WILL ANYTHING CHANGE AFTER CHARLOTTESVILLE?

The tragic events of last Saturday again raised the question of what to do about hate in America. Do we hate the hate groups? Do we oppose the hate groups? Do we ignore the hate groups? Do we try to “understand” the hate groups?

Most of us value human life. We may value some humans more than others,  family over friends, friends over strangers, countrymen over foreigners, etc.  A certain degree of dichotomous thinking is natural. A certain degree of us-vs-them is appropriate. So what is the boundary? When is dichotomous thinking a problem?

Dichotomous thinking becomes detrimental when it exacerbates more problems than it addresses. When it makes situations worse rather than better.  Members of so-called hate groups value members of their own race over members of different races. A mass-murderer who is a member of one racial group is more valuable than a generous and benevolent member of another racial group. For now we will put aside the absurd consequences that flow from this line of “reasoning.”  One of our key features as humans is our ability to assign value to the people and things around us. Our values are as individual as we are and trying to tell anyone what they should or should not value is a messy business indeed.

We share the planet with a large number of individuals who assign value to other humans based on race. This is not going to change in our life-times. The question for the rest of us is why do their numbers continue to grow? As the internet allows information to flow so much more freely, why do their ideas spread so easily? Why is the information age failing the causes of logic and reason? The answer is this. Simple black and white, us-vs-them, emotionally laden ideas flow more easily over the internet than do complex, goal-oriented, problem-based ideas.   The former have less informational viscosity and flow like water through the ether.  The later flow like molasses and are easily drowned out by dichotomous noise.

This situation is going to get a lot worse before it starts to get any better. We can expect  a lot more terrorism, racial strife and divisive politics until we recognize the fundamental distinction between dichotomous thinking and analytical thinking, between thoughts and ideas that stem from the cortex vs those that stem from the sub-cortical reptilian brain. This is the real battle line and it is no different than it was in the time of Plato and his three part soul (reason, spirit and desire).

Is there any hope? Is there anything about our time that suggests we might finally achieve what no age before us could? Can our knowledge of the brain be the catalyst? Our knowledge of physics? There have been scientific advances in the past. Can the amazing increase in the volume of mass communication do it?  It certainly has not so far. In fact, the information age has simply accelerated our movement in the wrong direction, away from logic and reason towards more short-term dichotomous thinking. Can heading in the wrong direction at a faster pace help clarify the right direction?

There is one scientific principal whose importance is not widely acknowledged, entropy. We live in a universe driven by ever increasing randomness. Creating any form of order requires work. If there is a problem and 10 people propose 10 different strategies, nothing gets done until enough of them agree on a unified strategy. With the internet those 10 become hundreds of different strategies. Until there is a unified approach to the problem of dichotomous thinking, things will only continue to degenerate.

I humbly propose that ALL thinking people join me in my cause. I propose a framework in which thought information and ideas be categorized based on the degree of dichotomicity, how dichotomous they are.  A framework in which all dichotomous ideas are treated with scepticism. Is the degree of dichotomicity appropriate for the problem at hand?  A framework in which the process by which dichotomous thinking replaces higher level analytical thinking is widely recognized and immediately identified and criticized. A framework in which the self-amplifying nature of dichotomous thinking is widely recognized. Hate begets hate, noise begets noise, partisanship begets partisanship.  A framework centered on understanding the process by which values lead to goals and goals lead to strategies. My solution to the problem of hate is to treat it is as subset of a larger problem.

Hate groups will only stop trying to spread hate when they realize that it is a losing strategy. We will never get them to exchange their values for someone else’s values. What we can do is get them to  question whether the strategy of advocating hate actually supports the goal of promoting the well-being of their racial group. What they fear is humiliation and domination by others.  Humiliation and domination are the by-products of dichotomous thinking. By humiliating and attempting to dominate other races, they are exacerbating rather than addressing the problem. The best way to promote the benefits of any single race is to promote the health and harmony of the society as a whole and create systems that ensures no group is dominated by another.

