Posts Tagged ‘memes’

Learning to Lie

June 13, 2019

This is the third post based on a new book by Douglas Rushkoff titled “TEAM HUMAN.” The title of this post is identical to the title of the third section of this book. Rushkoff begins this section,”It doesn’t take much to tilt a healthy social landscape toward an individualist or repressive one. A scarcity of resources, a hostile neighboring tribe, a warlord looking for power, an elite seeking to maintain its authority, or a corporation pursuing a monopoly all foster antisocial environments and behavior. Socialization depends on both autonomy and interdependency; emphasizing one at the expense of the other compromises the balance.”

One desocializing strategy emphasizes individualism. The special group is broken down into automized individuals who fight for their right to fulfillment by professional advancement or personal consumption. This system is often sold as freedom. But these competing individuals never find true autonomy because they lack the social fabric in which to exercise it.

Another path to desocialization emphasized conformity. People don’t need to compete because they are all the same. Such system mitigates strident individualism, but it does through obedience usually to a supreme ruler or monopoly party. Conformity is not truly social, because people are looking up for direction other than to one another. Because there is no variation, mutation or social fluidity, conformity ends up being just as desocializing as individualism.

Rushkoff concludes that both approaches depend on separating people from one another and undermining our evolved social mechanisms in order to control us. He continues, “Any of our healthy social mechanisms can become vulnerabilities: what hackers would call “exploits” for those who want to manipulate us. For example, when a charity encloses a free “gift” or return address labels along with their solicitation for a donation, they are consciously manipulating our ancient, embedded social bias for reciprocity. The example is trivial, but the pattern is universal We either succumb to the pressures with the inner knowledge that something is off, or we recognize the ploy, reject the plea, and arm ourselves agains such tactics in the future. In either case, the social landscape is eroded. What held us together now breaks us apart.”

Spoken language can be regarded as the first communication technology. Language has many admirable capabilities. But before language, there was no such thing as a lie. Rushkoff writes that the closest thing to lying would have been a behavior such as hiding a piece of fruit, but speech created a way of actively misrepresenting reality to others.

Rushkoff writes that when we look at the earliest examples of the written word, it was used mostly to assert power and control. “For the first five hundred years after its invention in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively by her kings and priests to keep track of the grain and labor they controlled. Whenever writing appeared, it was accompanied by war and slavery. For all the benefits of the written word, it is also responsible for replacing an embodied, experiential culture with an abstract administrative one.”

Rushkoff continues, “The Gutenberg printing press extended the reach and accessibility of the written word throughout Europe, and promised a new era of literacy and expression. But the printing presses were tightly controlled by monarchs, who were well aware of what happens when people begin reading one another’s books. Unauthorized presses were destroyed and their owners executed. Instead of promoting a new culture of ideas, the printing press reinforced control from the top.

Radio also began as a peer-to-peer medium such as ham radio. But corporations lobbied to monopolize the spectrum and governments sought to control it, radio devolved from a community space to one dominated by advertising and propaganda.

Hitler used this new medium of radio to make himself appear to be anywhere and everywhere at once. No single voice had ever permeated German society previously, and the sense of personal connection it engendered allowed Hitler to create a new sort of rapport with millions of people. The Chinese installed 70 million loudspeakers to broadcast what they called “Politics on Demand” through the nation. Rwandans used radio as late as 1993 to reveal the location of ethnic enemies so that mobs of loyalists with machetes could massacre them.

Initially television was viewed as a great connector and educator. However, marketing psychologists saw in it a way to mirror a consumer’s mind and insert with it new fantasies and specific products. Programming referred to the programmability not of the channel, but of the viewer.

There have been so many previous healthy memory blog posts on the problems of social media and of cybernetic warfare, that can be found under the category of Transactive Memory, that little more on these general topics will be written.

But a few words words will be written on memes and memetics. Rushkoff writes, “An increasingly competitive media landscape favors increasingly competitive content. Today, anyone with a smartphone, web page or social media account can share their ideas. If that idea is compelling it might be replicated and spread to millions. And so the race is on. Gone are the collaborative urges that characterized embodied social interaction. In their place comes another bastardized Darwinian ideal: a battle for the survival of the fittest meme.”

