At this point in history, we are ripe to have the conversation among humanity that most will not mention even in whispers: most of us are crazy. We go crazy in groups, but as individuals, we become personally territorial instead of collaborative.
The first step in that process is a contrarian/ironist pathology of reality denial. “Anything but the obvious” becomes the only permissible topic of conversation, simply because the obvious is the everyday and the massive topics of great import, and those are personally dangerous to our social standing.
While your average human likes to talk about “free will” and other notions where we, as individuals totally in control, make informed decisions, it becomes increasingly clear that we are expressions of whatever brain impulse we had that was strongest at the time.
Normally, the impulses that are highest are from the self, so we tend to be solipsistic, narcissistic, egotist, or the combination of those, individualistic. We deny reality not because we know it but because we prefer echoes from our own brains.
In the same way, we treat the world as if it were another human. We bargain with it, try to shame it, and often negotiate, even if only in our own heads. When something goes wrong, we feel that it consciously wronged us; when something goes well, we feel that it loves us.
This means that we are not thinking clearly. We are not studying reality, figuring out how it works, and making our own version so that we can adapt and thrive. Instead, we are replacing reality with a human order in a desire to beat the other ape as which we see reality in our own minds.
Once we get past the illusions of free will and human sanity, we can start to look at how humans are rational but lack context for that reason, therefore default to basic behaviors like a sports crowd after the third beer.
Civilization will always be a temporary state until we can get our tendency to view the world in the wrong context under control. Modernity is defined by individualism; we view the world as an individual, in terms of our individual wants, and deny the obvious which consists of that which we fear as individuals.
Our minds generally create a number of responses to any stimulus regardless of whether it is internal or external. A man walking through the forest sees a wolf, and he immediately has dueling impulses to flee or fight, possibly another for “freeze” or “hide.”
Whatever impulse is strongest wins out. An impulse gets little boosts from other things the person notices. For example, if the terrain is rough, he cannot outrun the wolf; “fight” gets a boost. If the wolf is ill, “flee” (slowly) gets a boost.
If he is crazy, he might have other impulses as well, like to say that he is Jesus and ask the wolf to follow him. These reflect bad mental wiring, probably through mutations or damage, and so nature weeds out those threads of thinking with natural selection (wolf eats man, yum).
Humans do not think in parallel of all of their options. They defer to the lower brain for that. When encountering direct problems and risks, this approach is probably the fastest and nearly as accurate as any other.
For complex questions like civilization, it simply serves to confuse us. The first strong impulse becomes our assumption and because it is hard to parse everything else, fewer boosts occur to check it by raising other competing impulses, so we stick with the first impression.
This gives us an insight into what we might call psychological economics: how people make choices based on a market competition for the most empowering or risk-reducing option. Humans can be perfectly rational yet make horrible choices, and this reflects that situation.
When we view human behavior as a cluster of impulses with one chosen by the ego or reflexes instead of a free will, the idea that the human mind operates like an economy choosing between options for expressions of power and safety makes more sense. Sometimes the best product is not the best answer.
We can see some trends in these behaviors:
Most humans will prioritize what is close to them in time, space, and self-esteem over what is distant and intangible. What their friend group rewards, their peers (coworkers, neighbors) like, and what their bosses approve of will be rewarded in the near term therefore generates a stronger impulse.
Their impulses can get little boosts from things around them, which is how advertising works. A person trying to decide whether to bring lunch from home or go out at lunch may recall an ad for a local fast food joint that emphasized how easy it was to just drop in and grab gooey food.
In addition, negative impulses rule us, which is why politics is the domain of them. Fears give boosts to any option but the impulse in question, so if we psychologically attach fear to a certain option like fighting, people will resort to fleeing as their standard response.
As long as we go on believing in free will, we will never acknowledge where we are deceived by appealing to the ways we deceive ourselves. Perhaps the first principle of psychological economics is that admitting its existense provokes an existential self-esteem crisis in the human being.
Tags: psychological economics, psychology, rationalism, rationality