Mod+ Agency and Wilson's "The Robot"

This thread is restricted to those who accept mind is not equal to brain.

Let's begin with an excerpt from Gary Lachman's Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson:

"In “Existential Psychology: A Novelist’s Approach,” Wilson wrote “When I learned to type, I had to do it painfully and with much wear and tear. But at a certain stage a miracle occurred, and this complicated operation was ‘learned’ by a useful robot that I conceal in my sub-conscious.”2 This robot, Wilson tells us, is very helpful. He drives his car, speaks passable French and “occasionally gives lectures at American universities.” The robot is very versatile; Wilson even jokes that he sometimes makes love to his wife. The robot is a labour-saving device. He takes over repetitive tasks so that we can focus our attention on other things. Alfred North Whitehead knew about the robot when he said that “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” If I had to think about how to type each time I wanted to, I could never think about what to type. Once I’ve learned a skill, my robot takes care of the how, so I can focus on the what. We all know the story of when the ant asked the centipede how he could move so many legs. The centipede says “It’s easy, I do it like this,” and then finds himself unable to do it. His conscious mind has interfered with an unconscious or subconscious process, what in psychology is called “hyper-reflection.” The same thing happens when we become self-conscious, and start to bungle things we normally do easily. We then are getting in the way of the robot.

The robot is absolutely necessary. But there is a problem. “If I discover a new symphony that moves me deeply,” Wilson writes, “or a poem or a painting, the robot insists on getting in on the act.” After a few times, the robot takes over, and he is listening to the symphony or reading the poem, not me. We say it has become “familiar.” What does this mean? Why should a Mozart symphony sound less beautiful or exciting after we’ve heard it several times? After all, it hasn’t changed. We say we have “got used to it.” But what does this mean, other than that we have allowed the robot to classify it with repetitive tasks and, as T. E. Lawrence lamented, “become typical through thought.” Making things “typical” is the robot’s job; the problem is that he does this to things we don’t want to be “typical.”

This excerpt continues at

Wilson's metaphor seems a useful shorthand for summarizing a common experience.

This issue is recognized in many spiritual traditions. In Zen there is the need to regain the "beginner's mind". One element of the practice of Vipasana is to restore awareness. Sufism has many ways to free oneself from the "commanding self".

I would suggest that spiritual traditions have a deeper understanding of this aspect of consciousness and also of negative distortions from conditioning.