Current Social and Political Situation
As earlier discussed and summarized below, we have the alt-Right in this country, and the illiberal Left, for simplicity let’s call them the alt-Left – each with alternate neurorealities based on alternate truths and alternate facts. That’s unneureal. The following are conclusions presented in earlier Chapters.
Chapter 20: We Are Very Far From Our Genetic Roots.
Recall our 180 degrees of change in the last 10,000 years from the evolutionarily and genetically selected, and now neurologically hardwired tribal instinct that was necessary for survival and resulted in the dominance of Homo sapiens in the time from 4 million to 10,000 years ago. 10,000/4 million = ¼ of 1 percent. In the last ¼ of 1 percent of its time in existence, humanity has created a society that is 180 degrees different from the one it evolutionarily created in the earlier 99.75 percent of its human history. As a visual, picture this above World Population Graph, with the baseline extending to the left 399 times it s present length, which is about the length of a football field. As can be seen, we are now very far from our genetic roots.
Chapter 23: Fantasy Becomes Reality
In the extraordinarily complex society of today, the instinctive cognitive bias, the resulting confirmation bias, that generated the argumentative theory and the tribal ethos, that then lead by extension to the warrior ethos, may all very well be present in the 100 billion neurons in your brain helping to generate one’s perception of reality, one’s neuroreality. And as proposed by Andersen in Fantasyland, that neuroreality may not reflect true reality. It’s in our genes. Our perception of reality, our neuroreality, has been in our genes since the advent of Australopithecus and cognitive bias 4 million years ago or perhaps much earlier, to Homo habilis 3 million years ago and confirmation bias, to Homo erectus 2 million years ago and argumentative theory, all the while generating the tribal ethos resulting in the warrior ethos that lead Homo sapiens out of Africa 70,000 years ago.
Chapter 24: Our Current President
The neurorealities of Trump as described above and Miller, as Tapper said, “Welcome back to planet earth” are quite far from actual reality. Consider earlier mentioned the neurorealities of Einstein in his theories of relativity (1905, 1915), Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution (1859) and in 1620 Francis Bacon’s description of the scientific method of thinking and his statement of confirmation bias? (In Science and Fantasyland Chapters 9 and 22). These are key perceptions of reality as they really exist, they are truth, and they are real. Let’s call their perceptions neureal, in these areas Einstein, Darwin and Bacon think neureally, their neurorealities are examples of neurealism. As far as Trump and his perceptions of reality as described earlier, they are unneureal, Trump thinks unneureally, his neuroreality is an example of unneurealism.
Chapter 25: The Same Unneureality Exists on the Left
The neurorealities of the illiberal Left as described earlier are quite far from actual reality. Consider earlier mentioned the neurorealities of Einstein in his theories of relativity (1905, 1915), Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution (1859) and in 1620 Francis Bacon’s description of the scientific method of thinking and his statement of confirmation bias? (In Science and Fantasyland Chapters 9 and 22). These are key perceptions of reality as they really exist, they are truth, and they are real. Let’s call their perceptions neureal, in these areas Einstein, Darwin and Bacon think neureally, their neurorealities are examples of neurealism. As far as the illiberal Left’s perceptions of reality as described above, they are unneureal, the illiberal Left thinks unneureally, their neurorealities are examples of unneurealism.
In the extraordinarily complex society of today, the instinctive cognitive biases, the resulting confirmation bias with argumentative theory and the tribe mentality stoked by the warrior ethos may very well be present in the 100 billion neurons in our brain helping to generate someone’s perception of reality, someone’s neuroreality, and as proposed by Andersen in Fantasyland, as well as by Powers in The Silencing, and expanded upon by myself, that neuroreality may not always reflect true reality, it may be unneureal. It’s in our genes, it’s been in our genes for a very long time: cognitive bias probably developing over the course of 200,000 million years of mammalian evolution including Australopithecus; to confirmation bias in Homo habilis; to the tribal ethos and argumentative theory, where truth doesn’t matter, winning the argument and gaining power does in Homo erectus; all the while generating the tribal ethos resulting in the warrior ethos that lead Homo sapiens out of Africa 70,000 years ago.
Chapter 26: The Upside-Down Bell Curve
Note among the politically engaged the upside-down bell curve develops in 2014 and presents itself in 2017. If a bell curve is considered normal, why do we as a society among the politically active and influential have an upside-down bell curve, is that abnormal? Why are we so polarized? The answer lies in the human brain and neurological evolution. It’s in our genes, it’s been in our genes for a very long time: cognitive bias probably developing over the course of late mammalian evolution and present in Australopithecus; to conformation bias in Homo habilis; to the tribe and argumentative theory, where truth doesn’t matter, winning the argument and gaining power does in Homo erectus; all the while generating the tribal ethos resulting in the warrior ethos that lead Homo sapiens out of Africa 70,000 years ago to dominate the world. Our genetically evolved and present cognitive, confirmation, tribal and argumentative biases shape our polarized perceptions of the world around us, and our warrior ethos finds others of similar mind to battle the opposing party. Does it have to be this way? Can your human consciousness be aware of this predisposition and keep it in check, putting value in moderation, reason and truth? Can your neuroreality be neureal and not unneural? Ben Franklin addressed that question after the Constitutional Convention: “We’ve given you a republic, but can you keep it?”
