Tyranny Of The Mind

Tyranny Of The Mind
This post was written by Arne Dörries


Have you ever been disappointed in yourself for having done something you knew would cause unnecessary damage to you?

Whilst many people don't reflect that much on the effects of their actions, the phenomenon of being discontent with your own decisions is ironically especially common among those that are trying hard to improve their lives.

In this post, we are taking a look at a unique perspective on where this problem comes from and two even more unique, radical but interesting concepts on how to solve this problem: The tyranny of the mind and the autonomous self by rejuvination athlete Bryan Johnson.

Ready for some truly unique idea? Let's get started!

This post covers...

  1. ❓ What the hell are we even talking about here
  2. 🧠 Part I: Mind-Based Living
  3. 😈 Part II: The Tyranny of the Mind
  4. ⚙️ Part III: System-Based Living & The Autonomous Self
  5. 🌍 Conclusion

What the hell are we even talking about here

To start with some clarity, the concept of the tyranny of the mind and the corresponding concept of the autonomous self fall in the category of decision making and concern themselves with the overarching question of how one can get to a place of acting in alignment with their needs and goals.

And whilst it may seem obvious that one would act in their own best interest if they had the freedom and the resources to do so, these ideas strangely emerge from the observable reality that despite endless resource abundance and freedom, the modern human struggles hopelessly to act in his or her best interest and instead acts intuitively self-destructive. Not only is this the case on an individual level but also on a societal level.

The concept of the tyranny of the mind takes a look at this standard, self-destructive mode of modern living - I call it mind-based living - and calls out the mind as the root cause of the problem of self-destruction.

The concept of the autonomous self - developed and formulated by rejuvenation athlete Bryan Johnson as part of his health program blueprint - is both a theoretical and practical response to the tyranny of the mind and suggests an entirely new mode of living based on systems instead of the mind. In the remaining post, I am referring to this as system-based living.

In this post, we are taking a deeper look at both of these concepts. My goal is to brake them down into their fundamental components and to hopefully light an intellectual spark!

Part I: Mind-Based Living

To understand what is precisely meant by the tyranny of the mind, we must first look at what I call mind-based living.

Mind-based living refers to a way of living where your mind is at the centre of operating your life.

And although your mind does of course take in a certain amount of external information for decision making, with mind-based living, your mind always has the last word and is the primary or even the only entity with the authority to make final decisions.

And even despite circumstances where you don't have the freedom to make a decision yourself because some external entity like your boss is telling you to do something a very specific way, you still very much identify with your experience of life through your mind. And precisely for this reason, the term mind-based living may seem irritating at first. By the description, most people would just call it living, which leads me on to my next point:

Especially in our western world, you and your mind are often considered synonyms and most people identify with their minds.

As part of our individualism, our minds are celebrated and any form of constraint on our minds is quickly rejected or considered oppression.

"Of course I, myself, my mind should be the primary authority for operating my life. That is called freedom and I want freedom." is what we say.

And although more religious cultures and societies may be more acceptive of external structures constraining the individual to make decisions, still, it appears a globally shared understanding that you are at the most fundamental level your mind.

Part II: The tyranny of the mind

The concept of the tyranny of the mind takes mind-based living in our modern world, looks at the consequences and finds a very big problem: Mind-based living is naturally leading to self-destruction or is incredibly energy costly to try to keep away from becoming self-destructive.

Let me explain.

In our modernized world abundant of every resource whether it'd be food, movies, drugs, sex or anything else, giving the mind full authority to decide what you do is often and it appears naturally leading to no good.

The mind wants to be pleased and it wants to be pleased now.

Although not the most scientific explanation, like a tyrant, a dictator over your life, your mind is demanding you to both satisfy and not stress it too much.

It wants to be satisfied with dopamine-inducing food, binge watching Netflix and watching porn.

And should you ever dare to confront your mind with any form of challenge or the fact that there is a future ahead of you that highly depends on your active positive investments right now for it to be a good one, be sure to expect some heavy resistance.

Going to the gym? No, thank you. Working on that project? No, thank you. Eating a proper healthy meal? Can you please just shut up!

"Even if someone knows something is bad for them, it is still sometimes impossible to stop.
Bryan Johnson

The concept of the tyranny of the mind criticizes the standard approach and mode of living where you give your mind full authority over your life.

It criticizes this based on the reality, that your present mind is not the only player in your life and should therefore not be given all the power, especially considering how naturally it wants to abuse it for pleasure's sake.

How is your mind not the only player in your life you may ask?

For starters, there is your body, which entirely depends on the decisions of your mind with mind-based living. But additionally, there are your future selfs. What they will be working with again entirely depends on the decisions of your mind today. And when this mind of the present day does not care about your body and does not care about your future, because it is instead driven by short-term gratification, this becomes a serious problem.

"We think our brain is the number one problem-solving tool. For me, it is my biggest nemisis. It is the problem I had to solve for.
Bryan Johnson
Brain model early 20th century.

Part III: System-Based Living & The Autonomous Self

The concepts of system-based living and the autonomous self - two terms for the same underlying idea - are alternative modes of living and alternative approaches of assigning the authority for decision making in your life.

Different to mind-based living, with system-based living, you acknowledge that your mind is in many ways your enemy in building a sustainably growing and improving life.

In acknowledgement of this fact - the fact that giving your present day mind full authority over the management of your life leads primarily to self-destruction - you strip your mind of the majority of this decision making authority and instead hand over this authority to systems and algorithms designed with your long-term needs and goals in mind.

And whilst it has been common knowledge for a long time to outsource parts of your daily decision making to systems - things like having a gym bag with everything you need for the gym, having a morning routine etc. - the concept of mind-based living and specifically Bryan Johnson's concept of the autonomous self takes it much further.

Here, the idea is to not only partially outsource decision making in very specific fields of your life whilst still doing it from your mind as the primary terminal of your life. Instead system-based living and the autonomous self suggest a full shift of perspective where you figuratively fire your mind as an entity of authority over daily decisions and you instead let your life develop based on systems, protocols and algorithms and only use your mind's decision making for reviewing and further developing these systems.

Other than the mind, which only craves its own satisfaction and is extremely volatile with circumstantial changes, these systems should have your present mind's needs and interests but also your body's and your future selfs' needs and interests built into them.

And whilst it may seem counterintuitive, from this perspective, living your life off of systems is a truly free life: a life free of the tyranny of your mind!  

Without wings I can feel free


Our mind - the centre of our life, our experience and the place from which we operate our lives. Right?

Whilst most of us think and live our lives this way, in our modern world full of abundance, this approach has proven to lead to more damage and self-destruction than anything good. Our minds have become tyrants abusing their authority for instant gratification.

A radical but fascinatingly unique approach for a solution to this problem are the concepts of system-based living and rejuvenation athlete Bryan Johnson's the autonomous self. Both recommend to radically strip your mind of its decision making authority and to hand over this power to systems, protocols and algorithms that have been designed with your short-term and long-term needs and goals in mind.