Late night movie thoughts!


Controlling the mind and thoughts is fundamental to almost all the Eastern Religions. In Taoism it is said “The fool is controlled by thoughts, The wise men control thoughts”. Control of mind and thoughts for stability and everlasting happiness, forms one of the key teaching of Bhagavad Gita. Thought control, for evoking the creative powers has been one of the basic teachings of Zen meditation. Buddhism is better known as, a way of life based on the training of mind. When so much emphasis has been laid on control of thoughts in almost all the Eastern religions, then thoughts and mind must be having enormous power, leading to pervasive effects.

These thoughts were coming to my mind after watching ‘Inception’, Dom Cobb is an agent who extracts the ideas from peoples’ mind. The movie kick starts with Cobb’s one such mission to extract an idea from Saito’s mind. The extraction fails however, due to intervention from Cobb’s wife, who often endangers Cobb’s missions. Later, Saito entrusts him with a mission to implant an idea in the subconscious mind of Robert Fisher Jr, whose father is Saito’s corporate rival. Cobb grapples with conceiving an idea convincing enough for Robert to split his father’s empire and allow Saito emerge an undisputed corporate bellwether. The movie depicts the pursuit of this mission that triggers a chain of events which absolutely alter the political, corporate and the social equations.

The hangover of the movie made me wonder, how could just the mere implantation of so minuscule an idea ever multiply into an impact so profound. It is absolutely incredible that systems, so very gigantic and formidable, like Fisher’s empire, either crash or alternatively take an ever-increasing outward spiralling course, of a very different evolution, due to a microscopic thought in the subconscious? This leaves the viewer absolutely spellbound. This phenomena though in scientific terms is also known as the “Butterfly Effect” or “Chaos”

The term “Butterfly Effect” came into existence after the 1972 paper by Edward Lorenz, with the title “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” In 1961 Edward was running a program sequence, which he created using the simple mathematical equations to predict the weather conditions. To his surprise, when instead of .506127 he entered .506. , the result was an altogether different weather scenario. This became famous as “ Butterfly Effect”, The concept is, the flap of butterfly’s wings, can lead to very small changes in the “initial conditions” of the atmosphere, which can multiply over a period of time and lead to a Tornado at some distant location. This could be considered analogous to the event that happened with Fisher in “Inception”.

Fisher-Saito Corporate System is a Chaotic System, it is complex, non-linear and its sensitivity towards the initial conditions becomes very high after the change of leadership in Fisher Inc. and Saito exploits this scenario to his advantage. The negligible idea inception in Fisher’s brain disturbs the initial conditions of this system and ultimately results in “Butterfly Effect”. Probably, Saito becomes a corporate Czar, Cobb gets free of all the criminal allegations, reunites with his family etc.

A Chaotic System may appear to be random, but it is not random and has an underlying pattern. A random event could be, throw of a dice, where, each outcome is independent of the previous one. However, Chaos has a pattern which is governed by the initial conditions and can be predicted using laws of classical physical. Some examples of Chaotic Systems are Corporate Organizations, Weather Systems, Stock Markets etc. Chaos appears in some systems because of Uncertainty in measurements resulting in overall system instability as explained below.

History of Chaos

Uncertainty of Measurement:- Initial conditions of a system are the conditions at the start of measurement of the system. One of the fundamental principles of the experimental science is that, no real measurement is infinitely precise and has always an “error” component in its value resulting uncertainty in its measured value. This uncertainty arises because of the current technology and the measuring devices, which, even on the perfect usage, can measure only with finite precision. In other words, for a measurement to be infinitely precise an instrument capable of measuring and displaying up to infinite decimal places would be required and hence uncertainty in the measurements can never be eliminated. For Example, We cannot calculate the value of ∏(22/7) up to infinite decimal places, hence there will always be an error component in the calculations, involving, measuring the size of the earth etc..

