The idea that our minds are infected by viruses is not new. Here we mean viruses as analog to computer viruses (Technically, we use the term virus as a general term to include also worms, spyware, Trojans and other types of malware), not biological viruses. Richard Brodie wrote a book titled “Viruses of the Mind”, with the subtitle “The New Science of the meme”. Meme is thought to be the unit carrier, whereby viruses spread and proliferate. Brodie wrote: “Mind viruses have already infected governments, educational systems, and inner cities, leading to some of the most pervasive and troublesome problems of society today: youth gangs, the welfare cycle, the deterioration of the public schools, and ever-growing government bureaucracy.” In this posting, the author discusses techniques of debugging such viruses. It starts with slowing down, one pointed concentration, bare attention, and ends with reflection, and effort and practice.
Computer programs, except for the simplest school book examples, always have bugs, i.e. programming errors. That is why we have so many update releases and service packs. Yet the service pack itself introduces new bugs! As software grows more complex, the number of bugs increases exponentially. Software also ages, the longer it has been in use, the more likely it is to be in disharmony with the original specifications and/or with the changing environment it is supposed to handle. Additionally, software is often used in an open environment such as the internet, and the bugs are no longer just programming errors, but malware from infections.
The mind is definitely so much more complex than a computer program, quantitatively and qualitatively. It does not take a lively imagination, to see that mind viruses are so much more abundant, fatal and difficult to debug. There are no anti-viruses, which you can simply buy and use to clean our minds. Debugging our minds is inherently difficult, because we have first of all, to admit that we carry viruses, and be willing to scrutinize our ego, habits and world views. Even when we rationally recognize a virus in our minds, we still need considerable discipline to overcome it. Just think about overeating or quit smoking.
The mind debugging techniques discussed here are derived from age-old methods of liberation and purification of the mind. We will see some parallels as well as differences of these methods with computer debugging.
The processes in the mind are intricate and interlinked. Just as in computer debugging, we have to do unit testing before we do integration testing. Make sure that each component is functioning as they should, before considering the component’s interaction with each other. If processes are running parallel, we need to consider one particular process in isolation first. This is the technique of One Pointed-ness: concentrate on a single object. Don’t do multi-tasking. Don’t watch television or read the newspaper while eating, don’t answer the phone while simultaneously signing contracts. In the extreme, one should not sing while bathing. To some, this is contrary to what they …