What Inside Here, Exactly, Knows the First Name of the Attorney General?
It was about a week ago. I was in a subway train underneath San Francisco Bay, writing a weblog post about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But I wrote not Alberto Gonzales but Henry Gonzales--and when I proofread it twice for typos, grammaros, and mindos, I decided both times that Henry Gonzales was correct, what I wanted to write.
So why did I think, while underneath San Francisco Bay, that Henry Gonzales was the name of the Attorney General?
The answer is in where I was going: I was going to a meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The late Henry Gonzalez (he died in 2000) was a congressman. He was one of the last honest Texas populists, and was chair of the House Banking Committee and a strident and effective critic of the Federal Reserve during the 1990s. Do any kind of concept search on "Federal Reserve" and "last name Gonzalez" and the first name "Henry" will pop up.
So there I was, underneath San Francisco Bay, trying to write about the U.S. attorney scandal and Alberto Gonzales while part of my brain is thinking about the fact that I am going to the Federal Reserve. When it comes time to tell my fingers whether to type A-l-b-e-r-t-o or H-e-n-r-y, that part of my brain that is thinking "Federal Reserve" votes that "Gonzales" goes with "Henry," while that part of my brain that is thinking "Bush administration" votes that "Gonzales" goes with "Alberto," and the first part of my brain is larger and stronger and remains larger and stronger as I proofread the post, come out of the subway, and stop off to borrow Starbucks's electrons to send the post out onto the internet...
The interesting thing, from my perspective at least, is that it doesn't seem like there was any thought going on here. I didn't (mistakenly) think that "Henry Gonzales is the Attorney General." I didn't think about it at all. There was just a bunch of neurons sending electrical signals to one another that culminate in impulses out to the fingers on the keyboard--a bunch of neurons that most of the time present a convincing simulacrum of sentient intelligence, until the mask slips.