Chapter 27: Yin and Yang
Maybe if we understand that we live in an extraordinarily complex world, and become aware of our evolutionarily selected cognitive biases that resulted in our confirmation biases that led to the tribe and argumentative state of mind which was then stoked by the warrior ethos, which has created this political polarization, we can reign in these human traits that have evolved over millions of years. Perhaps we could take a step back, try and detach ourselves from this genetic predisposition, and try and be a bit more rational rather than emotional in our political positions and discussions, seek truth rather than argument, listen, and reduce the amount of polarization and vitriol present in our society.
So let’s try and get away from alt-Left and alt-Right polarization, move towards the more rational Center, integrating aspects of both Yin and Yang so our society resembles more the functional tribe from whence we genetically and evolutionarily came.
Before we delve into Chapter 29 and address various political issues in the US, let’s take a look at the opinion of Zeynep Tufekci as expressed in an article in the New York Times, March 2018, titled: YouTube, the Great Radicalizer. This article sums up quite well the impact of the Digital Revolution on society today, and fits quite well with Thesis 1:
Maybe if we become aware of our evolutionarily selected cognitive biases that resulted in our confirmation biases, which led to the argumentative state of mind and is fired up by our tribal and warrior ethos, all of which have caused our political polarization, we can reign in these genetically selected and neurologically expressed human traits that have evolved over millions of years. Perhaps we could take a step back, try and detach ourselves from this genetic predisposition, and try and be a bit more rational rather than emotional in our political positions and discussions, seek truth rather than argument, listen, and reduce the amount of polarization and vitriol present in our society.
Here are quotes from Tufekci's article:
At one point during the 2016 presidential election campaign, I watched a bunch of videos of Donald Trump rallies on YouTube. I was writing an article about his appeal to his voter base and wanted to confirm a few quotations.
Soon I noticed something peculiar. YouTube started to recommend and “autoplay” videos for me that featured white supremacist rants, Holocaust denials and other disturbing content.
Since I was not in the habit of watching extreme right-wing fare on YouTube, I was curious whether this was an exclusively right-wing phenomenon. So I created another YouTube account and started watching videos of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, letting YouTube’s recommender algorithm take me wherever it would.
Before long, I was being directed to videos of a leftish conspiratorial cast, including arguments about the existence of secret government agencies and allegations that the United States government was behind the attacks of Sept. 11. As with the Trump videos, YouTube was recommending content that was more and more extreme than the mainstream political fare I had started with.
Intrigued, I experimented with nonpolitical topics. The same basic pattern emerged. Videos about vegetarianism led to videos about veganism. Videos about jogging led to videos about running ultramarathons.
It seems as if you are never “hard core” enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.
This is not because a cabal of YouTube engineers is plotting to drive the world off a cliff. A more likely explanation has to do with the nexus of artificial intelligence and Google’s business model. (YouTube is owned by Google.) For all its lofty rhetoric, Google is an advertising broker, selling our attention to companies that will pay for it. The longer people stay on YouTube, the more money Google makes.
What keeps people glued to YouTube? Its algorithm seems to have concluded that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with — or to incendiary content in general.
YouTube has recently come under fire for recommending videos promoting the conspiracy theory that the outspoken survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., are “crisis actors” masquerading as victims. Jonathan Albright, a researcher at Columbia, recently “seeded” a YouTube account with a search for “crisis actor” and found that following the “up next” recommendations led to a network of some 9,000 videos promoting that and related conspiracy theories, including the claim that the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.
What we are witnessing is the computational exploitation of a natural human desire: to look “behind the curtain,” to dig deeper into something that engages us. As we click and click, we are carried along by the exciting sensation of uncovering more secrets and deeper truths. YouTube leads viewers down a rabbit hole of extremism, while Google racks up the ad sales.
Human beings have many natural tendencies that need to be vigilantly monitored in the context of modern life. For example, our craving for fat, salt and sugar, which served us well when food was scarce, can lead us astray in an environment in which fat, salt and sugar are all too plentiful and heavily marketed to us. So too our natural curiosity about the unknown can lead us astray on a website that leads us too much in the direction of lies, hoaxes and misinformation.
This situation is especially dangerous given how many people — especially young people — turn to YouTube for information. Google’s cheap and sturdy Chromebook laptops, which now make up more than 50 percent of the pre-college laptop education market in the United States, typically come loaded with ready access to YouTube.
This state of affairs is unacceptable but not inevitable. There is no reason to let a company make so much money while potentially helping to radicalize billions of people, reaping the financial benefits while asking society to bear so many of the costs.