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User Info Prison for Rahm, God's Work And Many Others; entered at 2017-12-06 13:13:08
Posts: 4
Registered: 2017-04-28
Have y'all ever heard of the backfire effect?

Highly recommended link. That guy explains it better than I can. BUT, in short, for those who don't read links, the amygdala controls much of our threat identification/assessment/reaction, such as fight-or-flight. It's done sterling service throughout the years when humans were faced with a charging tiger with a lunchtime gleam in the eye.

The amygdala isn't very discerning, though. It treats an intellectual challenge the same as a dorsal fin in the water. When faced with the idea that they are wrong - or evidence, which is infinitely worse - people react as if they have been threatened. Thus... backfire. The brain believes it is always right, and then defends that notion at all costs.

I've done a great deal of reading on the subject of neurology over the last few years. Humans didn't make any sense. I wanted to know why. People are never wrong. Oh, they know that no one is perfect, they have their little sayings that they trot out as needed, but they, themselves, in the immediate and specific sense are almost never wrong. Not when facts are in conflict, not when the results were bad, not when people who know the job tell you different.

Bizarre. But also f'ing fascinating.

To start, the backfire effect isn't the only neurological tic we've got hardwired into our brains. There's lots of them. Really, people will be astonished to find out how often they think they're thinking when really their brain is literally "knee-jerking" in a natural response to expected stimuli. It's not exactly smooth-muscle levels of involuntary, but it seems to get awful close. There's four in particular that I like to call the four horsemen of every human apocalypse. In addition to the backfire effect, which you've already met, we have:

Gell-Mann amnesia. Humans believe authority, despite evidence to the contrary. The last bit is what makes it "amnesia". We can see authority be wrong, and we will forget it the moment authority changes the subject. Authority must be wrong - very, very wrong - repeatedly wrong, usually on a subject on which an individual is well-informed and can thus readily identify what BS the authority be talkin', before we realize they're full of crap. And then, realization is often limited to that subject on which we are well-informed. We trust them in other areas.*

Dunning-Kruger effect. Humans are crap at assessing their own skills. We don't know how much we don't know, and this doesn't stop us from having loud opinions on it. The very nature of being uninformed means that we aren't informed enough to realize we don't know what we're missing. Conversely, I suspect this neurological tic is also responsible for the impostor effect. We don't know what we don't know, including how hard it was for everyone else to do something which came quite easily to us. Therefore, the disquieting (unjustified) feeling one is a fraud.

Confirmation bias. The brain assigns value to new data. Data that confirms what the brain already knows is assigned a high value. Data that conflicts is assigned a low value. The brain then assesses the value of the information available when checking it's work.

Yes. This is exactly as silly as it sounds. The brain is a Democrat talking about the '16 presidential election. "Assuming at no point in time could we have possibly been wrong, how do we interpret these results?"

The sum result of this is... well.. society. People don't listen. It doesn't even occur to them that they ought to, not without some compelling outside influence, it seems. Folks don't ask questions. Questions rather heavily imply that one doesn't already know everything one needs to know on a subject, and, haha, well THAT can't be right. Curiosity is emotional insecurity for enlightened beings who have attained the pinnacle of creation, you know.

You can't tell people anything, Gen. I'm sorry. It's as if people live in these little bubbles that extend about six inches from their heads, and nothing outside of the bubble is really real to them. We're all the hero in our own head, living out our personal autobiography in cinematic detail. Look at Maduro, Obama. Y'all think these guys sit around laughing over $1500 beef, "Muaaahahaha, my evil plans to ruin the lives of millions was a success!"

Ha. No. Ha. Humans don't work like that. I've met a lot of right bastards in my days, but I've never once met someone who knew and accepted they were a right bastard. Maduro and Obama probably believe they were just a guy doing his best in a hard spot. Like everyone else, who, if you check with them, will be ever so eager to explain how nothing currently going on in the world has anything to do with THEM, no sir! It's all those other bastards who won't get with the program and act right that're causing all this mess.

