huge, round body, and whereas a human being is sort of like a stick with

two sticks coming out of it, and two more stickswere really, really thin, hardly

any gut.

Whereas a chimpanzee, its intestinal structures are way, way, way longer than ours.

So it has to pack that into this huge gut.

A damn chimpanzee sits around for eight hours a day chewing.

The reason for that is it eats leaves.

You go out into the forest and see how many damn leaves you have to eat before you feel


All the chimp does is sit there and chew leaves.

Then it has this huge gut so it can extract some nourishment out of it.

We figured out how to solve that problem once we discovered fire and hunting, because we

could cook things.

That enabled us, at least in principle, to trade gut for brain, which I think was a pretty

useful trade, all things considered, although it still might get us into trouble.

The brains a very energy-hungry organ.

We eat very, very efficient food and it turns out that cooked food is much more nutritious

from a caloric perspective than raw food.

You can afford to sit around and develop a brain if youve got high-quality food.

Otherwise youre out there in the jungle chewing on leaves like an idiot, its just

about as bad as pandas.

Do you know why those things are damn near extinct?

They used to be carnivores but all they eat is bamboo shoots now.

Thats it, nothing else, bamboo shoots.

They have no nutrition so they have to eat bamboo shoots all day.

Now and then the bamboo crop fails and there arent any shoots.

Its like, so much for the pandas.

If an animal ever deserved to go extinct it was definitely the panda.

Hunt something, the lazy bastards!

Anyways, now I discovered this about the hypothalamus when I was ready Larry Swanson, it just bloody-well

blew me away, youll see why, at least in part.

Half of the hypothalamus, roughly speaking, is sort of devoted to popping up these basic,

primal sub-personalities; the sorts of things that you share with animals.

Then you might say, what happens when one of those doesnt work?

The answer is, well you get an anxiety response.

Now, the anxiety response is not mediated by the hypothalamus, and neither is pain.

So, if youre an idiot your body hurts you or tells you or scares you.

Whats interesting about that is the pain systems and the anxiety systems are not in

the hypothalamus, theyre separate systems.

The pain system is old, old, old.

It may be as old as the hypothalamus, its way down there in your brain.

But, the anxiety system is a lot newer and that kind of makes sense.

You can imagine the primordial organisms really didnt stop until they ran into something

that was hurting them.”

They couldnt think, “oh no, I might run into something that will hurt me.

You cant think that roughly until you have an amygdala.

The amygdala is responsible for lots of things, and all of these areas are interconnected.

One of the things it seems to be responsible for, at least impart, is anxiety.

When your hippocampus detects a mismatch between what you want to have happen and what is happening,

it disinhibits the reticular activating system, and one of the things it activates is the

anxiety system.

The anxiety system says, “stop, you idiot, you dont know where you are or what youre

doing and so you should quit before you get into trouble.”

We dont like that feeling very much, that freezes us, but its better than pain.

You feel anxiety so you dont have to feel pain.

Pain seems to occur when you encounter a stimulus, lets say a situation, where the stimulus

magnitude is sufficient to damage those parts of you that are encountering itso too

bright a light, too hot a flame, too cold a piece of metal, too hot food, whatever.

If its of sufficient magnitude to damage you, you get a pain response out of that.

The pain response is supposed to teach the part of you that moves forward, not to do

that again.

The anxiety system responds to cues of pain.

The pain system is pretty complicated as well.

Frustration is a pain-like stimulus.

Disappointment is a pain-like stimulus.

Grief and loneliness are pain-like stimuli.

Depression is probably a pain condition.

So even though the pain system is quite primordial, its grown up like a complex tree, and it

consumes many different functions.

Its still a very ancient system, whereas the amygdalian system, which is newer, youve

developed over time to tell you what might hurt you so that you can avoid contacting


Youve got your hypothalamus and its telling youits laying out these little

sub-personalities that are helping you deal with the fundamental necessities of the word.

The pain system is there to tell you when you have encountered a situation thats

harmful, the anxiety system is there to tell you when you might going to encounter something


Thats the thing thats activated when theres a mismatch.

The mismatch says you dont know where you are or where youre going, and so you might

get hurt.

The other thing that happens, roughly speaking, is that when the hippocampus disinhibits the

reticular activating system that turns the other half of the hypothalamus on.

This is quite cool because the other half of the hypothalamus is the place where the

ventral tegmental area is located.

The ventral tegmental area is the part of the brain where the dopaminergic tracks emerge,

and those are the tracks that you use A, to explore, and B, to respond to cues of consumatory


So what that means in non-technical language is that when you encounter mismatch you get

anxious, which is what you should do, you should stop, somethings wrong.

As long as nothing else happens thats painful or threatening, than that system starts to

acclimatize, partly because youre looking around and thinking.

People often talk about this as habituation.

Thats a stupid idea.

Its habituation if youre a sea slug.

Its not a habituation if youre a person, except that in very, very primordial reflex-like

levels of the nervous system.

At the higher order levels that were talking about, its learning.

If you stop and youre anxious, what happens?

Well, generally speaking, you start thinking, what the hell might be going on?

Youre running through all of these different theories and part of the way that works is

that its partly a consequence of state-dependent learning.

If youre anxious youre going to be primed to remember situations that you were anxious

in before.

Why should you do that?

The reason for that is thatthings that make you anxiousis a category.

Its actually a category.

We tend to think of categories as something that exists in the objective world.

That is not how your brain categorizes things.

You have to learn that really painfully to make objective categorizations.

As far as your natural nervous system is concerned all things that gobumpin the night

are the same thing.

What is that?

Its some bloody, horrible predatory, crocodilian, dragon-like, monster that hides under your

bed and comes out and bites you when youre three.

I just read a little paper today about this kind of cat that lived back when were still

figuring out how to use spears.

This was a particularly nasty kind of cat, and it preyed on us, roughly speaking.

