Intelligence, Computers and the Mechanical Mind

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE WAY OF INTELLIGENCE

Krishnamurti: We have been talking about the relationship between the brain and the computer: are they similar or intrinsically different, and what is the difference? There is very little difference as far as I understand. The brain which is the storehouse of memory, knowledge, is programmed according to a particular culture, religion, economic conditions and so on. The computer is also programmed by human beings. So there is great similarity between the two. The computer people are enquiring, if I understand it rightly, what is the difference then between the brain and the computer which also has been programmed, which is learning, correcting itself and learning more and more? It also is the storehouse of a certain kind of knowledge. Then, what is the essential difference between that and the brain? Or is there a totally different activity of the brain which is not comparable to the computer?

Questioner: No computer has feelings. There is a difference between animate matter and inanimate matter. No computer has feeling of any kind or consciousness. So, there is a fundamental difference between the two.

K: Then what is consciousness?

Sriram: They have produced a computer programme and it was a psychiatrists’ programme. They set up a booth into which people could go and communicate with this computer through the screen and they would say things to the computer such as I am having difficulties with my wife, she doesn’t understand me; and the computer would produce answers and questions and psychoanalyse them. And when these people came out they were convinced that the computer understood them better than anyone else. And they wanted to go back to it, to be analysed by it again, and this was a machine which was not supposed to have feelings or understanding.

K: But there are people who say the brain has a quality which is totally different from the computer. I accept it, and if I may explain it a little more, our brain works on the basis of experience and knowledge, and the brain or thought has created the psychological world. So the brain and the psyche are the same essentially but we have divided them. Thought has created the psyche with all psychological problems. Knowledge is the basis of all this. And the computer can produce exactly the same thing.

Sir, could we for the moment forget the computer and examine the brain in ourselves—how it operates, what is the relationship between the capacity to think and the psychological structure—and then go back to the computer? As far as I see, I start with scepticism; for scepticism is the essential capacity to doubt what you are observing, what you are feeling. Now, I have this brain which has been cultivated through millennia. It is not my brain; it is the brain of humanity. Therefore, it is not I who am investigating. There is no ‘me’ at all. I don’t know if you have come to that point.

AC: Sir, the brain is the only instrument we have for investigation. The brain as you have said is limited, stupid. It is good with memory responses.

K: Which is generally called intelligence.

AC: Even people who work with the computer know how stupid it is.

K: Don’t bring in the computer yet.

AC: Once you see the similarity between the brain and the computer, and you see how stupid the computer is, it is very easy to see the limitations of the brain. But the human brain is the only instrument we have. How can it possibly investigate what is beyond it?

K: Absolutely not.

AC: Then what exists?

K: Only the movement of thought.

AC: Which is the brain?

K: Which is the brain, limited.

AC: How can it investigate?

K: Wait. First let us recognize that the brain has evolved from the primitive up to now. It is not my individual brain; it is the brain of humanity. It is so, logically. Therefore, the idea of the ‘me’ is imposed by thought to limit itself to an action.

AC: The idea of the ‘me’ as an individual?

K: To limit itself because it cannot possibly conceive the totality of humanity. It can conceive in theory but in reality it cannot see the wholeness of it. So, we recognize that thought which has created and cultivated the psyche is more important than the operations of the brain.

AC: The cultivated brain is much more dangerous because the psyche has at its disposal a very efficient instrument.

K: Psyche in the dictionary means the soul, the ecclesiastical concept of an entity which is not material. Thought has created the psyche and thought has also imagined or conceived that psyche as different from the brain. For me both are the same. The brain with all the activity of thought born of knowledge, etc. has created the psyche.

AC: Are you saying the brain is also the seat of emotion?

K: Of course, the seat of fear, anxiety, etc. The brain and the psyche are one. Follow the consequences. Do you see factually, not theoretically, that the brain with all the activity of thought, born of knowledge, is part of the same movement as the ‘psyche’ and that thought has created the ‘I’, the ‘me’, separate from the rest of humanity, and thought has made the ‘me’ more important than anybody else?

GN: Are you saying that thought creates the psyche and thought divides the brain from the psyche, but brain and psyche go together?

K: That is right, and in that process is created the ‘I’.

GN: And that makes the brain mechanical?

K: All knowledge is mechanical. Knowledge is a mechanical process of acquisition. I mean by mechanical, repetitive, which is experience, knowledge, thought, action. From that action you learn and you are back again. This repetitive process is mechanical, my brain is mechanical. Now is my psyche mechanical?

Q: Why are we making the division between the psyche and the brain?

K: Thought controls the psyche—‘I must not feel this.’ ‘I must become that.’ So the becoming is the psychological process invented by thought. And so the whole process is mechanical.

AP: There is a mystique about human existence.

K: I have no mystique.

AC: I think the crucial thing is why the brain, the psyche, is mechanical. I find no difficulty in accepting this.

K: They have also found that the brain, when it is in danger, produces its own mechanical reaction which will protect it. These are material processes. So,

thought is a material process. Do you agree? Do you agree that the psyche is a material process? That is the crux.

