Becoming Bobblehead Buddha

Recalibrating the Pattern Recognition Machine, Part 3

Adrian Hanft
4 min readSep 17, 2016

School taught us that our minds are computers.

Being an adult means that your computer has been sufficiently programmed to handle whatever input life spits at you. Push the right buttons in the right sequence and everything will be fine. You are a pattern recognition machine.

We have been fooled into believing in the supremacy of human data processing. In the rare situations when we are faced with uncertainty, our mental computers take comfort in the scientific method. We believe that with enough time and effort, there isn’t a mystery in the world that we can’t grind into powder under the crushing weight of our logic.

As a result of our programming it becomes second nature for us to crush anything carrying a whiff of supernatural.

Magic? It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

Hypnosis? There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.

Destiny? I call that luck.

God? Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

Ghosts? I ain’t afraid of no ghost. (Sorry, I ran out of Star Wars references.)

You can live your entire life grinding mysteries into dust. Many people die old, rich, and fat following that formula. There is another path, however. You don’t have to dissolve dreams, you can transcend your computer brain.

Last week I talked about the 99% of data that your mind filters out before it reaches your consciousness. Our pattern recognition filter selects the “important” things and discards the rest without us realizing it. We are literally unaware of the things that our mind blocks from our attention.

Imagine you are driving down a highway. Information is zooming past you in all directions. There is no way to process it all. Somewhere among the chaos is a kernel of information, an egg that could hatch into a world-changing idea.

How would you go about finding it?

The computer brain, over-confident in its scientific method software and pentium processing power thinks that the way to find the egg is to drive faster. It sees the egg as a destination so it steers the vehicle onto well-trodden paths, striving to avoid anything risky.

Driving this vehicle, your only hope of discovering that egg is for an insect carrying the precious cargo to accidentally flutter in front of you. Unlikely. Even if you are lucky enough to witness the splat, you are still going to try and look past it. Instead of focusing on the incredible treasure mingling among gooey guts inches in front of your face, you flip on the wipers and try to squirt off the priceless gunk. Your pattern recognition machine fails you.

What’s the alternative? Now that we are aware of our limitations, of the fact that our computer brains are incapable of processing more than a tiny fraction of the landscape, we understand that the solution isn’t the gas pedal. Whether we are traveling at the speed of sound or at a snail’s pace the inputs are overwhelming. Your only tool, your only hope of finding that egg is curiosity.

Curiosity means you aren’t driving the vehicle, you are more like a bobblehead Buddha on the dashboard. Even standing completely still, the flow of sensory data is infinite. You drift, open to anything.

You are waiting for dissonance, for something on the fringe of your awareness to trigger your attention. Here, at the dawn of consciousness is where the embryo of creativity can form. Perhaps it is the unfamiliar sound of an insect. As it flutters by, instead of swatting it away you allow it to land. You observe it, acknowledge that it has broken through the chaos and entered your reality. What can it teach you? Perhaps it will bless you with that egg. Perhaps not. Regardless, your world has just gotten a little richer than if you simply let the bug become a smear on your windshield.

The first step to recalibrating your pattern recognition machine is simply to acknowledge that the filter exists. Put another way, be curious. Be open to the mystery hiding in the 99% that you are blind to.

You are more than a data processing machine. Believe that reality isn’t something that can be deconstructed, reduced down to ones or zeros. The opposite is true because the more you look, the more you see.

Real education leads to more questions, not more answers. Actual study (going beyond the Google search) leads to more mystery, more awe, and limitless growth.

When we realize that at any moment we are only absorbing a tiny slice of the world, an amazing things happens. We transform from preprogrammed machines into creative beings.

Thanks for letting my idea bugs explode on your mental windshield today. This series is continued in part 4, here. I write stories like this every week, so consider following me (@ade3). Stay creative.



Adrian Hanft

Author of User Zero: Inside the Tool that is Reshaping Dystopia