We didnt get eaten by too many cats because cats really cant bite through the skull.

They could go for your neck but they didnt necessarily kill you.

This cat had a mouth that fit right around your skull and it had two teeth that went

in here and two teeth that went in here.

It was a silent killer.

There is evidence that even children are capable of recognizing the motion in pattern of a

predatory cat, and one of the hypotheses is that we still have all of our primate ancestors

that didnt get eaten by that particular cat.

Were pretty damn good at detecting cats, at least of that type, and we seem to have

conserved that ability at least to some degree.

You think about a category, you might think well theres fish and theres birds and

theres mammals and theres reptiles, those are Linnaean classifications, theyre

based in some sense on Evolutionary divergence.

Where theyre not, on morphology.

Who cares about that?

Things that eat you, thats a category.

You need that category.

The other category is also things that might eat you.

So things that eat you, those are things that can hurt you and the things that might eat

you are things you havent classified yet, but might be dangerous.

Thats your brains natural category; one of them.

Then you might think well if thats the natural category, see thats the sort of

thing that the guy that wrote An Ecological Approach on Vision Perception, he talked about

as an affordance.

An affordance is something whos meaning you instantly perceive.

So you might say, “No, no, no, you see a cat.”

Then you infer that it might eat you.

No, you see something that might eat you, and then you might be able to figure out that

its a cat.

Its themight eat youthat you see first, no the damn cat.

This is a fascinating phenomenon because it suggests, like the Heidigerians proposed,

that what you perceive first in the world is meanings and out of the meanings you extract


Its not the other way around.

If you look at the way your brain is organized, thats how it works folks.

The more primordial your brain system is, which means the more ancient it is, the more

its perception is action predicated.

So for example, if you hear a loud noise behind you and you startle, thats your response.

So youre going into a crouch where it would be difficult for a tiger to bite your neck.

You do that, man thats way before your thinking.

Its before your perceiving, consciously.

Youre not getting images or sounds at that point.

Its so quick.

Thats a category: things that make you go like this.

Thats a good category.

The reason Im making such a case about that category is because thats one of the

mythological categories: Things that go bump in the night.

One of the things that primordial people were trying to figure out isyou could think

of any old animal as figuring out how to escape from a predator.

That isnt what human beings wanted to figure out.

Not once we were able to abstract.

What we wanted to do instead was to figure out how to escape from the class of all things

that could eat you; not just any particular old thing, but all of them at once.

Thats the advantage to categorization.

Can we arrange things so that nothing could eat us?

How do you go about doing that?

Believe me, weve been working on that problem for a very, very long time.

One of the answers we came up with, well get into this later, is the idea of sacrifice.

Sacrifice is a very, very ancient idea.

Ill just give you a bit of a preview.

It took me like twenty years to figure this out.

Human beings discovered sacrifice a long time ago.

They acted it out before they understood it.

We act out lots of things before we understand them.

The idea is sort of well we can make a bargain with God.

You might say, well whats God?

Well approach that problem later, its a very complicated problem.

One thing you could think of God as, is, God is the anthropomorphic representation of the

entire social structure across time.

You might say, well God will reward you if you behave properly.

What does that mean?

Imagine you could conceive of everyone that wasnt you as one metaperson.

Imagine that that metaperson is God.

You can make a deal with that thing.

You can say if I behave properly that metabeing will respond positively to me in the future.

Its true, right?

You know that.

If you make a promise to someone and you keep it, something good is likely going to happen

to you in the future.

So thats a God the Father derivationits far more complicated than that, but thats

not a bad point.

We kind of figured out that we could bargain with it across time and that would work.

I read a really interesting paper by someone whos actually a former student of mine,

Azim Shariff, and he analyzed the relationship between criminal behavior and belief in Hell

across a whole set of countries.

I dont know if it was an exhaustive analysis, correlational analysis.

Its way more peaceful in countries where people believe in hell.

You think should you believe in hell?

Yes and no.

Atheist arguments aside, were not even going to bother with them because theyre

kind of moronic.

The idea here is that there are certain action patterns that if you undertake, you will be

viciously punished in the future.

You try lying to everyone you meet and see how well youll do in a twenty-year period.

Youre going to be in such trouble by the end of that twenty-year period that hell will

be the only accurate way to describe where youre situated.

So its no joke these are real things and people came up with these ideas for a reason.

Hell isnt only where other people put you if youre bad, its a lot more profound

a concept than that.

Thats not a bad start.

Anyways, the sacrificial notion was something like we cannot do what we want to do right

now and do something else, and that will make things better in the future.

Think about that people.

Thats the most brilliant idea human beings ever came up with.

Theres this old story, which is probably not true, about how to catch a monkey.

You get this jar thats got a pretty thin neck.

Just big enough for a monkey to put its hand in, and you fill it with things monkeys like

to eat.

Lets say hard candy for the sake of argument.

So you put that out there and the monkey goes and sticks its hand in and grabs a bunch of


It cant get its damn hand out because its only big enough for it to put its hand in.

so then you can just go and pick up the monkey.

Well, whats the problem with the monkey?

It cant sacrifice.

It wont sacrifice its grip on the damn candy for its future existence.

Thats what your parents have been teaching you ever since you were little kids.

Let go of the candy so that you can live.

Thats delay of gratification, right?

Thats contentiousness, thats the discovery of time and its relationship to the social


Its so brilliant.

Part of what people were trying to figure out when they were developing these rituals

of sacrifice isokay, so you think about society as a meta-person, its usually represented

as male by the way, but not always, it depends on the circumstances.

So what does this meta-person want?

You have to try to figure that out.

Part of what it wants isdont eat all the damn grain today, save some for next year,


Act as if the future exists as part of the social contact.

God, thats such a discovery man.

Its only people who figured that out.

I mean squirrels have kind of got it in some sense because they store nuts, and squirrels

are smart.

