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Thursday, August 10, 2006
  Mind as Programmable Computer
Ever wonder how different humans beings can behave in such different ways? Why do people like different types of food? Different types of music? Surely this can't all be genetic disposition...

We often talk about differences as being cultural but culture isn't something tangible that you can put your finger on. Ultimately our behaviour, likes and dislikes MUST exist within our brains, therefore, if we want the ability to control our behaviour we need to learn about the brain.

The human brain has about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses. Neurons are nerve cells that process and transmit information. Synapses are dynamic, changing connections between Neurons. As we learn, the synapses that connect Neurons in our brain change, or are reprogrammed. So we can actually and literally program ourselves.

Everyone is familiar with the term brainwashing; the application of coercive techniques to change the beliefs or behavior of one or more people usually for political or religious purposes. So if brainwashing can be used for negative purposes, can the same techniques be used by ourselves for positive means?

We know and have all seen that brainwashing is possible, and can cause extreme behaviour as seemingly 'crazy' as fundamentalist muslim suicide bombers. How is this possible?
Our behaviour is largely based on our belief system. Our belief system is made up of the facts and knowledge that we learn, and grow to accept at the deepest level.

Everything that we do, everything that we see, hear, do, even think about causes changes in the synapses in our brain, we essentially are constantly recreating the patterns, or programs that exist in our brain, causing sometimes subtle but potentially massive changes in our behaviour.

As an example, think about that Budweiser commercial from a few years ago that featured the guys saying "Whazaaap?". It was a very popular commercial and eventually everyone was saying it. So after seeing the commercial and thinking it was funny, that information was written into the brain and the next time you called a buddy, instead of your usual greeting, it was "Whazaap?", after time, the phrase became old and eventually those synapses that were storing that information more prominently fell away and our behaviour most likely returned it it's former state.

Take active responsibility for programming your brain, don't only look at controlling your behaviour, but look at the deep changes in your belief system that you'd like to change and consider how you can change these...

I can think of 2 powerful beliefs that I have personally changed in the last 6 months or so:

1) I can't read any books are are non-technical. I had tried several times to read books in the past 15 years and the only things I seemed to be able to get through were "Learn Windows XP in 21 Days", "The Windows 2000 Resource Kit", or something like that... As a result, as I was missing out on the huge opportunity to grow my knowledgebase in other directions. After I read the Singularity is Near, it had such a dramatic affect on my mindset that I decided that I simply HAD to read more, since then I've read The End of Faith by Sam Harris and Revolutionary Wealth by Alvin Toffler, both non-fiction books which have also had a big impact on my thinking and behaviour. Now I've got a list about close to a dozen books that I am planning to, and WILL read.

2) General beliefs about my nutrition and fitness. I've been overweight for most of my life. With the exception of my late teens / early twenties when I was getting lots of excercise by dancing at clubs 3-4 nights a week, I've ranged from around overweight to obese... I've always had a soft spot for junk food, jeez I worked at McDonald's for about 5 years and sometimes ate it for breakfast, lunch & dinner. In about March of this year something clicked in my head, I was convinced that was it, and I was going to change my lifestyle... Since then, I've typically averaged over 100 minutes of cardio exercise a week, have reduced by caloric intake, and cut out a lot of garbage calories... I've lost over 30 pounds so far with around another 30 to go.

What's (if anything?) stopping you from being happy in your life? What are the beliefs that are standing in your way?
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A personal blog by John Walter.

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I think a lot. Some people say I think too much... However, I don't want to be seen as being aloof or pretentious, it's just that I really enjoy philosophical questions and deep thoughts. That's not to say that I don't find pleasure in more down-to-earth or trivial things, like beer and soccer :) I'm happily married with 3 wonderful children. I'm a partner in a technology services company based in Toronto. Myers Briggs says I'm an ENTJ

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