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How I Reprogrammed My Brain

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We're constantly questioning which foods to eat because of their consequences. In a broad sense of the idea, nutrition is an example of our innate checks and balances. Before ordering dessert, refilling our soda, or eating chocolate at bedtime, we are constantly analyzing the effects of those decisions and weighing them against the action at hand. It's an is-the-juice-worth-the-squeeze kind of thing: If I eat this, will I feel good? Will I look good? Will I be able to go to bed reasonably soon, or will I end up staring at the ceiling counting imaginary wool?

Strangely, until I learned how a computer program works, I'd never thought to learn about my brain or about how our mental activity operates so seamlessly, without a glitch, and under subconscious control. I'd never thought to try to understand the process by which my brain gets me from point A to B to C without thinking about the path taken to get there. You need not remind yourself to breathe, walk, or dream. They just happen.

It seems like our brains can recognize a situation and adapt in the most efficient way. If you need to use the bathroom but you're suddenly on a high-speed foot chase, your body tends to pump the brakes on nature's call and change its priorities. We check the situation and adapt.

A brain's chemical functionality is not something that I would be interested in studying, but how it works in a less-textbook manner sparks a newfound curiosity. Rather than the direct approach to learning how a brain works physiologically, I indirectly and unintentionally formed my own hypothesis for the relationship between my brain, my body, and my actions through computer science.

My unintentional realization of this unsought topic came early in my study of computer programming. I found a remarkable, ever-growing relationship between the way a program is written and how humans tend to operate. As more options and tools to write programs became inherent to me, I couldn't help but relate them to a brain's complex and seamless performance.

For humans, a thought process may appear like so: If I go here, then I can't go there, and if I do this, then I can't do that. If I drink this water, then I won't be thirsty. This is how a computer program works; it's nearly identical. Let's set a variable name; we'll call it "Thirst." If Thirst is equal to 0 (dehydrated), tell the body to replenish and perform a specific function to address the situation. Go to the refrigerator; if the refrigerator is beverage-less, then go to cabinet, get a cup, go to the sink, fill the cup, and drink. Now set our variable Thirst to 100, and it will slowly decrease in accordance with variables like our environment, time, and current activity.

The most basic and core functionality of a program is what makes computer programming so compelling to me. It allows you to open your own doors, as the tools can be manipulated to solve any problem or perform in any way you'd like. Knowing that your brain uses a similar framework, you can take your natural checks-and-balances system that has made hitting the backspace on your keyboard [if (error exists)] instinctive, and you can make thinking outside the box an inherent action.

Like a computer checks a condition and issues a consequent, I developed the notion that your mind surveys a situation and reacts after weighing the possible outcomes. With this idea, I learned that the mind can actually emit endless original thoughts and conditions and analyze an infinite array of possibilities. You can start to take a new approach; rather than shooting first, aiming second, and missing out on lost opportunities, you can think outside the box, analyze the possible outcomes, and avoid or pursue certain situations.

A wise man once said that everybody should learn this very concept: "Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer, should learn a computer language, because it teaches you how to think. It's like going to law school. I don't think anybody should be a lawyer, but going to law school can actually be useful because it teaches you how to think in a certain way ... I view computer science as a liberal art." That man was Steve Jobs.

Learn to program and you'll learn to think, extract your own opinions, and form your own hypotheses for the relationship between your brain, your body and your behavior.

The relationship between a computer and our minds is not the idea I wish you take away from this. Rather, I want you to take away the idea that you may now start to think and form your own answer to this question: How does my brain work? As soon as you understand the way in which your mind functions, you, too, can take control and manipulate it to solve any problem or perform in any way you'd like.

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