‘To err is human,’ the quotation says. But it's not only human. To err, in general, is the common lot of humans, all other life forms, all mechanical devices, and surely anything else I haven't thought of for which you can specify any idea of a purpose or intention to have erred from.
Something that's closer to being human-
For example, a few years ago I got home from work, carrying my usual rucksack of random stuff. I opened the front door, found a letter on the mat, picked it up, shut the door behind me, carried letter and rucksack to the study, put them down, unzipped the rucksack … and then stood there confusedly wondering why I'd done that, and what I might have wanted out of the rucksack.
Of course, I might have just forgotten what I wanted by the time I got the bag open. But not this time. In this case, what had actually gone wrong was that I had meant to open the letter, not to open the rucksack.
But I'd somehow mistaken that intention, somewhere in my brain, and issued the wrong ‘open this thing’ instruction. And having made that error, the lower layers of my brain's planning apparatus and motor cortex had all cooperated to faithfully implement the wrong instruction they'd been given.
This is a particularly beautiful example of a high-
A slightly different example of this phenomenon happened to me the other day, in a computing context. I was sitting at a
bash prompt in a
git checkout, and I ran
git stash, then
git pull -r, and then pressed Ctrl-
The right way to complete the sequence would have been the command
git stash pop, to restore the uncommitted changes that I'd had in the checkout before realising I needed to do the disruptive pull operation. So why did I press Ctrl-
Because in other situations, I'll sometimes be half way through typing a command, and then realise I need to run another command first (e.g. a
cd command, so as to be in the right directory for the original command to work). In that situation, my habit is to press Ctrl-
bash's paste buffer; then run the preparatory command; and then press Ctrl-
In other words, the
bash-driving part of my brain has two separate procedures for the high-
git checkout, and is spelled
git stash /
git stash pop. The other is for half-
And I'd simply forgotten, half way through the action, which of those two procedures I was in the middle of performing, so I did the second half of the wrong one.
These kinds of high-
Also, I find that a common feature of high-
For example, in the above cases, after I'd opened the rucksack I spent a while trying to remember what I might have wanted from it; and having pasted some old nonsense on to my shell command line, I started from the assumption that I'd meant to do that and that the nonsense was about to be useful in some way, if only I could just remember what I might have had in mind. In both cases, my prior for ‘you meant to do that and it will make sense in a moment’ was much higher than my prior for ‘this was a weird high-
I suppose that does make Bayesian sense, since high-