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8. Togetherness: Hacks 75–80 > 78. Make Things Come Alive

Make Things Come Alive

Add a few tweaks to the way a thing moves, and you can make objects seem as if they have a life of their own.

Sometimes, when there isn’t evidence of causation, your perceptual system detects self-causation and delivers up an impression of animacy—that quality of having active purpose that makes objects seem alive.

Animacy is simultaneously easy to see but hard to think about, and both for the same reason. We have evolved to live in a world of animals and objects. But living things are more difficult and more dangerous than objects, so our minds are biased in lots of ways to detect agency—things happening because someone or something wanted them to happen for a purpose (better to assume something happened for a reason than to ignore it completely, right?). This specialization for making sense of agency means we’re disposed to detect it even if it isn’t strictly there—it is natural for us to use the language of intentions to describe events when there are no intentions. If you say that water “wan....“want” 1


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