This is Your Brain on Drugs

Thinking is a drug, you know that, of course? There was that first thought, the first realization, and the good feeling that settled over you when you had it. Ahhhhh... Some scholars call it the "Ah-ha" moment. The light bulb that goes off in your head. Sudden inspiration. Epiphany. It feels so good that you do it again. And again. Before long, before you know it, you are filing patents. And it feels so good. One patent, two, three patents, four.

This is the first stage of addiction. You can't stop. Every day must be accompanied by another thought, another discovery, another "ah-ha" moment. Sometimes two or three a day. Thinking has got you running in circles; you are willing to do anything to get the next idea. You start sacrificing family, friends, social time. They're not as important as the next "hit", the next breakthrough.

After a while, that initial rush fades. You become tolerant, accustomed. You find that you have to start thinking deeper and harder to get the same feeling of "high", the same rush. More difficult problems, more abstract problems are needed to satisfy the craving. You are subscribed to technical journals, and you are reading them. You are contemplating advanced degrees, if you don't already have one. You start studying mathematics; integrals start making sense. You know what the normal subgroup of a group is. You start thinking of yourself as a mathematician, more talented than your peers. Better at it.

That is the next stage of addiction. Thinking has complete grip over the individual. There is little that can be done now, the affliction has to be allowed to run its course. There are two possible outcomes. One is common: burnout. This is particularly prevalent in the computer industry, where programmers think so hard and so long that their health fails, and they loose all ability to maintain coherent conversations with other people. They think they're blogging, but it turns out that its really an excuse to not program any more. Their brains have turned to mush, and they can't tell the difference between Java and Python any longer. Outsourcing to India becomes a real concern; thinking has destroyed your job, your income, your life.

Some users find that they can feed their habit by becoming "pushers". They write articles, publish books, give lectures. Modern drug culture celebrates this behavior. Some become notorious in their intellectual exploits. But don't be confused or mistaken on this issue. Take a look at any picture of Paul Erdos or Henry Kissinger. These are old, withered men. Thinking has taken its toll on their bodies, their health. The outcome is inevitable: thinking leads slowly but inexorably to death.

However, there are some groups who are making efforts to combat this ugly problem. In the State of Texas, elected Republican officials are making great strides with school budgets and TAKS tests to make sure that our nations youth do not encounter thinking in a school setting. In the state of Alabama, school textbooks are labelled with stickers stating that evolution is not a fact. This helps cast doubt into the minds of students, adds an air of uncertainty and confusion that makes it harder to think.

Christian and Muslim educators around the world are displacing thought with belief. If you just believe, you don't have to think. The Bible is the only book you need, the only book you'll ever have to read. Christ has already done all of the thinking you would ever need to do; Christ died on the Cross for your thoughts. The Koran spells out similar injunctions: non-believers are the ones who doubt the word of God.

So, next time you get the urge to think, don't. Just vote Republican, its easier than thinking. Remember Al Gore? Remember how confusing he was? Maybe you don't remember, and thats good; its better to forget such things, except maybe as another example of how badly things can get. Just look at what a looser he was: he won the popular vote, he won the election, but still wasn't able to become President. Al Gore was an intellectual; George Bush was a Christian. Just look at who is President now.

Here's another example: Remember John Kerry? I bet you didn't know what he stood for; he was wishy-washy and his issues were all over the map. That's because it would have required thinking to understand his political position. Oh well. You aren't going to get that from Big Media, from the newscasters and the pundits; the pernicious problem of thinking is slowly being purged from the major newspapers, news magazines and news shows.

So remember, if you want to retire rich and wealthy, sipping Margaritas on a tropical beach, with not a care in the world or a thought in your head, vote Republican. Without tax cuts, there is no way you'll ever become rich. The Democrats would never privatize Social Security: have you ever heard of anyone rich living on Social Security? Didn't think so. You shouldn't have to either.

Copyright 2005, Linas Vepstas.
Licensed under the Free Documentation License.