… our brains are Chevy engines running Maserati software. We’re a species that thinks prodigiously. In every situation, the human brain needs to constantly anticipate the future by making assumptions about the world that unfold at breakneck speed.
We do a quick and dirty assessment and make a lot of best guesses. But this fills our mental spaces with junk, small mistakes that could trigger a cascade of errors if they go undetected, leading us to waste a lot of energy and resources and, in the worst case, inviting disaster.
Finding and disabling these errors is a critical task. But it’s a resource-hungry job that has to compete with everything else our brains are doing. We think the pleasure of humor, the emotion of mirth, is the brain’s reward for discovering its mistaken inferences. Basically, the brain has to bribe itself to do this important work.