Ambiguity is the Source Of Unhappiness

5 May 2016

The human brain is a vastly unknown and unexplored area of the body. Daniel Gilbert, author of “Immune to Reality” and Nicholas Carr, author of “Is Google Making Us Stupid”, both write about the ways that the human brain works.

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Gilbert discusses how the brain attempts to protect itself from the unpleasant things in life. He calls this the psychological immune system because, just like the human body’s immune system, thit removes all negatives from the brain and leaves only that which will keep the brain happy.

Meanwhile, Carr discusses how the brain changes to fit with the times and molds itself to the new technology. He mentions that the human brain has changed and adapted with technological progress, but just as technology has evolved to be more like the brain, the brain has evolved to be more like technology. As a result, the human brain is a malleable structure that molds itself to positive perspectives, while avoiding the negative points of life.

The psychological immune system is a theory which states that the human brain has a natural defense mechanism against ambiguous situations. It also protects the brain against unpleasant realities. In this way, Google is trying to mimic the way that the human brain works in its search engine.

Google attempts to rid its search engine of ambiguity in order to more conveniently process information, as well as to make it easier for the user to comprehend. Daniel Gilbert, author of “Immune to Reality”, states that “when experiences make us feel sufficiently unhappy, the psychological immune system cooks facts and shifts blame in order to offer us a more positive view” (Gilbert 139). Gilbert believes ambiguity to be one cause of humanity’s unhappiness.

Ambiguity is distrusted by both Google and the human brain. Carr writes that “ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed” (Carr
73). This means that ambiguity will not lead to any positive outcomes. Google mistrusts ambiguity because instead of allowing the mass production of information, it provides alternative explanations and thought-processes that may differ from person to person. Similarly, the human brain takes unpleasant situations and creates alternative realities which are more pleasing to it.

Gilbert writes that “when experiences make us feel sufficiently unhappy, the psychological immune system cooks facts and shifts blame in order to offer us a more positive view” (Gilbert 139). This shows that the human brain attempts to protect itself from unhappiness. In Gilbert’s view, this includes ambiguous situations due to the fact that ambiguity doesn’t allow room for explanations.

Explanations are information that is the result of rapid information being processed very quickly. Gilbert states that “explanation robs events of their emotional impact because it makes them seem more likely and allows us to stop thinking about them.

Oddly enough, an explanation doesn’t actually have to explain anything to have these effects-it merely needs to seem as though it does”(Gilbert 145). This means that explanations are not really used to explain, but instead are used to emotionally detach oneself from events of larger magnitude. This is because “large-scale assaults on our happiness … trigger our psychological defenses” (Gilbert 139).

Small events do not affect us enough on a psychological level to trigger the psychological immune system. The explanations that we use to explain these large-scale events are the same kinds of trivial explanations that Google is hoping that we search for. They have no true value in their information, however the explanations are very clear cut and lack ambiguity. In our lives, the explanations come quickly, just like the way that Google is molding out minds to take information.

Carr writes that his “mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it – in a swiftly moving stream of particles” (Carr 68). Carr means that he now wants information very quickly, and what are these grand explanations but more information. The explanations that we use in order to emotionally detach ourselves are just more information on a larger scale.

Wisdom is gained through experiencing event both happy and traumatic events.

Carr writes that “In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates … [thought that people] would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom”” (qtd. in. Carr 73). Wisdom is gained through one’s experiences, and as such how can people be wise if their psychological immune system kicks in to protect people from the large experiences in life. Gilbert supports this by writing that “Intense suffering triggers the very processes that eradicate it… and this counterintuitive fact can make it difficult for us to predict our emotional futures” (Gilbert 140). In addition to this, if our wisdom is curbed due to the way that our minds work in response to such traumatic experiences, how can we learn from them?

In addition to blocking out the negatives of our traumatic experiences, the psychological immune system works in the background of our minds. This leads Gilbert to make the point that “Because we do not realize that we have generated a positive view of our current experience, we do not realize that we will do so again in the future” (Gilbert 145-146).

It is not a conscious thought process, but instead is a subconscious process. As with any subconscious process, it changes the way we act and think. Carr writes that “As we use what the sociologist Daniel Bell has called our “intellectual technologies” – the tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities – we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies” (qtd. in Carr 70).

This means that the more we use something that affects our state-of-mind, the more it will change us. Carr expands on this by writing that “the process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves … Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaption occurs also at a biological level” (Carr 70). We ourselves are changing due to the way our brain works. It is no longer just external changes however, we are changing ourselves on a subconscious level.

The psychological immune system is a subconscious process that changes the way we think and vie w the world. It tries to eliminate ambiguity by providing explanations for every major event and also by emotionally detaching an event from the person who experienced it.

The more we use this psychological technology, however, the more it changes us. We seek explanations more and more, and the explanations themselves are becoming more and more trivial, protecting us from the large and important events in life. However the events that it blocks are all part of what contributes to our wisdom because wisdom is gained through experience. If the brain and psychological immune system block out the experience, how are we supposed to learn from them and gain the wisdom that we need in the future.

The human brain morphs and changes with the times. It changes based on the technology of the times. In addition to changing with technology, the human brain also naturally protects itself from negative experiences. However, it is these negative experiences that make us wiser beings that can learn from our past experiences.

Carr blames the changes that our brain undergoes onto technological progress which is born from the attempt to eradicate ambiguity. Gilbert simply blames ambiguity as a focal point for the negative experiences in life. While both authors, although indirectly on some occasions, agree that ambiguity is the source of happiness, Gilbert is much more adamant about the fact than Carr. In addition to this, it is the unhappiness that makes humans grow as people and become wiser. In conclusion, Ambiguity is the source of unhappiness and wisdom, and therefore must be promoted throughout society. Works Cited

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