Dynamical Instability:- Around the year 1900 a French mathematician and physicist Poincare, discovered a special kind of behaviour in certain physical systems. It was believed at that time that, by plugging more accurate measurements of the variables in the Netwon’s equations of motion, more accurate predictions or the results can be achieved and small “uncertainty in the measurement” will lead to small “uncertainty in the result”. Hence it was assumed that it was possible to obtain the “nearly-perfect” prediction of the behaviour of any physical system.

However, Poincare found that certain astronomical systems, which consisted of three or more astronomical bodies, didn’t obey this rule. He stated that too minute an imprecision in the initial conditions manifested in enormous impact on the results. He established the fact that two almost negligibly different set of initial conditions for the same system would result in the predictions which are significantly different from one another. It is for such systems that, he established, even if the uncertainty in the initial conditions was shrunk to hundred times or even a million times, the uncertainty in the outcome will still be huge.

To summarize, Poincare’s Mathematical analysis was a proof that for some systems, to predict an accurate output. Infinitely precise measurement of the initial conditions was indispensable. This extreme sensitivity to the initial conditions was called “Dynamical Instability” or “Chaos”. This discovery from Poincare did not make a big splash however, till the experiment of Edward Lorenz in 1961.

The movie forced me to think, since the dawn of Human Civilization; tiny ideas have resulted in major transformations in the society as a whole. Almost all the great inventions, revolutions in nations and societies which had widespread impact on our life and changed it forever, had their roots in human subconscious in form of thought!!!

How can we identify this initial condition, thought, which has the potential of causing very large variations in the dynamic systems, and ability to change, the world, multiple systems or multiverse that we live in? Or How can we as individuals in the society can lead to a Chaotic transformation for benefit of the country?

8 Responses to Late night movie thoughts!

  1. Truly thought provoking stuff. Thanks.

    There is another thing that I was wondering about. Where are thoughts stored exactly? Brain? Is there a hardware – software relationship?

    Does a ‘thought’ has ‘mass’?

    In the movie ‘Avatar’ the Naavi’s used to connect with the forest through a network of trees. They used to access a large network and hence found themselves in communion with their surroundings.

    Could this be true for humans? What if the idea or a thought does not reside inside the head. What if the brain is just a media to upload and access information from a large cosmic mind (brahmand).

  2. Anukool says:

    There is a school of thought, which considers this entire Universe as a great computer, where sub atomic particles are continuously, changing their states to calculate the next state of the Universe, and of course all this calculation got to be stored somewhere!!!!… In East people believe in Karma Theory, the results of all our actions, which determine our next state (even thoughts are a part of it) gotta be stored somewhere. In the Brain? or in the large cosmic mind? I don’t have an answer for this…but thoughts are indeed fundamental to our existence as Human Beings!!!!

  3. I guess the answer is in unravelling the mysteries of consciousness.

    Consciousness is what seperates you and me from the chair we sit on. Prashant Singh in his article on MyShareCafe has highlighted the challenges currently presented in consciousness studies.

    Consciousness studies should be a standalone discipline of education and research.

    Unravelling consciousness will answer questions like the storage hard drive for memories or origin of thoughts..

  4. Anukool says:

    Agree with you, Consciousness is the key to understand the Hardware (Reality), looks like we are parts of Software, and any entity within a Software wont know if there is hardware responsible for its existence.

  5. Swati Bhalla says:

    Wow! One late night movie could provoke such a string of thoughts! And rightly too! I love the movie and yes it does give some food for thougt that is that really possible? I know one thought, if planted correctly can grow to take a form and direct a person’s actions subconsciously and I guess we all do it through sarcasm, diplomacy, taunts or just with a simple harmless conversation! But to plant it in someone’s head in a way like that, I am sure it is possible, we just need to figure out a way to do it.

  6. Anukool says:

    Yes it is possible and it is happening to us as well, however, like Abhinav Sir told in the above discussion, the answer like in understanding of Consciousness, thought generation, would recommend to read the book by Roger Penrose, Emperor’s New Mind, it deals with such questions and Inception also had Penrose steps :-)

  7. Swati Bhalla says:

    Perfect, would definitely read this then. :) Thank you.

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