This is an excerpt from the book series Philosophy for Heroes: Continuum. You can get a copy here.


In our daily lives, too often we have our creativity submerged. We can walk down the street, drive to work, bicycle, watch TV, eat, etc. without ever really using this Darwinian machine. The more accustomed we become to our environment, the more we use our automatic, non-creative mind. It also affects our perception of time: time flows more slowly for us the more we use our creative mind. To foster this creativity, it helps to walk new paths, learn new skills, move to new places, examine new ideas, and meet new people. The brain simulates what will probably happen next in order to have a decision ready. Our Darwinian machine gets activated only when our perception of reality no longer matches these predictions. Applying what we have learned about the nature of the mind will help us to improve our everyday life.

But our minds are of course more than just places for competing thoughts. We have personalities. How do they come to be? One way to approach this question is to think about how the copying process in the brain can be influenced by a variety of parameters. For example, the level of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain can make you prefer letting this copying and evolving of thoughts go on longer than other people might, leading to more intuitive, although sometimes hesitant or even anxious behavior. Another influence could lead to more competition among thought patterns with only those best adapted to be able to copy, with the result of the person wanting to push through a particular idea as opposed to being open to a variety of viewpoints. In the next book, we will explore the connection between these basic parameters and high-level traits like our individual personalities.

With ever-increasing knowledge about our own psychology, we live in truly exciting times. But what will humanity’s path look like? With the knowledge of where we came from, we can now approach the mystery of the most complex organ known to man: the human mind. Once we have solved this puzzle, we can then wonder what we should do with this information, how we can better act as leaders. Can we teach the newcomers to life on Earth—like artificial intelligences—to live sustainably and carry on the idea of life into the future?

In terms of life on Earth, a lot of things had to be “just right” in order for humans to evolve. We are formed by Earth’s history. In that regard, we should not question evolution, but the processes (continental shifts, climate change, asteroids, the moon, …) that led to Earth as it is today. What governs their development? How was it possible that everything came together in the right way with us as the result? Following the anthropic principle, we are able to wonder why we are here because we are here. If we were not here, we would not wonder. So, no matter how small the chance was for the right conditions coming together to create life and, later, to create us, it does not matter—it happened. We cannot argue that because the chance was so small, there must be another reason. The universe is so large that all kinds of situations can occur, especially if there are multiple big bangs and if the universe’s age is infinite. Still, this answer feels unsatisfying. Beyond learning and teaching who we are, the following two books will discuss the ethical and spiritual questions of life and existence.