What Then?

If Life Thinks, what does it think about (other than food, or not being food) ?

On the probability scale, it would be thinking about experiences that are disabling, because in the extreme, those experiences could lead to death.

So, thoughts about where food can be found, thoughts about strategies that will not make you food, and finally, thoughts about safety.

Well, that pretty much takes up my day currently. You would think that after a million or so years we wouldn’t have to think about these things anymore. I suppose we don’t worry very much about being food, unless you are camping or surrounded by vampires, so that’s good.

It is my theory that all complex thinking can only occur when you are not thinking about food, not being good, and safety. Considering that the three basics are always with us, our complex thoughts are squeezed in between. Sometimes, this is described as Maslow’s Theory of Self Actualization. I’m a bit suspicious of the title “self-actualizing”, but the graphic visual is engaging, foundational items allow things to placed upon them in a pyramid fashion, with the pointy top labeled “self actualized”. Very linear and architectural. Not sure it is an absolute picture of reality.

Let’s say that we have just eaten our fill, before we are hungry again, and before we are concerned that we might be eaten or that we are in danger, we get a few moments of free thought. That’s when complex thoughts take over.

Perhaps we use the time to perfect our grunts and finger pointing to sounds that mean, “throw the rock at the coconut on the left, so we can eat.” It’s still thinking about food but it is more complex and ultimately more successful, so language is encouraged.

When language is developed there is even more free thinking time. Walls around our village keeps the predators out, we worry less about being food. The free thought time is expanded. We create tools that are extensions of our physical bodies, and that enhances our safety, we discover medicine to help with our accidents. Our lives are extended. Extended life gives more free thought.

Moving from picture thoughts to language thoughts is not a simple task. I like to link it to the process of moving from concrete thought to abstract thought. Some might also link it to going from instinctual to premeditated. Primordial thought may be instinctual, but it is still thought. It is very fast thinking based on action and reaction. If it isn’t fast enough, you are hungry, you are food, or you are disabled.

The real benefit of pre-mediated thought is breaking free of the speed factor. There are circumstances that cannot be successful because we can never be as fast in the moment. Premeditated thinking is a work around. It is similar to winding up a spring slowly and patiently, then all the power is released at once by simply pressing a trigger. So the solution is faster than instinct, and possibly more complex, like a Rube Goldberg device of falling dominos, rolling balls, and tipping levers.

Ultimately our free thought time moves from the “what” to the “why”. Why are we the only living creatures that asks “why”? (The first thing to note is the basis of that thought. Interspecies communication is not well developed. We don’t actually know the thoughts of other living things. We only see the action/reaction if we are lucky. (Anthropomorphizing is always a danger.)

For the sake of argument, let us posit that we are the only creatures that ask “Why?” How did that happen? It may a natural next step, like the three year old that repeatedly asks “Why?” when told to do something. Or it may be the next step allowed by extended free thought time. The child of abstract thought.

Life thinks= What?
Free thoughts= What then?
Forms questions, and demands answers.= Why?