Rushkoff continues, “The amazing thing is that it doesn’t matter what side of an issue people are on for them to be infected by the meme and provoked to replicate it. ‘Look what this person said’ is reason enough to spread it. In the contentious social media surrounding elections the most racist and sexist memes are reposted less by their advocates than by their outraged opponents. That’s because memes do not compete for dominance by appealing to our intellect, our compassion, or anything to do with our humanity. They compete to trigger our most automatic impulses.”

Rushkoff concludes this section as follows: “…our extension of our social reality into a new medium requires that we make a conscious effort to bring our humanity along with us. We must project our social human organism from the very things we have created.”

The Conflicts That Drive the Web and the World

January 23, 2019

This is the eleventh post in a series of posts on a book by P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking titled “Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media.” The title to this post is identical to the subtitle of the chapter titled “Likewar.” In 1990 two political scientists with the Pentagon’s think tank at the RAND Corporation started to explore the security implications of the internet. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt made their findings public in a revolutionary article titled “Cyberwar Is Coming!” in a 1993 article. They wrote that “information is becoming a strategic resource that may prove as valuable in the post-industrial era as capital and labor have been in the industrial age.” They argued that future conflicts would not be won by physical forces, but by the availability and manipulation of information. They warned of “cyberwar,” battles in which computer hackers might remotely target economies and disable military capabilities.

They went further and predicted that cyberwar would be accompanied by netwar. They explained: It means trying to disrupt, damage, or modify what a target population “knows” or thinks it knows about itself and the world around it. A network may focus on public or elite opinion, or both. It may involve public diplomacy, measures, propaganda and psychological campaigns, political and cultural subversion, deception of or interference with the local media…In other words, netwar represents a new entry on the spectrum of conflict that spans economic, political, and social as well as military forms of ‘war.’

Early netwar became the province of far-left activists undemocratic protesters, beginning with the 1994 Zapatista uprising in Mexico and culminating in the 2011 Arab Spring. In time, terrorists and far-right extremists also began to gravitate toward net war tactics. The balance shifted for disenchanted activists when dictators learned to use the internet to strengthen their regimes. For us, the moment came when we saw how ISIS militants used the internet not just to sow terror across the globe, but to win its battles in the field. For Putin’s government it came when the Russian military reorganized itself to strike back what it perceived as a Western information offensive. For many in American politics and Silicon Valley, it came when the Russian effort poisoned the networks with a flood of disinformation, bots, and hate.

In 2011, DARPA’s research division launched the new Social Media in Strategic Communications program to study online sentiment analysis and manipulation. About the same time, the U.S. military’s Central Command began overseeing Operation Earnest Voice to fight jihadists across the Middle East by distorting Arabic social media conversations. One part of this initiative was the development of an “online persona management service,” which is essentially sockpuppet software, “to allow one U.S. serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.” Beginning in 2014, the U.S. State Department poured vast amounts of resources into countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts, building an array of online organizations that sought to counter ISIS by launching information offensives of their own.

The authors say national militaries have reoriented themselves to fight global information conflicts, the domestic politics of these countries have also morphed to resemble netwars. The authors write, “Online, there’s little difference in the information tactics required to “win” either a violent conflict or a peaceful campaign. Often, their battles are not just indistinguishable but also directly linked in their activities (such as the alignment of Russian sockpuppets and alt-right activists). The realms of war and politics have begun to merge.”

Memes and memetic warfare also emerged. Pepe the Frog was green and a dumb internet meme. In 2015, Pepe was adopted as the banner of Trump’s vociferous online army. By 2016, he’d also become a symbol of a resurgent timed of white nationalism, declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. Trump tweeted a picture of himself as an anthropomorphized Pepe. Pepe was ascendant by 2017. Trump supporters launched a crowdfunding campaign to elect a Pepe billboard “somewhere in the American Midwest.” On Twitter, Russia’s UK embassy used a smug Pepe to taunt the British government in the midst of a diplomatic argument.

Pepe formed an ideological bridge between trolling and the next-generation white nationalist, alt-right movement that had lined up behind Trump. The authors note that Third Reich phrases like “blood and soil” filtered through Pepe memes, fit surprisingly well with Trump’s America First, anti-immigration, anti-Islamic campaign platform. The wink and note of a cartoon frog allowed a rich, but easily deniable, symbolism.

Pepe transformed again when Trump won. Pepe became representative of a successful, hard-fought campaign—one that now controlled all the levers of government. On Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, buttons and printouts of Pepe were visible in the crowd. Online vendors began selling a hat printed in the same style as those worn by military veterans of Vietnam, Korea, and WW II. It proudly pronounced its wearer as a “Meme War Veteran.”

