To compose our character is our duty, not to compose books, and to win, not battles and provinces, but order and tranquility in our conduct. Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately. All other things, ruling, hoarding, building, are only little appendages and props, at most. – Michel de Montaigne, The complete essays

Ryan Bush, een ‘vraatzuchtige lezer met een obsessie voor introspectie’, verzamelt citaten, een levend iets. Hij plukt ze met de hand, stopt ze in een boek, The Book of Self Mastery. Hij wil zijn geest optimaliseren, beeldhouwen, programmeren. Hij noemt dit ‘psychitecture, designing the mind’.

Helaas zitten we vaak vast in ‘slechte’ algoritmen: negatieve gedachten, slecht afgestelde emoties, ongezond gedrag. We draaien cognitief, affectief in het rond.

‘Algorithms can be good or bad based on whether they are self-serving or self-sabotaging. And when they are bad, we call them biases, maladaptive emotions, and bad habits. By and large the bad algorithms that plague us are found across our species.’

In zijn boek vind je inzichten van Montaigne, Nietzsche, Thitch Nhat Hahn naast die van neuro-, gedrags-, cognitieve en affectieve wetenschappers en psychologen. Hij noemt deze citaten ‘reminders of your priorities’, ze kleuren je dag.

Ik klik op het youtubefilmpje:


Interviewer: I’m also interested in the kind of symbolism and the artwork that you’ve kind of built it around. Which is this technological brain, sort of a system, that you’re trying to reprogram. So you’re also a designer by trade. Is that right?

Ryan Bush: That’s correct, I call myself a systems designer, really for lack of a better term but originally the background is in product design, like physical products, anything from camping gear to robotic tennis ball collectors, but at this point I’ve done software and apps, book covers of course and graphics and stuff. So I did kind of have these few things come together because I’ve been using this technological metaphor increasingly to understand my own mind.

You know my self-improvement process was a little more technical, at least the way I looked at it than the typical sort of inspiration self-help thing. I was very interested in the nuts and bolts and I started thinking of the mind as software essentially that can be optimized gradually and incrementally and it really came together with a few things I think. You’ve got evolutionary psychology, which essentially says that we have these different tendencies that were programmed into us for certain biological purposes and they’re not all good for us necessarily, even if they’re good for our genes. So we’ve got negative emotions, we’ve got bad habits, we’ve got cognitive biases and these are all essentially built into us by default, but not necessarily fixed.

I was looking at these different ideas in practical philosophies and I was seeing these great thinker’s words as these snippets of open source cognitive code so to speak that could be planted into the mind, so it all came together with the visuals of the algorithm and with this technological metaphor and I created this kind of cohesive metaphor and framework for actually making these optimizations to your mind in a systematic sense rather than just focusing on what you’re going through at any given moment.

It kind of takes the ancient cliche that true happiness comes from within and combines it with this modern metaphor of the mind as an operating system. There’s a blog post on Wait but Why, which is an awesome blog, if you’re not familiar, where Tim Urban breaks down essentially the mindset of Elon Musk. He actually worked with Elon Musk to analyze him and what he concluded was one of the keys that differentiates Musk from most of the rest of us is that he essentially views his mind as software that is infinitely expandable and upgradable and sort of iteratively improveable. Viewing your mind as this system really resonated with me.

I’m not Elon Musk but I’ve kind of been doing this for a long time now. To give an example, if something happens in my life that upsets me I think most people’s impulse is to say how can I make this stop, how can I avoid this situation and I’ve always kind of thought what is the error in my mind, what’s the bug that’s causing me to get upset and how can I redesign it so that when I encounter situations like this in the future it won’t upset me?

The things that are happening in your mind are not just single events, they’re all ultimately interconnected. I call it psychological software. You’ve got this series of algorithms that all connect together and this is really what all these different types of science show in their own particular realms, whether you’re looking at habit change or you’re looking at cognitive therapy, we find that our thoughts and our actions and our emotions are intricately but intimately tied together and triggering one another. In order to actually make changes to them we have to really understand these connections between them.