The Modern World Versus Your Wiring: Throwing Uncaught Exceptions

You can’t rewire your genome. You can’t rewire how your cells are programmed given your prior choices and exposures in life. What you can alter is your behavior. To alter your behavior effectively to avoid or recover from our modern plagues, you have to learn how to respond to the unique and ever-changing circumstances of our modern world, whether that’s underwater hotels or space travel.

In computer programming, an exception is when an event occurs that a program doesn’t know how to handle. It’s like handing your grandmother a cell phone and telling her to go to the app store – she has no idea where to even begin. She looks back at you and says something like, “I don’t know how.” When you throw an exception on your computer or cell phone, the program or app you’re using shuts down and returns you to the home screen, or in some cases forces you to restart. Your grandmother shuts down her thinking about the problem and restarts her thought process, moving on to something more interesting, or a problem that she can solve. You can see how people constantly say to themselves, “it smells funny in here,” and then move on to preparing their next meal, rather than investigating their surroundings for a toxic exposure that explains that smell.

You have underlying programming on a molecular, cellular, organ-system, and behavioral level for every event you could encounter. Your body is cobbling together different scripts to deal with the complex and unusual circumstances of the modern world.

Programmers spend lots of time learning how to “catch” exceptions. This means that when an exception is thrown, the program gives the user some kind of meaningful error message or choice that doesn’t require you to reboot the program or the device. Maybe it just resets the program. Maybe it asks the user a clarifying question. Maybe it just says that an error occurred. Exceptions in computer programming typically arise when a user does something that the programmer never intended. Sound familiar? Programmers have to use critical thinking to figure out how to best deal with exceptions. Your modern environment is full of exceptions. When you smell gasoline, your brain doesn’t respond the same way it does when you see a venomous snake. The most you might do is think, “it smells funny in here.” You might live your entire life being exposed to toxic chemicals, only to find out when it’s too late.

Re-wiring is about thinking critically about your environment. It is about becoming aware of the environmental factors that don’t trigger your alarms like venomous snakes, but that are nonetheless deadly over a long period of time. We can think of these exposures as being analogous to exceptions in computer programming – if you notice them at all, you quickly shut down, restart, and move on to something else. This is a failure of human reason and critical thinking of lethal proportions. It explains why today more people die of air pollution than dehydration. That is just one example of the catastrophic scale of suffering that these errors and failures of human thought have caused.

Logic and reason are actually worth studying in some capacity. The best book on this that I can recommend is called, “Nonsense” by Robert Gula.