The problem with memes is that by highjacking or chance, a meme can come to contain vastly different ideas than those that inspired it, even as it retains all its old reach and influence. And once a meme has been so redefined, it becomes nearly impossible to reclaim. Making something go viral is hard; co-opting or poisoning something that’s already viral can be remarkable. U.S Marine Corps Major Michael Prosser published a thesis titled: “Memetics—a Growth industry in US Military Operations.. Prosser’s work kicked off a tiny DARPA-Funded industry devoted to “military memetics.”

The Terrorist Mind

May 11, 2013

The recent terrorist act at the Boston Marathon has been difficult for many Americans to understand. To understand it, you need to try to understand the terrorist mind. We read that they were upset about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Drone killings. This is but a part of a larger narrative that the United States is at war with Islam. This larger narrative ignores disturbing facts such as the efforts the United States took to protect Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. It even includes a belief that 9/11 was self-inflicted, even though Al Qaeda took credit for the terrorist acts. Unfortunately, our minds are good at ignoring negative evidence and for compartmentalizing information.

Even if you grant militant Islamists their beliefs, one can still ask, do they merit the indiscriminate killing and maiming of innocents? What does the Koran say about that? The argument would be that they are at war and that war justifies the killing and maiming.

But then, one can ask, how do you think you will win? If terrorist attacks increase, the response against them would also increase. The consequences would be dreadful, but it is difficult to see how radical Islam would prevail in the west. Osama Bin Laden thought that because they were able to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, they would prevail against the west. He forgets that the victory was largely due to American aid and technology. The Soviets concluded that Afghanistan was not worth the loss of human life, and that it was not worth exercising the nuclear option.

The response of the West in dealing with the irrationality of Terrorism is the use of kinetic events. There are large scale kinetic events, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and small kinetic events such as drone strikes. The question is, do they work? Are they decreasing the number of terrorists, or increasing the number of terrorists? If it is the latter, then we are adding fuel to the flames rather than extinguishing the fire.

So what is the alternative to kinetic events? It goes by a number of terms, information warfare, propaganda, psyops (psychological operations). Unfortunately, these terms have negative connotations. Nevertheless, I would argue that they provide the only alternative. The problem is that they are not very sophisticated, and that we do not know how to target them at either the militant Islamic or potentially militant Islamic mind. Much research needs to be done.

Unfortunately, there was a natural laboratory for conducting this research that was overlooked, and that is the infamous facility at Guantanamo. The inmates could have been used as subjects to try to understand how their minds worked, and what potential arguments or information could possibly change their minds. They could have released inmates if they thought their interventions had been successful and then tracked them after they left. It is likely that some, perhaps, many would just have told the researchers want they wanted to hear, so that they would be released. Others might have changed their minds in the facility, but then reverted to their old ways of thought upon returning to their environments. There was this risk, but I think an argument could be made that it would be worth it. There might have been successes.

It needs to be remembered that the terrorist threat goes well beyond radical Islamists. Remember Timothy Mcveigh. Unfortunately, there are many more Timothy Mcveighs in the world. Their narratives and belief systems also need to be studied and countered.

In any case, this an area of research that needs to be vigorously pursued. I believe that the Saudi’s have done some research in this area that has met with some success. Memetic Theory along with the memetic analytic framework holds promise. Terrorist minds are full of dangerous, erroneous memes that must be destroyed and corrected. New conflicts, both international and domestic, must increasingly be met by changing people’s minds. Historically, humans have resolved conflicts by kinetic events. Human history is largely a history of human wars. But if kinetic events work to exacerbate rather than to resolve conflicts, then I see no other path to pursue.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Extreme Economics

February 24, 2013

In The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse by Rebecca D. Costa, she outlines five supermemes that lead to the stagnation and collapse of civilizations: Irrational Opposition, The Personalization of Blame, Counterfeit Correlation, Silo Thinking, and Extreme Economics. This healthymemory blog post will address the supermeme Extreme Economics. According to Costa (p. 138) “The economics supermeme occurs when simple principles in business, such as risk/reward and profit/loss, become the litmus test for determining the value of people and priorities, initiatives and institutions.

The reason that extreme economics is so dangerous is that profit can prevent or retard technological solutions. (p.140) That’s because broad systemic solutions that benefit humankind don’t always fit accepted economic models. And when they don’t, progress is inhibited.