They just kind of got the inkling of it.

I think what squirrels do is they eat all of the nuts they can possibly eat right now,

and then they store the rest of them.

It wouldnt go hungry if you store nuts for the future, human beings will do that

dont eat the seed grain, right?

Then youre going to die next year.

Alright, so back to the hypothalamus.

Now, youre doing something you want to do and youre tracking how thats going

both of those are hypotheses, by the way.

All of a sudden something happens that you dont want to have happen, like you live

in Flint, Michigan for example.

So you decide to go have some water and it turns out that its not water at all, its


I dont know if you guys know about that, but its just the sort of thing that makes

your jaw drop.

The state is in big troubleMichigan.

So they appointed an auditor to control finances, I believe at the state level.

It might have been only at the city level, but it doesnt matter.

Lets say the state level.

So the auditor was looking for ways to save money and one of the ways they decided to

save money was to hook up Flint, Michigans water supply to a river instead of to the

great lake, which is what its right beside.

Turns out, since Flint was an industrial center forever, that the waters just full of led.

So now they have something like fifty thousand led-poisoned people living in Flint, Michigan.

That is not a good thing.

Led lowers your IQ rapidly and it makes you violent.

For the ten thousand dollars they saved they probably cost themselves half a million dollars

per person.

It wasnt actually that there was led in the water it was that the water was more acidic.

Oh, it took the led out of the pipes, yeah, good point.

Well Im not here to complain about Michigan politicians, the point is, is that just because

you think youre out for a drink of water that does not necessarily mean thats whats

going on.

Thats why I said that youre comparing your vision of the future to what you think

is going on right now.

Now if you read the neuropsychologists like Vinagradova, Sokolov and Jeffrey Gray, theyre

basically behaviorists.

So what they tell you is thisand this is differentwhat they tell you is you

have this little expectancy map thats like the rat has of its surroundingsits

a spatio-temporal map.

So when youre doing something, you expect a certain outcome, okay.

What you compare that to is reality as it unfolds.

So you could say, so youve got this map and then stimuli appear to you, and those

are objectively real.

No, thats wrong.

Its wrong.

Its interpretation everywhere.

You think you know whats going on right now and you think you know what you want.

The reason Im making such a big deal out of this is because look, if youre a rat

and youre going about your business and something you dont want happens, according

to the Gray Behaviorist model, you have to revamp your expectancy map.

According to the model that Im proposing its way worse than that, because you dont

know where the damn error is.

It might be in the map of what you want, not what you expect, thats a different thing,

but it also might be in the map you have thats of the present.

So its not just the map that you have thats a prediction of your actions thats at fault,

it could easily be the way youre construing the world right now.

It could be error at any level of behavior and so what it means is when an anomaly occurs,

it spreads doubt through the entire hierarchy that we were describing including the future,

the present and even the past.

You know this, you know this perfectly well.

You can see it when you encounter complex anomaly.

So a complex anomaly would be you have a long-term relationship and you get betrayed.

So betrayed means youve trusted someone and they enticed you to do so, and then they

exploit that trust and hurt you.

For Dante, the betrayers were in the lowest circle of hell.

So its a particularly nasty thing to do to people.

If you think about trust as the precondition for interpersonal relationships, which it

is, then if someone acts towards you in a way that violates your trust in trust, then

theyve done you the worst disservice that someone could possibly be done.

Okay, so you get betrayed.

Alright so, bang!

Thats an anomaly.

What does it imply?

Thats the wrong question.

The right question is, what doesnt it imply?

It implies that you just dont have the foggiest notion of what youre doing or

what human beings are like.

Especially if its a particularly vicious betrayal, maybe youve been suckered by

a psychopath, its like, okay, update your model and account for thatgood luck,

especially if youre naive.

The probability that youll be able to reach down into the depths far enough to come up

with a coherent explanation for why someone would do that is very, very low.

What Ive discovered in my clinical practice is that if you get betrayed badly enough,

the only language that you can use to describe it is fundamentally religious.

At some points of betrayal its good versus evil.

Its malevolence.

Its the malevolence that really traumatizes people.

Its the fact that that person was out to hurt you.

Whats a human being like when theyre capable of that?

Its an age-old question.

Ill tell you something weird and interesting.

Theres this old idea in Genesis, one of the first ideas in Genesis, is that God made

people a paradise to live in.

Lets just be wild about this for a moment, and assume that your little model when its

going well is a little paradise, right?

The worlds turning out the way you want it to.

Theres a snake in there somewhere, and that meanswell, why is there a snake?

Theres a bunch of things youre not paying attention to while youre going about your

business, right?

In fact, there are almost an infinite number of things that youre not paying attention


The problem is that one of those infinite number of things that youre not paying

attention to can shift on you all of a sudden.

So theres always this snake in the garden.

Then you have to figure out what to do with it.

The thing is, if you interact with the snake you get more conscious.

The problem with that is you lose your little paradise.

Okay, well its worse than that, because that story is really old.

We have no idea how old it is.

Its disseminated all over the world, or it emerged independently in different places,

we dont really know.

In any case it doesnt really matter.

Its a fundamental enough storytree plus snake plus peoplethat no matter

where you go some people have tree snake stories.

I think thats because we lived in trees for like thirty million years and we got eaten

by an awful lot of snakes.

So its a story that really appeals to us.

Every bloody science fiction movie you go to most of the time if the aliens are bad,

theyre always reptilian.

You dont get furry little koala aliens that are chasing you around, its like the

ones an alien.

A reptile inside a reptile, theyre nasty beasts, and they come out inside of you even.

Which is another symbolic idea.

Okay, so youve always got the damn snake, and its popping out all of the time, and

theres nothing you can do about it except getting ready to deal with snakes, no getting

rid of them.

So thatthe first lesson, youre not getting rid of the damn snakes.

You better learn to deal with them.