AC: I think what he is saying is that when the brain sees the totality, then thought ceases, the ‘I’ ceases.

K: I don’t think the brain can see the totality. That is the point. The brain is evolved through time, time being knowledge, from the most primitive to the highly sophisticated. There is evolution in time, in knowledge. That is a material process. That thought has created the ‘I’ with its psychological mess. I am not saying it is mystical and all that. Would you agree?

SAT: Now, what could be a non-material process?

K: That which is non-matter, that which is no-knowledge, that which is not of time, that which has nothing to do with the brain. But it is speculation for you. Let us start with something factual.

So, do we admit that all thinking in any form is a material process, whether we think of the eternal, of god or the supreme principle, it is material process? If you agree, then we can proceed. It takes a long time to come to this: The psyche, the brain, the I, are all a material process.

AC: I want to know where you are taking me.

K: I am going to help you to take the first step. I have only come to a point which is very simple. I said that the brain has evolved in time. Therefore, it is evolved with knowledge. So, knowledge is time, and time and knowledge are a mechanical process. And thought has created the psyche. Follow it; if everything is movement, thought, psyche, time—it is all a material movement—the brain cannot stand this constant movement. The brain functions with knowledge, and it must have security. See how the brain rejects the idea of constant movement. Watch it, watch yourself. You want a place where you can rest. The brain says I must have some place where I can stay put. So that becomes the ‘I’. Sir, if I am a beggar everlastingly wandering, there must be some place where I can rest, some place where there is security. Can the brain accept this constant, endless movement? It cannot accept it; in that there is no security. It is eternally moving within the area of time, knowledge.

AC: Is it a question of accepting?

K: No. See how the brain works. As a child needs security, the brain says, I can’t keep this eternal movement. So, I must have some point where I can stay ‘quiet’. That is all.

AC: That point you call the ‘I’.

K: A fixed point. It does not matter; a house, a belief, a symbol, an attachment. Do you get it? So, whether it is illusory or actual, it needs a fixed point.

AC: Then what?

K: The brain cannot live with perpetual movement. Therefore, it must have a fixed point. There is danger in not accepting the movement which is life. See physically what happens. Can you accept life as a perpetual movement within the area of time and knowledge? Verbally you can, but actually can you say life is constant movement?

Q: Is the brain itself responsible for this movement?

K: It is. The brain is thought, knowledge and the psyche.

Q: It creates the movement which it cannot stand.

K: It is movement itself.

Q: The instinct of the brain is to move towards security; and it is this instinct to avoid danger and to attach itself to security which makes it fix on something.

K: Of course. Would you accept this whole movement within this area as energy caught within this?

Q: Is it energy or does it require energy?

K: It is energy, caught in movement. Right? And that energy is a material process. And a human being cannot live in the world and have a brain that is constantly in movement—he would go mad.

AC: It seeks permanence, does not find it any more.

K: Realizing this constant movement, it seeks security, a movement where it can be sure. That is all I am saying.

AC: Is it important?

K: It is important to establish that the ‘I’ is the centre where it finds security. Call it whatever you like. Then it begins to discover it is insecure, and, therefore, it finds another security. There is only search for security. Take a child with a toy, and the other child says I must have that toy. That attachment to that toy and the pleasure of the toy is the beginning. The beginning is from the beginning of man.

AC: The question is that energy.

K: No, I said energy trapped.

AC: How can you open the door in which energy is trapped?

K: Now comes the real question. How long we have taken to come to this! Can we proceed from here?

AC: You said energy is trapped in knowledge. Are yon making a distinction between energy and thought?

K: No. The whole thing is energy trapped. Thought is energy, knowledge is energy, the whole movement is within the area of knowledge and time. That is all I am saying.

AC: Then the next question obviously is that since thought and knowledge are limited, can energy stop expressing itself as thought?

K: No, no, it cannot. Otherwise, I can’t go to the office.

AC: I talk of energy expressing itself as psychological memory.

K: I know what you are trying to say, which is, can the psyche have no existence at all? Don’t agree. If there is no content to the psyche—anxiety, attachment, fear, pleasure, which makes the psyche, which are all the products of thought—then what is life?

AC: Which is the product of energy?

K: Which is the product of energy trapped in time. You see that clearly. Therefore, thought is saying I must create order in this area. Therefore, that order is always limited; therefore, it is contradictory; therefore, it is disorder.

AC: I am still not clear about energy and thought. It appears to me that you were saying that thought is limited but energy is not.

K: I said energy is trapped. I didn’t say any more than that.

AC: You are saying energy is trapped, but if it is not trapped, it would be different. That is what I am asking. There is difference between energy and thought.

K: That is theory.

NS: Are you saying there is an energy which is not trapped in thought?

K: I am going to show it to you. That question can only arise when we have seen this in its completeness. I am not sure we see this.

NS: You said that thought is energy and that energy is trapped in thought.

