I have found recently, something that REALLY bugs me is when people try to have the whole “We only use 10% of our brains” conversation. It just gets on my nerves. Mostly because people usually don’t have a CLUE what they’re going on about.

Okay, firstly. We only CONSCIOUSLY use 10% of our brains. By this, I mean we think, our eyes to follow that pretty girl as she walks down the corridor, we lift that cup, we talk, we laugh, we chew, we swallow, we brush our hair back, we get our phone out of our pocket, we lower and heighten our voice, we give our body basic commands. And that’s exactly what they are. Basic.

It’s like telling someone that you want them to make you a certain dress, or typing a word into Google and hitting ‘enter’. There is so much more behind fulfilling these basic commands that we don’t consciously think about. There is a process which has to be followed. What is behind watching that pretty girl walk down the corridor? Our heart pulses faster, our pupils dilate, our brain gives of a burst of endorphins and dopamine, the muscles in our eyes move to keep her in our view. And lifting a cup? Our optics and muscles work together, our brains calculating how far away the cup is, how much force is needed to hold it and pick it up, where the cup is in relation to our hand and our mouth, how fast we can move without spilling it, where best to hold the cup so as not to overturn it, which muscles to contract and relax and with what amount of tension. All these neurons firing off at lightning speed, making these decisions in a matter of milliseconds, all to carry out the basic task of lifting a cup.

The same with taking our phone out of our pocket and brushing hair back. Such complicated equations and judgements worked out at high speeds, just to do these things we take for granted. Even chewing and swallowing, things of habit, rely on a complicated system of muscles and tendons. Talking and laughing? Our brain decides what to say, forms thoughts into words, only a few of the billions we all know, chooses the right language, the right tense, the right verb, takes into account the social environment and expected etiquette, applies the right tone, the right platitudes, the right quotes from the millions of references filed away in our memory, processes the reply and begins all over again.

That’s not even taking into account the physical side of hearing, the sound waves becoming vibrations in the inner ear and being translated and understood, not just the words, but the tone, the possible references, translations from other languages. You react physically, heart beats faster, fist connects with a table or wall or jaw, arms are wrapped around someone’s body, a gasp is drawn, a breath is held, a laugh escapes, eyes widen, narrow, blink rate increases, tears well, voice is raised or lowered, you get angry, sad, happy, nostalgic, regretful, violent, jealous, shocked. Then the brain prepares it’s reply and sends the information to the lungs and air is pushed out through vocal cords in a specific pattern to form something understood as speech which travels through the air at whatever pitch or volume is needed. All of this, along with a million billion other processes happening throughout the body that we don’t even consciously think about.

Ever step out of the way of a ball flying towards you on pure instinct, before you even register it? Or jump at a sound before realising that it’s just the wind? Or pull your hand back from a hot cup before you even realise that it’s burned you? That’s your subconscious alerting you to danger as quickly as possible. Your eyes, or ears, or nerves sense this danger and avoid it, before you can be hurt. Because your subconscious brain tries to avoid it as quickly as it can, it often prioritises by getting the hell out of there before telling the conscious bit what is going on. It may be mere milliseconds saved by doing this, but they could be crucial. People often think of this instinct as a “sixth sense”, and think about the potential that could be unlocked by gaining conscious control over that other 90% of our brains. Which brings me onto my next point.

There are trillions of reactions happening every second in our bodies. It’s repairing itself, growing, maintaining, digesting, absorbing, excreting, extracting, converting, producing, heating, cooling, reacting chemicals, pulling air in by contracting and relaxing muscles, extracting oxygen and excreting carbon dioxide, pushing the air back out, sending the oxygen around the body in the blood, through an intricate and complex network of veins, to the heart which pumps it around the arteries which travel to the brain and organs and the stomach, where food is being digested, carrying energy and minerals extracted from the food we eat, needed to keep this whole process running smoothly and at full speed, firing electrical impulses around the nerves and back, sending the commands needed to carry out all these things. And that’s just what’s happening when you’re sleeping.

Can you imagine having to consciously think about beating your heart, or breathing, or working the muscles in your arm in the right order just to raise it? Not to mention all manner of biological, chemical and physical reactions and processes going on in the meantime. The majority of people have trouble blinking properly if they think about it too hard. I am open to the idea that with the other 90% in your conscious control, you could be a superhuman, and all kinds of things would be possible, like changing the structure of your body, or healing quickly, or reclaiming old memories, or having an organic super computer in your head. We work out complicated equations every minute without thinking about it. If you tried to do them on paper, you couldn’t. I would LOVE to harness that potential, I really would. But the most likely outcome is that you would simply shut down. The image of it in my head is something along the lines of the brain melting and oozing out of the persons ears, which is a lot more creative, but probably not what would happen. They’ll just collapse or do something equally as boring.

Seeing as most of the people who start on this line of conversation with me don’t know what they’re talking about, and I really don’t like wasting my time explaining things to lost causes, my argument tends to be “Yeah, the reason that we only use 10% of our brains is because we use that bit to think stupid, inane, selfish thoughts, and the rest of it is too busy making our body work”. Maybe it’ll be possible in the future, when we have mechanical and computerised implants to control all the processes that the elusive 90% of our brains has to work so hard at in the present day. Like having your body’s driver software on an external hardrive. Then all that brainpower can be freed up, only to be filled with stupid, inane, selfish thoughts so that we can think those stupid, inane selfish things, quicker and in greater volumes, all while deciding what’s for dinner, working out the distance of that star from the earth, and watching 4 shows simultaneously on Holovision. Right now, it’s not viable. They’ve only recently developed technology designed to assist in the everyday functions of the body and it is nowhere NEAR sophisticated enough to replace the brain. Not to mention the bible-bashers, rosary-rattlers and tree huggers who cling to their ethics and their holier-than-thou platitudes, their commandments and their accusations, dragging back scientific advances by decades. But mankind is always finding new ways to make life easier for itself, so it’s only a matter of time. Pity I probably won’t be alive to see it. Unless they manage to transcend the death barrier first, that is.

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