I recently came across a book, “The Monkey Theory: Conquer Your Mental Chatter” by Sfurti Sahare. The book is based on the Buddhist teaching that our mind is like monkeys – constantly changing thoughts, restless and ultimately, uncontrollable. Although I had heard of this before, it had been years and I thought it would make for a good read. I realized only now, that the Monkey Mind is a well researched and reasonably well known topic. While reading the book, one of the monkeys in my mind wandered away to the level of Abstraction that we reach nowadays. Constancy of the mind is one of the major teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. I am no expert in Vedic or Puranic literature. I would argue that the verses of the Gita are the basis of so many other philosophies and teachings. There are any number of Gurus that can elaborate on each verse for hours together, stringing together anecdotes and analogies. Wherever the stories and the interpretations might take us, the ultimate truth lies in the verse itself.
The abstraction monkey in my mind, let’s call it the a-monkey (borrowing from the afore-mentioned book’s p-monkey, f-monkey and others), got me thinking of the abstractions that we have come to embrace and love. Programming languages such as Python, Perl, Go and others thrive on hiding the lower-level code that used to be written in C many years ago. Of course, abstraction has been one of the concepts of Object Oriented Programming, so it is not all that new.
The a-monkey took me towards kids (and adults) who know-it-all. Google provides excellent abstraction of the basics. We get a one minute summary of any topic of our choice and since we are so good at connecting dots, our experiences lead us to conclusions and understandings of topics which would have taken our ancestors days, weeks or even years to grasp. We are quicker to take decisions because we see what we want to see in a few minutes. Our perceptions are purely based on our past experiences, lacking thereof, on the abstracted data available online. There are many positives to this approach and heaven knows, there are a multitude of books on this topic too. Where do we draw the line, though?
My a-monkey tells me that the entire fabric of economics across the globe is built on hidden foundations. The hedge-fund managers, the mortgage crises in the United States, the slowdown in growth in India today, the bail-outs of banks and the Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) can all be tied down to the lack of a deep understanding of the system.
All that we can do is pass forward a lesson to our future generations – suppress the a-monkey in our minds. Get back to the specifics and the details of what you need to know. The a-monkey needs to make way for the b-monkey (or the basics monkey).