We All Think
- Do people think as much as I do?
- Do people think what I think about?
- Do people even think?
“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” ― Thomas A. Edison
I push myself back, sitting in the cozy cane chair in CCD and gaze in the eyes of my fellow deep thinking mate. Unraveling the mysteries of the conversation we were having, my mind unhooks from reality and loses itself in a labyrinth of thoughts.
I could see the sizzling choco sauce in my ‘Sizzle Dazzle Brownie’. “See” - That would be an understatement. I could absorb every detail of it. I could “feel” things happening around me with more than just my five senses.
I pondered over simple things. Things so absurdly simple, people don’t pay attention to them. Yet when you give them thought, they are much complicated that the most complex equations.
Do people think? Do they think as I think? Do they realize the power of thought? My thoughts questioned the concept of reality. The very existence of beings.
Tiny droplets from the melting vanilla ice-cream atop the brownie dribble down as time decides to slow-down.
Gone are the days when not a single minute passed when I and my friend were not together, however, one thing has remained invariant to the bleaching effect of time (yet)- our “sadist self-introspection”.
(I know self-introspection doesn’t make sense but we like to call it that.)
Occasionally the two of us manage to make time out of our busy schedules to touch base over a meal and discuss what we consider “deep stuff” concerning life, human psychology and everything (including people) that seeks to make our lives miserable.
An average human brain thinks 70,000 thoughts in a day, that makes about 3000 thoughts an hour and 50 thoughts per minute. The irony - I can’t help asking myself all the time “Why can’t people think?”!
The whimsical nature of the majority of the human race has always confounded me. As a kid, I detested compliant kids around me who could just go with the flow, do what their friends did and unquestionably accept what the society taught them.
A trio of guys come and occupy a nearby table.
One of the guys (the despo girlfriend seeker) mocks one of the other three guys - “Kya baat h, aaj usse fursat mil gyi” (Wow you managed to find time away from her).
The no-longer-single guy gives a conceited smile (well when the college gender ratio stands at 10:1 and you are one of those fortunate (unfortunate) guys to have a girlfriend, complacency is difficult to avoid) and says in an artificially sad tone “han yaar aaj uske parents aye hn” (her parents are here today).
(I say in an artificial sad tone because I expect his true feeling to be relief. He is relieved to have got a short respite from being a “dancing monkey” (sorry girls, no offence intended).)
The despo girlfriend seeker nips back -“toh apne sas sasur se milne nhi jaega…”. (then go and meet your in-laws)
I can feel the no-longer-single guy give a sigh that gives away the innumerable times he has been asked about his long-term relationship plans which he is procrastinating to make until the day either he or his girlfriend decides to break-up.
His sigh is lost in the envious exclamation of the third friend -
“Teri toh majje hi majje hn, bandi h, acchi company mein internship h… ppo bhi lg hi jaega.” (life’s great for you - you have a girlfriend, have got good internship and most probably will get a pre-placement offer from at your intern)
I take my attention away from their conversation because I know what all follows.
It’s the one of the popular “meaningless” conversation that tempts me to make an artificial intelligence bot - “Make engineering student speak” to parrot our everyday natter. (inpiration credits : DeepDrumpf ).
Internship, placement, relationships (and breakups), TV Shows, chapos, assignments - that were given a month earlier and somehow need to be completed in one evening and submitted before the midnight deadline - apparently exhausts the list of topics the myriad of conversations in IITR seem to revolve around. Occasionally, fests, upcoming (and much needed) vacations, and upcoming (and dreaded) exams bring about the slight variety in our conversations without which even the dogs might begin to question individuality of our species.
(Btw, dogs can be quite amusing, especially the Dogs of Roorkee.)
“I wonder if we are the only few people who introspect so much and reflect as critically as we do.”, I think out loud.
“Maybe everyone thinks about these things once in awhile but we can’t say about others because these are not the type of conversations to have with just anyone. We can talk about such things with each other since we know each other well. Who knows, contrary to our belief, we might be the two shallowest people around!”, claims my rational friend.
Probably he is right. Probably amidst the cloud of “meaningless” conversations there exists shimmer of “meaningful” thoughts.
Maybe everyone thinks the things I think but they are either too introverted to express their thoughts or the fear of being labeled non-neurotypical holds them back. Maybe it’s the lack of trust in others or maybe it’s the impression that others cannot understand their “deep” thoughts.
Perhaps others have already tried and given up trying to understand why things are the way they are, why people think what they think, or why people act the way they act (topics which in my extremely humble opinion are the most important of all).
Maybe it’s just that people have better things to do with their lives than asking pointlessly “deep” questions, plucking an answer out of thin air, (and then writing a florid blogpost.)
Undeniably we humans are thinking machines. A more conclusive measure of our thinking capacity, than an average number of thoughts crossing our mind, would be range and depth of thoughts we can handle.
For those who are unable to figure out what I mean by range and depth:
- range = number of possibilities we can consider
- depth = length of the sequence of IF-THEN_ELSE rules we can consider
But capacity alone seems to be inadequate. When analyzing the quality of our thoughts, it is not as much a question of capacity to think as much as it is a question of choosing what to think.
Diversity in our thoughts is another facet that can’t be disregarded. Occasionally we all get caught up mulling over contingencies outside our control. In those fixated mind states, we certainly are thinking, and thinking fanatically but using our mind as replicating machine and clinging on to similar thoughts is more piteous than not thinking anything.
I have known a parent who quit his work during the year his son had taken a drop to prepare for JEE and had gone to study in another city (where else but Kota - the hub for JEE preparation). The parent used to spend entire days sitting in the verandah thinking “What would happen if his son didn’t qualify JEE”, “Is he studying well.”, “In which college to get him admitted to if the ‘unfathomable’ event of his son not qualifying JEE occurred.”, etc. Now I am not an expert on how thoughts become things but I don’t believe the parent’s musings could have made a difference in his son’s performance in JEE!
(Now that I indirectly mentioned ‘new thought’, I must confess that I hate it. ‘Secret’, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and all other ‘new thought’/’law of attraction’ books are abomination masquerading as solutions to attain a better life. To the proponents, I beseech you to read THE STAGGERING BULLSHIT OF “THE SECRET” by Mark Manson, and it just might be an early wake-up call for you.)
^^ That was off-topic but unavoidable. Getting back to the topic.
Human thinking is evidently multi-dimensional characterized by the range, depth, diversity and subject-matter of our thoughts.
The researchers of quantitative psychology might give a good mathematical model to represent dimensionality of thoughts.
The AI-geek in me likes to visualize this in the form of a “thought-forest” comprising of “thought-trees” (inspirations credits : random forests, decision trees, and minimax). The number of uncorrelated trees in the forest a representative of diversity, the head of these trees corresponding to the subject-matter of our thoughts, the branching factor an indicator of the range of our thoughts and tree depth a measure of the depth of our thinking process.
We all think. (And we all consider others who don’t think in the same dimension as ours as beings of lower intellect). Period.
The ubiquitous pop of Facebook messenger brings me back to earth. One of my classmates messaged me “ml ka tut kiya?” (have you solved the machine learning tutorial?).
“Abe aaj last date h ml ka assignment submit krne ki” (today is the last date to submit the Machine Learning assignment) I interject. We quickly finish our Sizzle Dazzle Brownies (with the vanilla ice-cream now all melted and mixed in the choco sauce) and head back to the hostel.
On the way my friend asks “By the way, have you watched this TV Show …”