Unleash your supercomputer

New metaphor: Alexander Technique is the art of unleashing the power of the supercomputer within you.

In A Pattern Recognition Theory Of Mind (paywall), Tiago discusses the key ideas in Ray Kurzweil’s book, “How To Create A Mind”. There’s a good intro here to what Alexander Technique, and all those other things, are about.

Consider the last time you played tennis (or another sport). As light from the bouncing tennis ball hit your eyes, photoreceptors turned that light into electrical signals that were passed along to many different kinds of neurons in the retina.

By the time two or three synaptic connections have been made, information about the location, direction, and speed of the ball has been extracted and is being streamed in parallel to the brain. It’s like sending a fleet of cars down an 8-lane freeway, instead of a bullet train down a single track – some cars can depart as soon as they’re ready, without having to wait for the others.

You really are an amazing creature. As the tennis ball hurtles through space, you take a huge number of measurements and perform astonishingly complex calculations in mere fractions of a second. And then you keep doing it – over and over again, updating your model of the ball in relation to your body and the environment – as the situation evolves.

Image credit: Jack Butcher. I’m working through Jack’s design course now, so I will soon starting making graphics myself.

The thing is, though, that you have absolutely no idea how you do any of this. You observe and then move the tennis racket such that the ball bounces back over the net. You “just run”.

How? There’s no role for the thinker here: everything is happening too quickly and you wouldn’t be able to do those calculations with your inner monologue anyway. And yet, there’s a part of you can do it effortlessly. Let’s call that part the supercomputer.

It’s great when it works, but a problem arises when your thinking mind either forgets about, or doesn’t trust, your supercomputer. It gets involved and tries to do things it’s very much not equipped to do. This interferes with the functioning of the supercomputer: “Performance = Potential - Interference” in the language of the Inner Game.

Even worse: we’ve been conditioned to interfere to the extent that we don’t even know we’re doing it and we now have to unlearn those habits.

The solution to this seems obvious, right? Just stop interfering! Get the thinker out of the way and let the supercomputer function!

Well yes, but… how exactly? It’s the same as trying to falling asleep. The more you try, the more you interfere, and the worse the outcome. As Alan Watts might say, you’re in a bind.

How to get out of that bind is precisely what the Alexander Technique teaches. To quiet the thinker, remove self-interference and then watch in amazement as things happen of themselves.

Michael Ashcroft

Michael Ashcroft


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