Then the next question is, what is the worst possible snake?

One of the things that happened in Christianity, and this was influenced in part by Zoroastrianism,

was the idea of almost an independent evil arose.

In fact there was a branch of Christianity called Manichaeism, that construed the world

as a battle between good and evil where good and evil had equal reality.

They were in this eternal battle.

Now that got wiped out by the standard Christian theory that evil was actually just the absence

of good, which anyways you could have a big debate about that and people have for thousands

of years.

As Christianity developed, theres this weird mythology that grew up around the weird

myth of Genesis.

The weird mythology was that the snake in the Garden of Eden was also Satan, and that

hes the king of all evil.

Okay, what does that mean?

Its pretty straight- forward.

Whats the worst predator?

Well thats easy, the worst predator is a human being.

The worst of all possible snakes is the most malevolent possible being.

Thats exactly right, and thats why that association was made.

Its so interesting because it took people thousands of years to make that association.

It wasnt really put together well until Milton formalized in Paradise Lost.

We kind of observe this in action, that there were bad people.

Okay, so bad is a category.

What does bad entail?

Mythologies of evil center in on what constitutes bad.

Carnivorous might be one of the things; malevolent, out to hurt, right?

Betrayal, lying, and all of the cardinal great sins.

Thats the worst snake.

Its a psychologization of the idea of the predator.

Its even more sophisticated than that, because one branch of that theory is that

the worst predator is the evil force outside of you, but the next branch of that is that

the worst predator is the evil force within you.

Yeah, well thats when it gets really psychologized.

You think, well is that superstition?

Hey, thats not superstition boys and girls, its a lot more intelligent than that.

Its the most sophisticated theory of the way things work that we have and its correct.

Now what that means from a metaphysical perspective, were not going to talk about that because

we can, but we can certainly talk about what it means in practical Darwinian terms.

You better know whats after you, and the worst thing that could possibly be after you

is a fully motivated and completely malevolent human being.

Skull-crushing cats be damned.

All they want to do is eat you, theyre not going to torture you; whereas if you fall

into the hands of the wrong human being man, you could be in excruciating pain for the

next twenty years.

So people are very imaginative if they figure out how to hurt someone.

They can keep it up for a long time, and theyre fully motivated to do so under some conditions.

So you really got to watch out for that.

Alright so back to the hypothalamus.

So when you have a mismatch between what you desire and what youre after, then the hippocampus

says, “uh, we dont know where we are.”

Thats what it says.

You no longer know where you are.

Okay, what should you do when you dont know where you are?

You should stop moving.

Then you shouldwell then what?

You should prepare to do a lot of things.

Okay, then what?

Then you should explore.

Well thats where the other half of the hypothalamus comes in; that dopamanergic circuit

that mediates positive emotion, right?

Almost all the positive emotion that you experience in your life, the kind you like, which is

hope and curiosity and expectation and surprise and thats all mediated by the dopamanergic


Its a major-league contributor to the totality of your being, especially in a positive direction.

Thats rooted in the hypothalamus, so what that means is that, its quite cool, you

got your fundamental motivations, you know your basic biological motivations, “bang!”

they fail, thats anxiety, thats a newer system, and exploration.

Thats an older system.

That damn exploratory system has been there forever.

Now if you look at classic hero mythology, which were going to do in great detail,

what you see is that the typical myth of humanity is we live in a place, well say.

We have to live in a place, and the place is doing quite nicely, thank you very much.

The Hobbits and Frodo.

So youve got the little shire there, right?

Its all peaceful, its full of these little people who are a little on the arrogant

side, theyre kind of dopey, they have no idea what the hells going on in the outside

world, but they think thats okay, they think you know, peculiar people are concerned

about that sort of thing.

Theyve got their little happy paradise going, they live a long time, they eat a lot,

they party a lot.

Unbeknownst to them, which is a very interesting feature of the story, the only reason they

have any peace at all is because theyre descendants of old kings, continually patrolling

the borders, right?

Those are the striders.

Aragorn, hes the member of the race of old kings who patrols the borders.

Those are ancestral figures, its like you can all sit here in your little happy paradise,

but the only reason you can do it is because the sons of great kings have put borders around

your kingdom.

Its funny because in the Hobbit, the Hobbits basically despise the Strider, theyre very,

very suspicious of him.

Hes kind of dirty and dusty and he looks like hes been banged around all over the


Hes sort of like a tramp.

They dont know hes the son of a great king, good thing for them that he is, however.

Okay, so then youve got the little shire, what happens?

Evil things are stirring.

What is it?

Well, fundamentally its a great dragon.

Well thats a snake, except its like a meta-snake.

Its snake with fire.

You can be sure that fire was not only one of our greatest allies, but one of our greatest

enemies, especially when we lived on the blank in Africa.

That thing would burn now and then.

So, get the hell away from that.

So anyways, one hobbit, whos woken up by a wizardthe wizard is the symbol for

the self from the Jungian perspective.

So theres one hobbit whos a little bit more creative and exploratory than the rest

and everybody has a little respect for him but they think hes pretty damn peculiar.

He decides that hes going to, under the tutelage of the wizard, hes going to go

check out this dragon.

So he leaves the borders and goes out into the unknown.

Then the rest of it is an adventure and one of things thats very interesting, again

from a Jungian perspective, is that, what does the Hobbit have to become in order to

conquer the dragon?

A thief.

Now thats pretty weird, because you think hey man, this guys out being a hero, so

he should be a hero.

No, he turns into a thief.


Well its because if youre going to conquer a dragon you better be a hell of a lot tougher

than you are naive.

So, partly what happens is, for the hobbit to masker up the forces that are necessary

for him to confront something that is that fundamental, he has to transcend the cowardess

that he describes as morality.

Okay, so Nietzsche for example, Nietzsches often viewed as a critic of morality.

Thats not true.

