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Jocelyn Paine

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How to Eliminate Boredom at Work

August 16, 2010

What is the point of consciousness? Windows manages to decide things, even things about its own self-monitoring such as which process to run next, without being conscious. As do all other computer programs. So why does the brain need to be conscious in order to make decisions? Or at least, why does the brain believe that it needs to be conscious in order to make decisions, I ask as I gaze at this text and mull over the merits of extending my finger to hit ENTER and thereby make the lines shorter and easier to read in my editor. Some researchers say consciousness is an epiphenomenon: an accidental by-product, in this case a by-product of neural activity, giving us the illusion of free will when in fact we can only rationalise the decisions that unconscious brain processes have already generated.

But what is the good of an epiphenomenon that leaves you bored for five sevenths of your days? When I say "you", I'm not talking about the Mark Nelsons and the Jon Ericksons of this world, nor about the Web designers and company-report programmers enthusiastically coding their boss's latest typographic whim. I'm talking about the rice farmers, the call-centre operatives, and the people who toil in New York's garment sweatshops in order that you can buy tacky socks at ONLY!!! £0.99 per pair from ███████ (shop name deleted on legal advice). The people who slog through jobs they endure merely to survive. It is strange that an epiphenomenon can want to torpedo survival.

But I have discovered some exciting research that will give me — if I am like its author — the experience that "decisions just happen with no sense of anyone making them". I reckon that if there is no "me" experiencing the lead-up to these decisions, there'll be no boredom either. I will just sit quietly and watch myself act, as I might watch the programmer at the neighbouring terminal. For more information, please read psychologist and memeticist Susan Blackmore's It is possible to live happily and morally without believing in free will. Banish boredom at work for ever!


Jocelyn Paine

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