K: No, I didn’t say that. The brain is the product of time, time is knowledge, experience—time, knowledge, thought. Thought is a material process. All that is energy. All that energy, that whole movement, is endless within this area. Therefore, the brain cannot stand it. It must have security. It finds it in knowledge or in illusion, or in an idea, whatever it is. It is always moving within this area. What is the next question?

AC: The next question is, energy is trapped, and is there an opening for that trapped energy?

K: It is trapped. I don’t say there is an opening.

AC: Does it not imply that?

K: No, sir. A trap is set to catch a fox.

AC: It implies that something outside the trap can set the fox free.

K: No. You miss my point. In here thought is trying to create order; that very order becomes disorder. That is what is happening actually—politically, religiously; that is the whole point. It is becoming disorder, more and more, because we are giving importance to thought. Thought is limited. Now, does the brain realize this? Does the brain realize that whatever it does is within its own limitation and, therefore, disorder? We are stating it. And the next question is, is that a theory or actual realization?

AC: How can the brain which is all this realize it actually?

K: Realize its limitation, that is all. Sir, what do you mean by the word ‘realize’?

AC: What I mean is, the brain is only capable of thought; it realizes it as knowledge.

K: Do you, as Asit, realize it in the sense that you realize pain? I know I have pain, there is complete knowledge of pain. Does the brain see its tremendous limitation? Let us begin again. What is perception? What is seeing? There is intellectual seeing; I understand, comprehend, discern. Then there is seeing through hearing, verbal hearing and capturing the significance. Then there is optical seeing. Now, is there a different perception which doesn’t belong to any of these three? I am asking; I am not saying there is. I am sceptical. First see this: I see how my mind operates—intellectually, through hearing, optically. That is

all I know. So, through these media, I say I understand or I act, which is a material process. Get the point? That is all. Now, is there any other perception which is not a material process?

Sriram: Therefore, that is not part of the brain.

K: I don’t want to say that yet.

Sriram: Is there another kind of perception which is not of the brain?

K: Look, I understand through the intellect, reason and logic, and then there is hearing which is not only verbal but going beyond the words. Go step by step: Intellectual, audio, visual, optical, then touching or gestures, all these are material processes. That is all I am saying. Then I am asking myself, is there a perception which is not this? There may not be, but I am sceptical, so I am asking. Answer it.

AC: I can ask this question, but I can’t answer it.

K: You will answer it presently. I want to find out. Don’t say you can’t answer. I won’t accept it. Because by saying that you have already blocked yourself.

AC: May I ask a question? In order to see something you have to be outside of it.

K: We are coming to that. Look, so far we have said this is the only medium through which we understand. I don’t know anything else. But I want to be quite sure this is the only way I understand.

AC: When you say that, after you have understood completely that this is the only perception we know, that very statement has put you outside. Otherwise what does the word ‘understanding’ mean?

K: Is that the only medium through which I understand? Punishment, reward, all that is implied in this intellectual, optical, audio… all that. I know that these are the factors that help my brain to say, ‘Yes, I understand.’

AC: Are you saying that understanding is also the same process?

K: Wait, sir. It is all within that. I see this is a material process and, therefore, it is still here. Don’t go back to that; we are pushing away from it. So, I come to that point, my brain comes to that point, and it stops. Because it is questioning. It has questioned all this and that is the only thing—the brain, the material process. Now you come along and say let us enquire if there is any other process. And I say, ‘This is the only process I know. There may be no other process. Show it to me.’ Don’t repeat. You are going to repeat the same thing over and over again. I

am trying to stop you from repetition. So, you are stuck. Remain stuck there. See what we have done? We have activated the brain to a tremendous extent. I don’t know if you follow this. I wonder if you see.

Alan Hooker: Taking the brain to its limit.

K: Yes, we are taking it to its very limit. So, it is a tremendous thing. Now answer it.

AH: What is the question?

K: Is there a perception which is not of time? Perception so far has created disorder in our life. Is there a perception which will clear all that? Which means, is there a perception out of time? I am asking you.

Q: We are stuck.

K: Be stuck there, be stuck. I wish you were. When you are really stuck, another perception is taking place.

Q: But we are generally trying to get out of it.

K: No, that is still the same old process—you are not stuck.

Sarjit Siddhoo: After listening to you, there has been a great movement within the mind, in the brain, but as you have brought us to this point, this movement seems to have stopped.

K: Is that it? Movement means time. Is there no movement in the brain? You get my point? Are you still moving? When you say you are stuck, it means all movement has stopped. Do you see it?

Q: In trying to answer this question, does it not continue that movement?

K: No, if you are stuck, there is no movement. It is like being stuck in quicksand—the body can’t move.

SS: Unfortunately, that movement has stopped and that silence is there very briefly. Then we are back again in the same movement.

K: No, no. Then you are not stuck.

Q: Are you suggesting that stopping is a permanent state?

K: I am not suggesting anything. I am just saying you come to the point when your brain is being so tremendously activated that you can’t go any further, you can’t move back or forth.

AC: Only one question remains. Have you activated the brain?

K: Are you asking whether K has activated the brain, the brain which is not yours, nor mine, nor his? What do you say? Yes, we have activated it.