The emphasis on short-term returns can preclude a technological solution that in the long term would be both more profitable and beneficial. Extreme economics has increased educational costs and resulted in an inefficient delivering of medical and pharmaceutical services. Wherever one looks, college athletics, for example, one finds the adverse effects of extreme economics. I have read that Alan Greenspan, a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve had the phrase, “Greed is good,” posted in his office. I shall remind the reader that greed is one of the seven deadly sins. Moreover, Greenspan’s policies and lack of action helped lay the groundwork for the economic crisis. Sometimes I think the world has become one enormous whorehouse.

It is actually somewhat worse than Costa portrays. Research has indicated that the predominant model in economics is obsolete. Humans cannot be entirely rational because our information processing limitations allow us only to process only a minute amount of data bearing on a decision. Behavioral economics has indicted that the decisions humans make are not always in accordance with the rational paradigm. Yet the majority of economists, and unfortunately those in key positions, still cling to an obsolete model.

There have been a number of healthymemory blog posts bearing on this issue. See the following healthymemory blog posts: “Thinking Fast and Slow,” “Happy Labor Day: Why Are We Working so Hard?” “Why With All This Technology, Are We Working so Hard?” and “Gross National Happiness.” This last post discussed a substitute metric to the Gross National Product (GNP), one that is much more directly related to human needs and human happiness. Another metric that has been proposed as a replacement to the GNP and is discussed in the same healthymemory blog post is the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI). Relevant and effective metrics would be valuable in addressing the world’s economic problems.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Silo Thinking

February 20, 2013

In The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse by Rebecca D. Costa, she outlines five supermemes that lead to the stagnation and collapse of civilizations: Irrational Opposition, The Personalization of Blame, Counterfeit Correlation, Silo Thinking, and Extreme Economics. This healthymemory blog post will address the supermeme Silo Thinking. According to Costa, “…silo thinking: compartmentalized thinking and behaviors that prohibit the collaboration needed to address complex problems.

It’s unfortunate that our institutions of higher learning are organized into academic departments. The following is from Costa’s book on page 135. “In his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, E.O. Wilson explained that silos have a more insidious effect than preventing a few problems from being solved here and there. Wilson warned that “professional atomization” also works against unifying the cumulative knowledge, discoveries, and science we have at our disposal. Whether it’s black holes in outer space or the current global recession, Wilson argues that thinking in silos prevents us from leveraging the known laws in physics, music, chemistry, engineering, economics, and biology together to explain natural phenomena. In his view, the barricades that stand in the way of centuries of knowledge must be torn down in order for humanity to progress.” So these barricades need to be broken and we need to think and work in an interdisciplinary fashion looking how to leverage our respective disciplines. Educational programs need to break down these disciplinary walls. Often creative and insight are a matter of combining ideas from different areas.

My personal area of expertise is in human factors or engineering psychology. This field is concerned with the interactions between human beings and technology. This includes the design of devices and systems so that they are easy to use. The supporting materials, wizards, manuals, help files, to help people use technology. It is also concerned with the development of effective training systems are all part of human factors. Given the explosion of technology, you might be surprised to learn that this is a fairly small field. Whenever you experience using technology you should wonder why this field was not engaged in the development of the particular technology presenting the problem.

We also tend to place different aspects of our lives in independent silos. Consider religion and politics, for example. Consider the teachings of Jesus Christ. He told us to love one another, to turn the other cheek, and devoted himself to the sick and unfortunate. Many of the same people who hold Christian beliefs do not apply them to their political behavior. They will be against government programs and policies that are aimed at helping the poor. They will be against national health insurance. They will embrace policies that deal harshly with immigrants. And they will insist on arming themselves. I find these beliefs and behaviors contradictory, and I think we would all be better off if they voted for politicians that supported policies that were in consonance with their religious beliefs. All of us should examine our thinking and beliefs to identify silos and eliminate them.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Personalization of Blame Supermeme

February 13, 2013

In The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse by Rebecca D. Costa, she outlines five supermemes that lead to the stagnation and collapse of civilizations: Irrational Opposition, The Personalization of Blame, Counterfeit Correlation, Silo Thinking, and Extreme Economics. This healthymemory blog post will address the personalization of blame supermeme.

Whenever there is a problem the immediate response is to try to find the individual or individuals who are responsible for the problem, and to blame that person or persons. The problem here is that the causes of most problems in our complex world are systemic. By blaming an individual or individuals the system problems can be overlooked and the problem will continue to occur.