Nietzsche identifies morality with cowardess, but thats not what he does.

What Nietzsche says is this: if youre too afraid to do something, so you wont do

it, then youll say that the reason you dont do it is because youre moral.

Thats not the reason.

The reason is that youre too damn afraid to do it.

You might want to, but youre too afraid.

That doesnt make you moral.

So what happens to the Hobbit, for example, once he gets outside of the kingdom, he has

to develop a whole array of potentials that he never developed before, because they were

either not necessary in his civilized place, or because they were forbidden as immoral

by the cultural situation that he grew up in.

You have to be touched by the snake in order to defeat the snake.

Where else have you seen that motif?

Harry Potter, right?

Harry Potters a strange character because hes not obedient, not at all.

In fact, hes quite disobedient.

He breaks the rules in the service of higher morality.

The higher morality is that he faces down the dragon that paralyzes you, and he frees

the virgin.

Thats what happens with GinnyVirginia, Virgin, its the retelling of Saint George

and the dragon.

And interesting enough, the reason that Harry Potter revivifies, is because Dumbledores

phoenix comes by and cries in his wounds.

Well the phoenix is something that dies and is reborn and so the meta-myth underlying

the second-volume of the harry potter series is that the part of you sustains you through

an encounter with a dragon that paralyzes, is the part of you that can die and be reborn.

What that means in a sense is if youre wrong about something, and you fall into a

pit, then you should let go of what youre wrong about, so that something new can arise.

So its better to be the thing that transforms in response to catastrophe, than it is the

thing thats static.

Thats another big discovery of people.

Were agents of transformation, which is of course why kids are so bloody obsessed

with magicians and wizards, which are agents of transformation.

Thats all embedded in the mythology, its all acted out.

Nobody understands this sort of thing to speak of.

Certainly the kids dont, it just hits them.

They can recognize the pattern.

They know that theres something magical about them, even though theyre living in

a cupboard in a London suburb, where everything is boring and flat and under control.

Thats not the real world, and its true, its not.

Is that why we have more patience for people, including criminals, who admit their crime

and do their punishment and redeem themselves?

Oh not only patience, we often have admiration for them.

Oh yeah, how many movies feature attractive bad guy?

Well or for that matter, attractive bad woman?

Its because of the Nietzchian observation.

The people who are good arent good, theyre just cowards.

Whereas the guy whos bad, well at least hes not a coward.

Well then you might say, well you know, yeah he could stop being a coward and also become

a good guy, but thats often but not always the actual plot of the movie.

Thats the redemption of the bad guy.

Its also what woman fantasize about in relationship to the beauty and the beast mythology.

They dont want a coward.

Hes the guy that wants to be the friend.

Its complete bullshit.

The bad guys going to advance over thatbut not a big enough advance because hes a

bad guy.

The best thing you want is a civilized bad guy.

Thats what you want.

Well no wonder, because its only a civilized bad guy thats going to be capable to be

dealing with the dragons.

Its right.

Lloyd Axworthy, when he was the minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada, we know the massacres

were going on in Yugoslavia.

It was front-page news at one point.

He said, “I dont have the imagination for that kind of evil.”

Oh well, thats really impressive mister minister of foreign affairs, did you ever

read about the Holocaust?

Its like, its time to wake up a little bit!

These things happen, but he said it as a moral claim.

I just couldnt imagine that sort of thing happening.

Well, youre a little on the naïve said, arent you?

And parading that around as morality is not a reasonable thing to do when you also happen

to be Minister of Foreign affairs.

You should be looking out for the snakes all of the time.

Theyre definitely out there, and Milosevic was definitely one of them.

So if a naive person meets someone like that, the naive person loses.

Thats not good because theres lots of people like that and it would be better if

they didnt win.

So anyways, the fact that the exploratory circuitry is embedded into the hypothalamus

way down there with lust and thirst and hunger, its so great because it shows you how the

mythology works.

It basically says, okay, heres a bunch of things youre doing now and then theyll

go wrong.

You need a system to deal with things when they go wrong.

Whats the system?

Well it might kill you, bang!

You better have some pain and anxiety to protect you.

You better figure out what it is.

Okay, better have an exploratory system so that you can go out there and gather some

more information.

Well thats the human story: gather information in the face of danger.

Thats the human story.

Thats what we do.

So thats the hero myth.

The hero myth is redemptive, and thats because it is redemptive.

That is what works, or at least what weve stated our being on.

Who knows?

Maybe all of this exploration will just get us in trouble.

Thats another part of genesis, right?

Poke around and see what happens.

Well you know youre doing that all of the time.

Youre in your little paradise, beedling away all happily, and then you just cant

stop yourself from pulling on a thread somewhere.

Then you find out, oh my God, then maybe thats when you get suspicious about your partner

cheating on you.

You think, maybe this persons cheating on me, and you cant leave it alone.

You cant leave it alone, you got to go look at the snake.

Turns out its there!

Down you go into the underworld.

You might think, maybe the bliss of ignorance would have been better.

Well, its not like psychologist dont tell you that.

All those positive illusion people, thats there whole shtick.

Its better to be a little bit dumb about how things work, because otherwise theres

no way you can be happy.

Thats an idiotic theory on two accounts.

A, happy isnt the point, and B, dumb is not the goal.

So its so ignorant that its actually corrupt.

Which is really saying something, because you have to be pretty damn ignorant before

you get to corrupt.

So its a hell of a thing to teach people.

You have to delude yourself in a minor way otherwise you cant stand being alive.

Oh my God, thats awful, thats really awful.

Heres a different story, maybe youre tough enough to open your eyes.

Thatd be a much better story.

Its possible too because people are really, really, really tough.

Its just that they live in these little protected places and they never get out there

and hammer themselves out against the world, so they never discover that theyre tough.

You might thing, well thats your opinion.

Well no, its not my damn opinion.

