Commonsense thinking, artificial intelligence, and the future of the human mind

January 26, 2016

Marvin Minsky died this week. This is a blog post from 2011 that discuss his ideas.

Wim Chase

I am reading a book by Marvin Minsky called The Emotion Machine.

I feel it applies to my work as a therapist and recommend it to anyone interested in the mind and its workings.

Machine is a bit of a misnomer as it tends to imply power and efficiency rather than flexibility and flow. I like this quote from the introduction:

If you “understand” something in only one way, then you scarcely understand it at all- because when you get stuck, you’ll have nowhere to go. But if you represent something in several ways, then when you get frustrated enough, you can switch among different points of view, until you find one that works for you!

He goes on about human dignity:

I see our dignity as stemming from what we have made of ourselves: a colossal collection of different ways to deal with different situations and predicaments. It is that diversity…

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Giving credit to your ‘self’ weakens the mind

January 26, 2016

Marvin Minsky just passed away. This is one post where I mention him.

Wim Chase

What is this ‘self’ that you give credit to?   It is not really a question that you can answer in any useful kind of way. Our ‘selves’ vary according to our purposes. Our purposes vary according to context. If you attribute some success you have had to your ‘self’ without sufficient specifity, that success may be hard to sustain or repeat.

So how do you strengthen the mind?  Marvin Minsky suggests we gain more from each experience by forgetting much of it, namely , details that were not relevant to our goals. What we learn can be more profound if we assign credit not only to the final act that led us to our success or failure – or even to the strategy that has led to it – but to whatever earlier choices we made that slected our winning strategy. Our abilities to make good credit assignments could be among…

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People are eager to participate when pain is recognized.

January 18, 2016

….a lot of people will run from you when you are in pain, or dismiss it. This causes people to be susceptible to manipulation by people who have an agenda and feign interest in your pain. So that’s a painful thought, but good people recognize pain too, in fact, it is a requirement for compassion which is generally expected from people we consider good.


The quote in the title comes from material by the late Jim Camp, a very successful negotation coach.

Humility acknowledges the potential for wrongness

January 18, 2016

…. but that doesn’t mean it excludes the potential for rightness. It allows you to pay proper attention to the context – time, place, people.

Whining is a form of #anger that is designed to take advantage of other people’s good will. We make their good will their duty to help us.

January 12, 2016

Carl Semmelroth

The Anger Habit Workbook

Communication Idolatry

December 31, 2015


Here is what I notice people do instead of converse:













I am sure you can think of more.

Conversation includes –



requests for a yes or no to go in a certain direction


I find that if a conversation does not set up any of the items on the first list via an agreement – then communication goes poorly. It is almost like communication idolatry to so. In an established healthy relationship or friendship, that ‘agreement’ can be a simple nod or gesture know only to the two parties. The main point is that the agreement must be there or you are throwing mud at the wall.

And a lot people enjoy doing that – making mud pies and throwing them. Nothing wrong with that in many contexts.

People often sense the bullshit even if they stay polite during the interaction where the idolatry has taken place, and if they don’t sense it, they are usually very easy to manipulate. The agreement needs to give some predictability to what is going to happen for involved parties. Even insults can work in that context and not disrupt progress.

So what I think what we can offer, and not even under the title of ‘coach’ or ‘therapist’, is an ability to identify what is happening when there is an interaction between two people. If someone shares an exchange they had with some with us, using the system we can know right away what is missing.

Listen in on social media and blog ‘conversations’, or just ordinary in-person ones.    See what you observe.


The best of the good news. 1 John 4:12

December 24, 2015

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.


Remedy to the pain of indecision

June 24, 2015

Before you can decide on something, you must be able to visualize it some detail.  Being indecisive is painful, so we want to get out of that pain. The problem for many of this is that we don’t have the tools or mindset to discover the real details to complete the vision, so we fill them in from our past experience or ‘good judgement’  so we can make a decision and feel better.

Patience is key, as is a willingness to embark on discovery. At some level you need to simply be curious. Nurture your own curiosity, and be steadfast with it even in the presence of the curiosity killer – fear.

Fear is almost inevitable if you are just waiting around in the dark and not doing the work of discovery.

Make the decision to discover.

Ask questions. Observe. Take notes so you don’t forget!

Doing so will soothe your fear, and move you toward your best decisions possible.

Getting it wrong is just another discovery on the way to getting it right.


The only good news you need today

June 21, 2015

A lot to digest here, so take in each sentence slowly. One a day is probably best:


-If we expect things or need things to be perfect  or even ‘to our liking’ , we have created a certain plan for a very unhappy life.

-We don’t come to God by eliminating our imperfection, but by rejoicing in it because it makes us aware of our need for God’s mercy and love and it keeps us humble.

-The spirituality of poverty is the recognition  that myself, by itself, is powerless and ineffective.

-Within the spirituality of imperfection, the quickest ticket to enlightenment is calmly acknowledged littleness. Then you have nothing to prove, protect, or promote. The ego resists , but the soul knows.

Richard Rohr


– You can show your love to others by not wishing they should be better.

-We must bear patiently not being good….and not being thought good.

St Francis of Assisi


-Patience is being patient with your patience.

Idries Shah


Let go of the need to think well of yourself and your situation.

Let go of the need for peace, over and over, and a deeper and broader peace than you can imagine will come to possess you.




ISIS, measles, and the new front in the battle against mind manipulation

February 22, 2015

ISIS can only exist when a critical mass of people are susceptible to mind manipulation. The photos on the news of those 3 British teen girls on their way to join ISIS are truly bone chilling. Susceptibility to mind manipulation is nothing new, nore are its horrific consequences.  I see the current crises as an outcome of a sort of epidemic of psychological immunodeficiency. Why don’t we eradicate this susceptibility in everyone like we eradicated small pox? We practically eradicated measles in the US but our suscpetibility to mind manipulation allowed it to come back as a real and present danger. We can no longer just dismiss our own vulnerability to it by saying it just happens to the stupid or weird elements of our society. The sad thing is that we already have the knowledge to prevent mind manipulation. We came about this knowledge when so many American Korean War POWs were brainwashed by the Chinese compared to other nationalities that the phenomenon was able to be identified and properly studied and understood. The military learned from it and fixed it. We need to teach those skills to everyone, especially our youth. It ought  to become a worldwide public health campaign with special emphasis on vulnerable peopulations. We can’t wait on the current power structure to do it, especially when they are often so dependent on mind manipulation themselves.

Each of us can start now with a simple internet search. For tweens and up I recommend What’s the Catch: How to avoid getting hooked and manipulated by Denise Winn. For adults try The Manipulated Mind by Denise Winn or Battle for the Human Mind: A physiology of conversion and brainwashing – How Evengelists, Politicians, Psychiatrists, and Medicine Men can change your beliefs and behavior by William Sargeant.

Please share this  blog post. We are at war. I don’t think that overstates it.


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