It's our brains. This is how they work. Feature, not bug. We'll master our nature when we see what it really is.

For a while there, I assumed since these neurological tics are basically what makes our species such douchebags, that they were a problem we had yet to overcome. Now I'm not sure. If you look at it one way, yeah, this is what makes us act like ignorant selfish twats and keeps crashing every civilization we've ever tried to establish since the dawn of time. Looked at from a different perspective, though...

Let's assume everything makes sense. Science. We may not know why it makes sense just now, but on a physics level everything makes sense. QED, we developed these tics for the same reason we developed maternal bonding and nose hairs - it was advantageous to survival.

We think of humans as meat creatures with souls. Think of us instead as... biological computers. Know what those neurological tics look like now? A firewall. We are extremely difficult to reprogram from the outside. And yeah, that's a right pain at the moment, when our latest effort at human civilization is about to crash down around our ears (again), but I'm sure the computer-savvy TFers can see the very small chances humans would have ever made it to the Younger Dryas if it were easy to change their minds.

"Oh, sure, that sounds like a fine idea, let's do that!"
"But no, this also makes sense, let's do this as well!"
"Wheeeee- *earth-shattering kaboom*"

I don't know the answer. I'm just recognizing patterns here. These patterns make a lot of sense to me. I'm probably not 100% right, being perfectly right isn't that common, but this makes sense in a way humans and their stories about what wonderful people they are do not.

We are not intelligent. Humans do not know right from wrong - they only know their neurological programming, the default is "I am good, I am right", and we appear to be able to make anything make sense to keep our narratives happy. People are "just doing their jobs".

Have y'all noticed that? It seems that there's been not merely a resurgence of Nuremberg defenses, but that even when it is pointed out what a Nuremberg defense is and that it is famously no defense at all, people will still use it. They'll even double down.

Humans are artificial intelligence. We don't put AI in charge of everything because a mere computer will do stupid things that it doesn't realize are stupid because it's just following its programming. Garbage in; garbage out. It doesn't know any better.

But that's us. We created AI in our own image, as it were. Cue the laugh track, the jokes just write themselves and they're even funnier because we had no idea.

This isn't (as much of) the dystopian nightmare it sounds like and thus far reliably leads to. Unlike the AI computers we built, humans feel pain. We get sad, and have dopamine receptors. Consequences matter to us. So much so that an enormous part of our productivity is frittered away in consequence-avoidance. That's another pattern. Once a human expends the effort to attain success, it's just too damned easy for them to focus future efforts NOT on the sensible-yet-difficult proposition of getting up the next morning and doing it all over again, but rather on keeping any fresh upstarts from threatening their income stream.

Humans need consequences. We don't appear to be able to recognize right and wrong as a matter of course, and rely on consequences as a failsafe - which we do everything to avoid. It's like Winston Churchill said, "Americans can always be counted upon to do the right thing, once they've exhausted all other possibilities." But consequences work on us. They appear to be mayhaps the only thing that does work.

We are not a collective. Humans are individuals, with a potentially infinite variety. Even genetically identical humans are individuals. It's breath-taking, when you think about it. It's also our advantage. Maybe our greatest advantage. We are 7 billion unique biological computers, deft enough to reproduce anything and capable of outside reprogramming through difficult carrot/stick reinforcement mechanisms. Since we can individually make sense of anything - no matter how silly - and we can individually do anything - no matter how damned foolish - then we have essentially created a... server farm, say, of 7 billion processors working on myriad problems. Mathematically, it is possible that we can solve anything, given enough time.

LOL, it's just going to be noisy while we try all the other possibilities first.

*Personally, I blame omnivorism. There's a lot to emotionally unpack in an apex predator species with inherent social herding. We eat meat, we are meat, we've got some issues, yo.

2017-12-06 13:13:08