We know that if you take someone whos naïve and paralyzed by anxiety, and you put them

in psychotherapy and you expose them to the things that theyre afraid of and disgusted

by and avoiding, that it isnt that they get less afraid, they get more confident.

Thats what generalizes.

If you bring someone in whos got a mouse phobia and you treat the mouse phobia, then

theyre not as afraid of a bunch of other things.

Why does that happen?

They werent afraid of the damn mouse, theyre afraid of their own inadequacy.

Then you teach them that they dont have to be afraid, and then they think , “hey,

I dont have to be afraid.”

Then theyre not afraid of a whole bunch of things.

So you get generalization from behavioral exposure.

Theres no question about whether or not exposure to the things that you avoid is curative,

its the fundamental axiom of psychotherapy.

That and figuring out what youre going to do with your future.

Even in psychoanalysis its face what threatens you.

Its just that the psychoanalysts go after past traumas.

It doesnt matter as far as your brain is concerned.

A dangerous thing in the past is exactly the same thing as a dangerous thing in the present.

It seems to be partly because the amygdala doesnt have any sense of time.

its interesting because one of the things Jung observed was that theres no time in

the collective unconscious.

Its like everything is an eternal now.

So lets say you got traumatized when you were a kid, your amygdala grows; maybe you

got bitten by a spider.

Youre afraid of that spider then and now and in the future.

Its the same.

Its outside of time.

The hippocampus is the thing thats dealing with time.

So, you know, if you really learn a lesson its supposed to be timeless.

You can still help people overcome their phobias, but you cant get their damn amygdala to

shrink again.

So, you can just get it back under control.

Okay, so thats pretty cool.

Then, we could say, lets go up a level or two.

Well, lets look at the amygdala for a minute.

Things about the amygdala have probably changed since I updated my knowledge, but it doesnt

really matter because the fundamental systems Im telling you about exist.

They keep moving around in the brain because we dont know exactly how they work, but

at a system level of description and using slightly vague neuropsychology, we can localize

these sorts of things in the brain.

Okay so the amygdala gets inputs from everywhere.

Basically what its looking for are things that might threaten you.

You could say in a sense that the amygdala has an inbuilt sense of the monstress.

Let me show you, this is a good time to show you a comic.

This is a great comic.

Someone stoned came up with this comic.

They really did.

I really like this comic because it shows you whats going on perfectly.

Okay, so there are these hippies.

Theyre all friends of this guy named Fat Freddie.

Theyre basically useless hippies.

They dont pay rent and all they do is smoke pot.

Anyways, at one point they make a bunch of money on some cocaine deal and they buy this

home out in the country.

They think theyre going to go out there and live in paradise, so they bring their

cat along, which is Fat Freddies cat who has his own adventures with cockroaches and

so on.

Anyways, if youve ever had a cat one thing you know about cats is they dont like to


It makes them very upset and nervous, and if you put them in a new house theyre not

happy about it.

The reason for that is youve blown their map, right?

The cat will slink around in a new territory and map every single place and every hiding

place, obsessively, until it knows what the hells going on, and then it will finally


A cat in a new place is not a calm cat.

A cat in a new place is a nervous cat, which is also an indication that you dont have

to learn to be afraid.

What you have to learn is how to be calm.

That reverse the way that psychologists generally talk about anxiety, because theyre all

hobbits and they think that life is safe.

So because they think that life is safe, you have to learn to be afraid.

Thats dopey.

The natural condition is terror and curiosity.

If youre really lucky now and then, youre somewhere safe enough so that you dont

have to be afraid.

Thats tenuous and delicate.

So what you have to learn is how not to be afraid.

Not, how to be afraid.

Anyways, they got the cat.

So hes in his box and they take him out of the box and the cat thinks, “so this

is the country.”

So the cat goes really low and starts sniffing, and that is what animals do when they first

start exploring.

Both of those things: they crouch down because that makes them less visible to predators,

and they sniff.

The reason they sniff is because most animals have their whole brains built around their

sense of smell; unlike us, where most of our brain is built around vision.

Anyways, the cats slinking around there and it smells something that it doesnt


It thinks, God only knows what this thing that I dont know is.

It would freeze first and then it would hastily retreat.

So now its underneath the porch.

One hippie says, “whered the cat disappear now?”

The other one says, “under the house.”

The cats down there shaking, which is what cats do when theyre freaked out like that,

and its got its little fantasy going.

Youd hide to if you smelled what I did.

Then it imagines up this monster.

A monster technically is the amalgamation of unrelated parts.

So whats the monster?

Well its got duck feet and bare arms and its got a skunk tail and its got kind of a wolf

head, and its got antlers.

You think, well that thing doesnt exist.

Thats wrong.

That thing exists.

In fact its a really accurate representation of whats out there in the forest.

Any one animal wouldnt look like that, but the set of all possible animals looks

exactly like that.

Then you might think, well what do you want first, when youre analyzing something?

Do you want quick and dirty representation of what to be afraid of?

Or do you want to hang around trying to figure out whether that thing has hooves and teeth?

Its like no, you want a quick and dirty representation of just what might be lurking

out there.

Thats intelligent hypothesizing.

Its the kind of hypothesizing that would be evolutionary driven.

Did you ever see the far side cartoon, Monster Snorkel?

I love that cartoon.

Theres this little kid in his bed, its dark and hes under cover.

Hes one of those ugly little kids that Gary Larson always drew.

Hes got this snorkel that you use for scuba diving.

Snorkeling, not scuba diving.

All thats sticking out from under the covers is his snorkel so that he can breathe.

Of course in his imagination theres some reptilian dinosaur sitting beside his bed.

Well, why?

Thats what hes hypothesizing.


Because thats whats in the dark.

You can tell your kid, theres no monsters in the dark.

Then you tell your kid to never talk to a stranger.

Well get your story straight people.


