A theory of Mind and other things

Pratyush Kumar Panda
5 min readOct 9, 2020


Life is a sequence of experiences.

Each experience may involve perception, action, and reward.

Perception is the gathering of information at our sensory interface to the universe.

Action involves information processing and affecting internal and external states.

Reward comprises three components — extrinsic rewards (ER), intrinsic conformity reward (CR), and intrinsic learning reward (LR).

Extrinsic reward depends on pain and pleasure felt in response to sensory inputs.

Intrinsic conformity reward is based on the accuracy of internal models in predicting the change in internal and external states.

Intrinsic learning reward is based on the rate of improvement of internal models.

Being driven solely by ER is limiting. Local minima include addiction, vanity, disease. On the balance, pain usually exceeds pleasure.

To avoid the ER pain-trap, CR enables creation of consistent values which expands the focus beyond the individual.

However, values also can become limiting and need to be updated based on experience. This supposes a primacy of the learning reward.

The individual then is in an eternal quest to learn; to learn in totality a model of the universe.

The perceived physical reality (including one’s own) has been shaped by evolution to enable survival of the individual.

Similarly, values have been shaped by civilisation to enable societies to build higher orders of complexity and co-dependence.

Both of these forces provide enabling conditions but may not be aligned with the purpose of modelling the universe.

The human mind is an effective (though not ultimately so) modelling engine that works at four levels: intelligence, intention, memory, and self-awareness.

Intelligence is the ability to learn patterns in data; it is a purely computational ability in data compression and thus entropy reduction.

Intention establishes committed and directed attention towards achieving specific objectives.

Memory is a reflexively indexed store of experiences that can be replayed.

Self-awareness is the ability to model oneself so as to efficiently regularise model building across diverse experiences.

Through the mind’s functions, a sense of individuality emerges that claims to be the ground of experience — the perceivor, actor, and feeler.

The mind creates a continuous simulation of this unreal self in an erroneously perceived universe.

This simulation enables creation of a complex and efficient (though not ultimate) learner.

This learner is challenged by the purpose of modelling reality as it is.

This reality has mirages: the physical universe of space-time which is sensed through imperfect senses and the unreal self which is a side-effect of evolving a learning mechanism.

Beyond these mirages, reality is ultimately grounded in the prime mover, which is God.

God is thus the substratum to all that there is.

The learner cannot model God in any formal language due to the incompleteness theorem.

Instead the learner can computationally implement God since the mind is a universal machine.

Implementing God supposes a compact underlying algorithm that resolves the apparently infinite complexities of the perceived world.

The goal for the learner is then not to model God, but to be God.

But the presupposed God being the substratum of all implies that the learner is grounded in God, ab initio.

Thus the learner is God, in part or whole.

The internal goal for a human mind is to realise this by overcoming the reinforcing association with the physical world**.**

The external goal for a human mind is to preserve the physical world which created it from amidst the entropic abysses of the universe.

Any theory of the self, universe, or God is only a belief that must be constantly evaluated against the learning reward.

Any such theory is a source of a value system.

Associating with the learner that is God, the human mind should value unconditional joy internally and universal compassion externally.

Value systems become defining kernels for a society to organise.

A society’s primary goal is to enable individuals to maximally learn and thus realise.

Towards this, a society also administers and receives the three types of rewards.

While external reward signals such as financial prosperity are important for regulation, a society should be careful not to over-graze.

While value systems such as religion are important for organisation, a society should be careful not to indoctrinate.

Instead a society must evolve to efficiently learn its own regulation and organisation principles.

Centralised governance can enable such learning, but at the increased risk of getting stuck at stable sub-optimal configurations.

Education of individuals can be an effective way to create bottom-up learning.

Education should be to a limited extent about the destination of subjective truths, and to a major extent about the journey of learning mechanisms.

Efficiently learning individuals can then regulate the levers of society — technology, media, business, and science.

Technology has a role in normalising the impact of extrinsic rewards in reducing manual drudgery, but must be provably sustainable.

Media has a role in increasing learning possibilities, but must not create new reinforcing loops that condition the mind virtually.

Business has a role in organised innovation, but must not detract from the primary goal of being learning structures.

Science has a role in furthering intellectual discoveries, but must avoid organising into coherent groups.

Society would thus live by a knowledge tradition that puts highest commitment to enable individual evolution onto perfection.

The culture in ancient India (~ 2000 BC) seems to provide one example of such a society.

The development of Vedanta mirrors and sublimates the above analysis in positing Brahman as the primal cause realising which is the goal of all.

The language of Sanskrit provides precise and poetic constructions and goes further than others in reducing the limitation of language for philosophising.

The systems of Yoga provide a deep analysis of the human mind, consistent with much of modern science.

The design of family, religion, arts, economy, and governance was based on this kernel of truth.

For the nation today, which is largely riled in acting in response to extrinsic rewards, this universal value system and well developed systems of the ancients provide a clear path.

Critical and balanced analysis is required to establish that this value system is neither discriminative of religion nor disparaging of science.

As we move towards an uncertain era, where mankind has over-leveraged and over-grazed, India standing strong on its roots can throw the light of knowledge.

This is the essential Jagad-guru Bharat project.