So, thus far we have investigated the basics of mental control and we have also had a lengthy discussion on happiness. The full posts are available here, but we will give a brief recap in this post before moving on.
The basic idea of mental control is that we should use our very limited supply of willpower only to set up, maintain and transition between intelligent micro-environments where doing the right thing happens automatically and naturally. To give one of countless examples; we can use our limited willpower to ensure that the environment we live in contains only healthy and tasty foods, thereby making healthy eating automatic and natural. As we have all found out; trying to resist that chocolate in the cupboard through pure willpower is futile.
Intelligent micro-environments work primarily by manipulating the brain’s natural drives towards instant pleasure and away from instant pain to achieve beneficial behavior. This is very important because, in the world we live in today (our macro-environment), these natural drives lead to obesity, passivity, bankruptcy and stress, mostly because they continuously drive us to consume as far beyond our means as possible. Living within intelligently designed micro-environments is therefore essential to keep these natural drives in check.
As explained in a previous post, our natural drives towards instant pleasure and away from instant pain are incredibly strong – strong enough to ensure the survival of our species through 200,000 years of ice ages, massive droughts and fierce predators with very primitive technology and none of the conveniences brought to modern society by fossil fuels. It therefore seems like a total waste to keep these powerful drives locked up within intelligent micro-environments for the rest of our lives.
Indeed, if we can harness the power of these fundamental human drives to result in beneficial instead of destructive behavior, the potential for good becomes almost limitless. This is the basic idea we will explore further in this section of the mental control category.
Achieving this feat will be quite tricky because, in the modern world, both our greatest rewards and our gravest threats are long-term in nature. Achieving anything of lasting value requires many months, if not years, of consistent effort. Similarly, the collection of environmental, economic and societal crises we face today are all long-term, gradual phenomena. And yes, our primitive drive towards instant pleasure and away from instant pain is not equipped to function effectively in such an environment.
However, armed with a large amount of shared human experience and a good understanding of what makes us happy, it suddenly becomes possible to manipulate our fundamental human drives to direct our actions towards massive long-term gain and away from massive long-term loss.
The next post will start by discussing how we can manipulate our drive towards instant pleasure to result in massive long-term gains. Stay tuned.
Filed under: Mental control – Intermediate control