Its so dopey.

Yes there are monsters in the dark.

What do you tell your kids?

No, theres no such thing as monsters.

First of all theyre driven half crazy because they think what am I afraid of then?

Second, you tell them all of the time that there are monsters in the dark.

In fact youre probably more paranoid about the things than your damn kid is.

So what do you tell them?

There are monsters in the dark but you can probably handle them, especially with our


Okay, so now Ill tell you a story.

So my nephew, he was six, and he had night terrors.

Night terrors are this strange phenomena where all of a sudden you wake up screaming.

Its quite unpleasant.

You might say, well why is this happening?

The answer is that we really dont know but there was some instability in his household

at that point.

A, he was just going off to kindergarten, so thats a big transition.

Its out of paradise and out into the world.

B, his parents were in the throws of approaching divorce, so there was that sort of undercurrent

in the house.

You know what thats like.

You walk into a house like that and you know somethings up.

Its like the air is frozen.

Its probably something you can smell, I think.

Whatever, it doesnt matter, but you can certainly tell.

So anyways, hes waking up at night screaming away.

Hes a very verbal kid.

During the day hes running around, I guess he was about four, not six.

Hes got this little night hat that he wears.

Its a plastic night hat.

So he zooms around with that all of the time, and hes got this plastic sword, and he

zooms around with that too.

So you think whats he up to?

Hes playing knight, which is kind of weird in a way.

Because youd think why would being a knight be attractive to a kid?

We werent knights for that long.

Whatever, it doesnt really matter.

He was running around playing knight.

He goes to sleep and he puts his knight hat and is sword right beside his bed.

So fine, I watch that.

Im watching whats going on with them and Im figuring out whats going on in

the house.

His mom is worried because hes having night terrors.

Yeah, its horrible he wakes up screaming.

So okay, nighttime comes.

He wakes up screaming, were all sitting at the breakfast table the next day.

I said, did you dream about anything?

He said, yeah!

He got right into this dream and he said okay, this is what happened: I was out in a field

and all of these little dwarfs were around me.

They only came up to my knees but they had big beaks, they didnt have any arms, but

they had big beaks.

They were covered with hair and grease, so they were all greased down.

There was a cross-shave at the top of their head, and wherever I went these beaked dwarfs

would jump at me with their feet and bite me.

Theyre everywhere!

Everyone stops eating breakfast to look at this kid, thinking, wow no wonder why youre

screaming man.

Then he said, yeah, and it was worse than that because there was smoke and at the back

of the dwarfs there was this dragon and the dragon was breathing out smoke and fire and

the smoke and fire would turn into the dwarfs.

Oh my God, what do you do about that?

Wiping out some dwarfs, who cares, but the dragon will just breathe up some more.

Thats life man.

Ive got this excellent picture, let me show it to you because its worth finding,

even though its going to interrupt my story a little bit.

Well Im not going to find it because it will take too long, but Ill tell you what

it is.

Its a Greek amphora.

You know amphora, its like a vase, and people used to keep wine in them.

Its painted on like a cartoon, its sort of black and white.

Its got this hero, who I believe is Hercules.

Hercules is facing this snake, and its a really cool snake.

So first of all its tail is curled in a perfect circle.

If you look at dragons and snakes in mythology, their tales are often curled in a circle.

It means something like infinity.

Then there are all these snakesits a hydra.

Its a snake with eight heads.

Then theres Hercules with his swordwell, whats the problem with the hydra?

You cut off one head and eight more heads grow.

Quit cutting off headsits a good piece of foreign policy advice for the middle east.

The hydras keep growing.

Okay, so cutting off heads isnt going to be of any utility.

Heres what the story is saying: no matter how many problems you solve theres going

to be a bunch more problems and its even worse than that.

If you have a problem and you solve it thats going to lead to more problems.

So even the solution is a problem.

Thats the law of unexpected consequences.

Thats why automobiles have destroyed the atmosphere.

Everybody thought an automobile is for getting from point A to point B. It turns out its


Its for turning the worlds holes into jungles.

We didnt know that.

So thats an unexpected consequence.

So anyways, the kid is faced with this horrible conundrum.

What am I going to do?

Ive got these stupid dwarfs and then theres this dragon.

So I said, what could you do about that?

Now thats called a loaded question and it would be inadmissible in a court of law

in a sense because its a questionbut it isnt because Im telling him something.

You could do something about that.

Well thats a hell of a theory.

Well yeah, I should just lay down and let the dwarfs eat me.

No, no you could do something about it, I said.

What could you do?

Then he said, Id put my hat on, Id get my sword, then Id go get my dad and wed

go up to the dragon.

I would jump on his head and then Id poke both his eyes out with my sword and then Id

go right down to his stomach to the place where the fire comes out and Id cut a piece

off of that and Id use it as a shield.

And I thought, “right on, kid!

You got it.”

It was so cool because he had the whole thing, eh.

Thats why he was running around playing knight.

Hed almost got it, and all I had to do was droptheres this fifth chemical

phenomena called a super-saturated solution.

Its kind of cool.

So if you take - water can only dissolve so much sugar until the sugar starts to crystallize


If you really slowly cool down then water and you dont tap it theres no impurities.

You can get the solution super saturated which means, weirdly enough, it holds more sugar

than it can.

Its like it forgets to crystallize or maybe it needs a little impurity or shock or something

to get it going, but its like it forgets to crystallize.

So then if you take a little crystal of sugar and you drop it in, its like it goessound

and instantly its all crystals.

So thats what happened to this kid: he was there, he was ready, he had to answer,

and all I had to do was say you could do something about this andpoof!” instant hero myth.

The cool thing is no more night terrors.

So you get the picture, its very, very cool.

Alright so, back to our discussion.

Now, alright so youve got the brain here.

This is the brain as conceptualized by Alexander Luria, who was Russias most famous neuropsychologist.

