39 – Details? What Details?

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Little Dog: “Big Dog, do you think there is other intelligent life in the Universe?”

Big Dog: “Not sure, Little Dog. We keep searching.”

Little Dog: “How will we know when we find it?”

Big Dog: “Well, it will have to display obvious signs of intelligent behavior. Tracking rabbits, sniffing butts, chasing squirrels, that sort of thing.”

Little Dog: “But how do we know if that is intelligent?”

Big Dog: “Don’t be ridiculous! We’re obviously intelligent. Now please stop pestering me. I have important things to do.” 

Little Dog: “I dunno. For being so intelligent, it seems that a lot of dogs ignore the details in life. Shouldn’t they pay more attention?” 

Big Dog: “The vast majority of details in life are unimportant.

Little Dog: “What? Not important? How can that be?” 

Big Dog: “Not just unimportant, but toxic. They distract you from the important things in life.”

Little Dog: “What are the important things?”

Big Dog: “Hard to say.”

Little Dog: “Then don’t you have to pay attention to all the details, to make sure you catch the important ones?”

Big Dog: “Ah, I think I see the problem here. We’re talking about two different minds.”

Little Dog: “Huh?” 

Big Dog: “I’m talking about the conscious mind. That’s the mind that must ignore the flood of superfluous details. The mark of a superior intellect is the quality of the details that it pays attention to in life.” 

Little Dog: “Like tracking squirrels and rabbits?”

Big Dog: “Exactly.” 

Little Dog: “So, what is this second mind you’re referring to?”

Big Dog: “The unconscious mind.”

Little Dog: “What the heck is that? I didn’t even know I had two different minds.”

Big Dog: “That’s because the unconscious mind is below your level of awareness.” 

Little Dog: “So, I don’t even know that I have it? Then, how do I know it’s really there?” 

Big Dog: “It’s hard to explain. However, thanks to modern technology, behavioral researchers have developed clever techniques to unveil its secrets.” 

Little Dog: “I dunno. Sounds kind of creepy. Like another dog who’s lurking in my mind. I hope it’s not that nasty Rottweiler down the street.”

Big Dog: “No, no. It doesn’t work that way. We all have our own unconscious mind.”

Little Dog: “So, what does any of this have to do with your point about details in life?” 

Big Dog: “Well, when I was referring to ignoring most details, I was referring to the conscious mind. The unconscious mind needs to pay closer attention, so that it can bring the important details to the conscious mind.”

Little Dog: “That still doesn’t answer my question. It just transfers it to the unconscious mind. How does the unconscious mind choose what’s important? And how exactly does it communicate with the conscious mind, if the conscious mind is unaware of it?”

Big Dog: “Hard to say.”

Little Dog: “Easy to say this conversation’s running around in circles! Chasing our own tails! Woof!”

Big Dog: “Little Dog, have you ever been at the dog park when another dog barks your name?” 

Little Dog: “Sure.” 

Big Dog: “But the dog park is really noisy, isn’t it? All that incessant barking! Enough to drive a dog crazy! How is it possible to listen to all of that noise?” 

Little Dog: “Well, I sort of block it out. Concentrate on what I’m doing. Like yesterday I was wrestling with Big Boy Roy. You have to pay very close attention when wrestling with that dude!”

Big Dog: “If that’s true, then how do you explain when another dog barks your name, that you immediately hear it?”

Little Dog: “I dunno. Not sure. I guess my ears perk up when I hear my name.”

Big Dog: “But you just admitted that you were actively blocking out all of the barks, so that you could concentrate on the whupping that Big Boy Roy was giving you.” 

Little Dog: “Very funny. I held my own. Well, sort of. So, what’s your point?”

Big Dog: “That your unconscious mind was listening. On some level, you were listening to all of the barks around you. Otherwise, how could you have heard your name? Your conscious mind had blocked them out, but your unconscious mind was paying close attention.” 

Little Dog: “Wow, that’s scary. I really do have two minds, huh? And my unconscious mind is smart enough to know that it should alert me when my name is barked? Pretty amazing.”

Big Dog: “Amazing indeed.” 

Little Dog: “So, which one of them is in charge? It almost sounds like the unconscious mind is calling the shots, since it decides what’s important enough to alert the conscious mind to.” 

BIg Dog: “Then again, maybe the conscious mind has instructed the unconscious mind about what is important and what to bring to its attention.” 

Little Dog: “Woof. This is getting way too complicated. I was happier thinking that I had just one mind. Life was a lot simpler.” 

Big Dog: “Not really. You’d be flooded with loads of irrelevant information that would drive you crazy. Just like all those distracting barks in the dog park. Can you imagine having to keep track of every conversation?” 

Little Dog: “Here we go again. Let me try one more time. Who exactly decides what is important and how do they know which particular details to focus on in life?”

Big Dog: “Hard to say.” 

Little Dog: “ARF! Okay, I’m going home now.” 

Big Dog: “Why?” 

Little Dog: “Because you’re ruining my science project!” 

BIg Dog: “Sorry. Why is that?” 

Little Dog: “Well, I was building a robotic dog using artificial intelligence with reinforcement machine learning. But now I have no idea how to weight the inputs. How can I tell my robot dog what details are important in life if I don’t even know myself?” 

Big Dog: “Well, perhaps you can program it to do a specific task. Like cleaning out your food dish.” 

Little Dog: “I tried that. But one time I was interrupted during my meal and left half of my food. The stupid robot thought I was done and cleaned it up. Then, there was the time I didn’t like the meal, so I left most of it in the bowl. But my robot wouldn’t clean it because it didn’t think I was finished. There are so many scenarios that could come up. Sometimes I’m done and sometimes I’m not. And sometimes I’m not even sure I’m done. I might get hungry later and come back to it.”

Big Dog: “Sounds like you don’t even know your own mind, Little Dog.” 

Little Dog: “Haha. Very funny. Maybe my unconscious mind thinks you’re amusing, but my conscious mind is feeling pretty frustrated right now.” 

Big Dog: “We dogs think we know our own minds, but it’s more complicated than we imagine. And your science project to build a robotic dog brain is going to be pretty difficult without understanding how the brain works. What is it supposed to pay attention to? What’s important in life? Who decides?” 

Little Dog: “And every time I ask you to clarify things, you answer with ‘hard to say’. Very frustrating!” 

Big Dog: “Indeed.” 

Little Dog: “Well, like I said before. I gotta go.” 

Big Dog: “Why?” 

Little Dog: “My unconscious mind told me to. See ya later.” 

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