One of the best examples is when there is an airplane crash and the crash is attributed to pilot error. All this does is to confirm that we humans are all fallible. So what’s new? The questions is why did the pilot commit the error, or series of errors. If the pilot was not alone, then the question goes to the crew level to ascertain why the crew did not respond appropriately. If the pilot was alone, reasonable questions follow. Was the pilot adequately trained? Was the pilot overly tired, or in poor health, and if so, why? Did the design of the flight deck contribute to the problem? These are the questions that need to be asked at the system level if future crashes are to be avoided.

A very serious problem is medical error. Again, the initial response is to blame a nurse or doctor. Doing this is counterproductive and makes it difficult to find the problem when everyone and the hospital itself is preoccupied with saving its respective keister. A 2000 Institute of Medicine report estimated that medical errors are estimated to result in about between 44,000 and 98,000 preventable deaths and 1,000,000 excess injuries each year in U.S. Hospitals. This is a virtual holocaust that occurs annually that exceeds highway deaths and most war deaths. These deaths and injuries are often due to communication problems, being it the failure to pass information, illegible writing, or failing to contact and involve the correct people. The failure to use simple checklists results in unnecessary deaths and injury (see the healthymemory blog post, “A Cognitive Safety Net”). There is much that can be done here, but the first step is not to look for someone to blame, but instead to look at the entire system and look for points of systemic failure.

Osama bin Laden has been the face of terrorism. But his killing, while being satisfying to many, has not led to the end of terrorism. There are many terrorist organizations and a variety of causes of terrorism. They must be understood and approached from a systemic perspective. Looking at terrorism in terms of a most wanted list is not going to be effective.

Obesity, pollution and global warming are major societal problems that can be blamed on ourselves. Although the argument can be made that these problems can be addressed at an individual level, individuals can stop overeating and stop polluting, these approaches will not be effective. First it must be recognized that we are fallible human beings. With respect to obesity, eating as much high caloric whenever it was available was a good adaptive mechanism that allowed our species to survive. Unfortunately, we are left with this evolutionary adaptive mechanism, which is not longer adaptive Unfortunately, will power is a resource that can easily be depleted. This ego depletion is a loss in will or mental energy and can be measured by glucose metabolism.1

So systemic approaches need to be applied. In the case of obesity, sizes of fast foods can be restricted. Unhealthy foods can be taxed. Healthy foods could be made easier to obtain (for example, replacing the junk food in most vending machines with healthy foods). Ultimately, I think the food industry needs to become more creative and make food and drink with fewer calories more palatable. I believe they have made progress in the beverage industry.

With respect to environmental pollution and global warming, possible solutions include heavy taxes on heavy vehicles, and higher gas taxes to pay for better public transportation. Tax credits can be given for environmental friendly vehicles. Incentives for both individuals and industry to more away from fossil fuels can be provided.

A major flaw in Costa’s book is her misunderstanding and consequent mis-characterization of B.F. Skinner and behavioral psychology, which has much to offer. It espouses an empirical approach in which facts and beliefs are strongly linked. Systemic approaches to behavioral modification to promote environmental friendly and personal healthy behaviors are quite possible.

1Baumeister, R.E., & Tierney, J. (2011). Willpower: Discovering the Greatest Human Strength.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Irrational Opposition Supermeme

February 10, 2013

In The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse by Rebecca D. Costa, she outlines five supermemes that lead to the stagnation and collapse of civilizations: Irrational Opposition, The Personalization of Blame, Counterfeit Correlation, Silo Thinking, and Extreme Economics. This healthymemory blog post will address the irrational opposition supermeme. According to Costa, Irrational Opposition Occurs when the act of rejecting, criticizing, suppressing, ignoring, misrepresenting, marginalizing, and resisting rational solutions becomes the accepted norm.   Again according to Costa, “When oppositional thinking and behavior is merely a meme, tenacity and evidence might be all that is required to allow rational solutions to prevail. But when opposition evolves into a supermeme, solutions to our greatest threats may be prevented from coming to fruition because the resources required to overcome the opposition may simply be too great.