So basically he said that theres a bunch of different ways you can divide up the brain.

It depends on what you want, which is an interesting way of thinking about it.

Because you might say well how should you divide up the world and the answer is it depends

on what you want.

It depends on some degree of the world, but it depends even more on what you want.

So one of the things Luria said was if you go from the back to the front of the brain

the fronts the grey part herewhat you see is, roughly speaking, the back half

of the brain does sensory processing, especially visual processing, and the front half of the

brain does motor processing.

Okay, and so if you look at the back of the brain the sensory unit there, you see theres

an auditory area and a visual area.

Whats cool is those overlap to some degree.

So theres some hypothesis that the place where the sensory systems overlap are the

parts that are responsible for your experience of a unified perceptual field.

So heres an example: imagine the visual cortex and the auditory cortex overlap in

once place.

Okay, so it would sort of be here, about there on the left side.

Thats the part you use for silent reading.

Isnt that cool?

It means your using your eyes as ears.

The way you do that is you use the overlap between the visual and the auditory cortex.

Its so cool, you can use your eyes as ears.

So the senses arent as separate as people think.

I used to wear glasses and I couldnt hear what people were saying when I wasnt wearing


The reason for that is I wasnt watching their lips.

So a lot of what I was hearing in language processing was the expression on their face

and the movement of their lips.

I take off my glasses, and Im deaf.

So anyways, thats the sensory unit, half of the brain.

Most of its the visual cortex because were visual creatures.

The front half is the motor unit.

Okay, why?

Well because we proceed and act.

So its the part of the brain thats responsible for zipping you around.

Youve got voluntary action, right?

You inhabit a nervous system that enables you to navigate your way around the world.

Were navigators, fundamentally.

We really are navigators.

You know ants can navigate by the stars?

Think about that.

How the hell can an ant navigate by the stars?

They figured that out by watching ants figure out how to get back, and then covering up

the sky, and then the ants would wander around not knowing where they were going.

Yeah theres lots of things we dont understand, I can tell you that.

So anyways, the motor unit.

Youve got the motor strip.

Now if you touch that with an electrode during brain surgery then people will either move

or have the impulse to move and you can map out how the body is represented in the brain

by touching that strip with an electrode, and that was done by Wilmer Penfield at the

Montreal Neurological Institute.

It was a major move forward in the understanding of the brain and he did that on epileptics

before surgery, because he didnt want to take out parts of the brain that were necessary

so he was trying to figure out what they were doing.

So thats the part that enables you to act voluntarily, and in front of that theres

the premotor strip.

In front of that theres the prefrontal cortex.

Now, whats cool is that the premotor strip and the prefrontal cortex grew out of the

motor strip over the course of evolution.

So then you might say, well why do we think?

The answer isnt so that we can come up with accurate, objective representations of

the world.

The answer is, so that we can plan what to do.

What you see, fundamentally, is that as you move forward in the brain you go from action

to planning action.

So by the time you get to the prefrontal cortex, lets say the dorsal-lateral prefrontal

cortex, which is the part of the brain that you use for abstract thinking, what youre

basically doing is conjuring up avatars of yourself in an imaginary world, running them

as simulations in your imagination, and the collective imagination, thats what stories

are, running the simulation until the end to see if you live or die.

If you die then you dont implement the simulation.

If you live and thrive then you do implement the situation.

Sowho was itCarl Popper, philosopher of science said, the reason we think is so

we can let our thoughts die instead of us.

Right, thats smart.

That also ties into the death and rebirth idea, right?

Are you going to die, or are you going to let your avatars die?

One way of thinking about that is that your current self is just an avatar.

Now if you understand that, that means you also understand the relationship between the

Jungian self and the ego.

The ego is an avatar, the self is the thing.

Now I dont know if you know this, but the word avatar is actually a theological term.

Its from Sand script.

An avatar is the form that a God takes on earth.

Its pretty cool that that turned into the term for the thing you use in a video game.

Thats your little, disposable self.

You throw it out there in the world and it can live or die, and youre back there like

God just being eternal all along the way.

So, thats a very, very weird thing.

Anyways, even before we had video games we were doing that.

We had fiction, we had stories, we had imagination, and its decoupled from our motor systems.

So we can implement these hypothetical instances of ourselves before we implement them.

Thats kind of how we fight Hydras.

Okay, so you have eight snakes, what do you do about that?

You have eight potential selves.

You multiply potential selves just as fast as you multiply snakes.

Thats what evolution does, right?

Lets say youve got a mongoose.

Mongoose like to eat snakes, theyre really good at it.

They can eat cobras.

Go Mongoose!

So you think, well a mongoose gets killed by a cobra.

Well thats not a very good mongoose but that doesnt matter because the mongoose

are generating all sorts of mongoose, and one of them is going to be able to kill the


Thats all that really matters.

Theres a very funny mouse that lives in the desert in Arizona.

I like this mouse a lot, and it jumps.

Its so cool, this mouse, it feeds on scorpions.

How the hell did it learn to do that?

Anyways, it has to teach its young to eat scorpions, and its quite immune from scorpion

venom, which is quite helpful.

Still it goes outits like you going out to wrestle a blank crocodileits

like a scorpion is a big thing compared to a mouse.

The mouse will hop on to the scorpion and they have this terrible fight, and finally

the mouse tears it a part.

Then it brings it back and feeds it to its mice babies.

Do you know what it does then?

It goes outside and howls at the moon like a wolf.

It sounds like a mouse so its really squeaky, but if you slow it down, you know, which is

what you have to do if you want to, for example, hear mouse vocalizations, because theyre

often much higher than your threshold for hearing.

Blank that, to hear a rats laugh when you tickle them, you have to slow down their vocalizations

because they laugh at ultrasonic frequencies, so you have to slow down your vocalizations

to hear them laugh when you tickle them.

Anyways, these damn mice go out