There are several patterns of thought to which I have tended to drift in several of the essays presented in this blog. The thought patterns my written thoughts drift towards concern the thoughts that pattern those thought patterns we can distinguish with our thoughts. In a way this is like suggesting that it is not shocking for a discussion of belly button gazing to be populated with descriptions of lint. Yet a discussion of belly button lint, though the most substantive object discerned while belly button gazing, does not capture the essence, or essential purpose, of the gazing exercise. What of my philosophical lint?
The worst that can be said of a musing is that it is “just wrong”, but what can we make of the errors?
In pattern recognition there are two general classifications of errors. These are classified (and named in an obvious example of creativity unbound) as type I and type II errors.
The type I error is one where the patterner sees a pattern where one does not exist. This is the most popular type amongst thinking people. The brain is a pattern maker. When we think hard about our observations we begin to make connections, when the connections build up sufficiently we discern a pattern. Unless a situation is more perfectly homogeneous than is statistically likely we should eventually be able to tease out patterns.
In addition to the very basic ability to make patterns from noise the brain’s ability to program itself can impose patters on situations which do not even need an accidental pattern-like arraignment to support. A practiced pattern of thought can impose order on a situation.
When firing a high-power riffle it is not uncommon for some shooters to flinch. When a “dead” round is chambered the shooter often flinches as if the round had successfully fired. The pattern “pull the trigger then experience recoil” conditions a flinch response regardless of the presence of actual recoil.
The brain can be traumatized into pattern formation. A sufficiently intense experience will cause the brain to organically impose patterns on a situation; these imposed patterns can be somewhat haphazard.
Type II errors occur when a pattern is missed that actually exists. The type II errors can have devastating results. That is one reason why the brain avoids them at the basal thought structure level. When a pattern has worked in the past we tend to assume that it is working in the present. When a pattern concerns very important events we find it subliminally enforced. Making a type II error would appear to be an uphill battle. How do we go about making this type of error?
General ignorance is a good start. By simply ignoring things we can starve the brain of its pattern making raw materials. Consciously doing this might be depressing, or might be a byproduct of prioritization; I cannot see the patterns in the 50,000 piece poker playing dogs puzzle because it is in a box inside the closet while I try and discern the patterns I need to understand in order to balance my checkbook.
The next best thing is to abandon a proto-pattern that we have determined to be false. This is difficult. How do you gain evidence that a pattern is not around? How much evidence is convincing? How do you train the mind to see the pattern consistent with not having a pattern. Once one gets an idea in their head it is very difficult to get it out.
If there were good and reliable ways of removing patterns from the mind then metric tons of psychoactive medication would go to waste. What would happen to that medication? If we simply dumped the medication we might find ourselves suffering from an epidemic of spastic whales, or very mellow walruses!