The standing rule should be that if you oppose something, you need to propose an alternative solution, or justify why what you are opposing is not needed or that any adverse consequences are small or inconsequential. Take taxes, for example. The United States, or the colonies at that time, revolted against the British because of the taxes they were imposing were done without representation from the colonies. The proposed solution was a war that they won. Today many citizens and politicians are against taxes. Grover Norquist has made a career lobbying against taxes. Indeed he has encouraged politicians to sign pledges against raising taxes. Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan the national debt of the United States has grown drastically, its infrastructure has deteriorated to an alarming extent, and the cost of a college education has risen to levels causing students to either forgo a higher education or to acquire ridiculous levels of debt. I do not believe I have ever heard Norquist queried regarding these matters. It is perfectly legitimate to be against taxes, but you most also address the consequences of being against taxes.

The typical justification given is that the person is against “big government.” For me “big government” is another supermeme. It’s something to be against, and presumably these individuals are for small or no government. But what does this mean? What is “Big Government?” Some would say that it is socialism. Again, this is a term used clearly in a pejorative sense that is not defined. There are many socialistic democracies that function quite successfully. If you are against “Big Government” you should define the services that should not be provided by government. These services would either be eliminated or provided by private companies. So who should provide the services, of defense, education, safeguarding food and drugs, safeguarding the financial markets, health services, special populations such as those who are physically or mentally challenged, veterans, and retirees, to name just a few. One can take the position that something is not the responsibility of government. So we could let the elderly without financial resources rot arguing that these people should have provided for themselves, it is not our responsibility. We shall just ignore the dying elderly we pass in the streets or have them arrested for vagrancy.

However, assuming that certain services are needed, a reasonable question is whether they can be better provided by government or the private sector. Many people have strong opinions regarding this, but here is the time to marry facts with beliefs. For me, if your opinion is based solely on your beliefs, I don’t want to hear it. You can wipe your keister with your opinion. So find your facts, first. Often there is no clear answer, but there is the option of doing controlled studies to pin the answer down. When we move from yelling our opinions without accurate facts, to justifying them with accurate facts, to doing controlled studies when the solution is in dispute, then we shall be deserving of the name homo sapiens. Clearly we are not there yet.

To understand why we are not there yet we can go to Daniel Kahneman‘s Two System View of Cognition. According to Kahneman, we have two systems for processing information. System 1 is very fast, employs parallel processing, and appears to be automatic and effortless. They are so fast that they are executed, for the most part, outside conscious awareness. Emotions and feelings are also part of System 1. System 2 is named Reasoning. It is controlled processing that is slow, serial, and effortful. It is also flexible. One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 1 for processing errors, but System 2 is slow and System 1 is fast, so errors to slip through. So we need to engage System 2, but System 2 is effortful. Thinking is hard. Thinking through ramifications of being against something and trying to think of a solution is hard. Ideologues, those who have a set of strong beliefs, are usually happy. Give them a problem and they have a solution to it. But they live in a fools paradise, because their beliefs and reasoning are flawed.

So, when you encounter the Irrational Opposition Supermeme, challenge it. Force the person to work through the ramifications and propose a solution. Force the engagement of System 2 processing.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Informative and Timely Read

January 20, 2013

That would be The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse by Rebecca D. Costa (www.rebecca.costa.com). As the title promises she presents a theory of why civilizations collapse. The simple explanation is that a civilization’s beliefs do not keep up with the environmental facts in which they operate. She uses the Mayans, the Roman, and the Kymer civilizations for examples. Given the exponential increase in technology that has occurred, the problem is much greater today than in the times of those ancient civilizations.

Biological evolution is slow. At one time the evolution of technology was also slow, but the rate of change in technology is truly exponential today. So how can homo sapiens keep up? Unless the singularity predicted by Ray Kurzweil in which humans become one with technology (enter “singularity” into the search box) this is a definite problem. This failure to “keep up” is quite evident in the stagnation of governments in the United States and European Union.

Costa introduces the concept of supermemes, which are overriding habits of processing information that lead to stagnation and fail to solve pressing problems. These supermemes will be addressed individually in later healthymemory blog posts: they are “Irrational Opposition,” “The Personalization of Blame,” “Counterfeit Correlation,” “Silo Thinking,” and “Extreme Economics.”

She does provide rational solutions for dealing with the irrational world in which we live, and strategies for implementing those solutions. One chapter is titled “Building Better Brains,” a title to which the healthymemory blog resonates. She argues that insight can deal with our problems successfully and discusses conditions conducive to cognition for achieving this insight. Future healthymemory blog posts will discuss these topics.

Nevertheless, I shall be unable to do justice to these topics, so I suggest you get the book and read it for yourself.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.