Will the framework I propose solve these problems by tomorrow? No. Will it change the minds of current members of hate group? A few at best. The reason to adopt this strategy is for the future. If the framework I am proposing were widely disseminated, it would at least start to slow the spread of hate. If children were taught at a young age that we have a big brain and a little brain and bad people manipulate you by getting you to listen to your little brain instead of your big brain, they would be much harder to poison with hate later on.

The greatest barrier to the spread of my idea is this: I will get the credit. It is my idea, not yours. So why should you adopt my idea when you have ideas of your own. Why should you give me the credit if there is a chance you can get credit for solving the fundamental problem of humanity. To this I say,  I claim the role of the Wright brothers as with regard to the airplane or Edison as with regard to municipal power. I am first, but I am not a journalist nor a politician nor an elementary school teacher nor a social scientist.  I do not plan to fight against those in the role of Curtis Jennings (a better designer than the Wright brothers) or Nikola Tesla (whose design for municipal power was better than Edison’s).  I see this idea as a framework on which those more qualified than me will eventually build a better more harmonious world.

 

 

YES, TERRORISTS ARE LOSERS

There is nothing new about calling terrorists evil and it is also true they would probably relish being called “monsters”.  Calling terrorists “losers” in the wake of the Manchester bombing seems, on the surface, to be petty and juvenile. It’s like a big bully taunting a bunch of smaller bullies on a playground.  In the end, however,  this may be an insightful and useful strategy for combating terrorism.

Terrorism is the direct result of dichotomous thinking. Its perpetrators are among the most small-minded people on the planet and that is not going to change any time soon.  The dichotomy they are most deeply concerned with is, of course, the good/evil dichotomy.  Any hope of convincing them that THEY are evil is futile. To them, nothing is more evil than tolerance and other aspects of the modern world.

The only reason a determined terrorist would forgot a terrorist act is the realization that terrorism is an ineffective strategy when the goals are promoting Allah’s Will on earth, diminishing support for Israel or decreasing western involvement in the Middle East. This would require transcending the good/evil dichotomy and embracing the useful/useless dichotomy.  The reason terrorism remains such a difficulty problem is because there is no motivation for terrorist to make this transition. The useful/useless dichotomy assumes some understanding of the goals one is aiming to achieve which is not something the average terrorist has likely given much serious thought.

Calling terrorists losers could be the first step in promoting this transition. The win/lose dichotomy is a favourite of the small-minded.  Unlike the good/evil dichotomy which is purely subjective, the win/lose dichotomy can be tied directly to the stated goals. In the end there is no doubt terrorism is in direct contradiction to Islamic law and leads to more support for Israel and greater western involvement in the Middle East. If the world were united in calling them losers, there is a chance some would-be terrorists may start asking the question we all want to see them ask, “What will this really accomplish?”

STUPIDIY

While it may be counter productive to call someone else stupid, we cannot ignore the existence of stupidity all together. So what is stupidity? What does it mean to be stupid? I propose stupidity comes in 3 forms.

No one has the right to tell me what I should or should not value and I have no right to tell anyone else what they should or should not value. That said, I as stupid those who have no idea what it is they truly value. “The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates/Plato.

Among those who have a reasonably clear idea of what they value, I consider stupid anyone whose goals are clearly inconsistent with those values.

Finally, there are those who have a clear idea of what they value and set reasonable goals or define reasonable problems bases on those goals but pursue counter-productive strategies.

VALUES –> GOALS –> STRATEGIES

TO OPPOSE OR NOT TO OPPOSE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

With the inauguration less than 2 days away, what is the biggest threat facing the United States? Is it really the hyper-conservative agenda HE has promised, or is it the worsening polarization of the nation?

I fully understand the growing opposition towards HIM and HIS upcoming inauguration. I understand the reluctance on the part of many to “Wait and see.” If, however, we ask ourselves what it is we really oppose, I hope I am not alone in believing the central problem is his simple-minded short sighted strategies.

Everything I have been blogging about for the past 5 years is happening. We are in the middle of a self-amplifying epidemic of small-mindedness. “Whose fault is it? Who can we blame? Don’t bother me with facts I don’t like.” HIS election is a 180 degrees step in the wrong direction. Away from true problem solving. Away from high level fact-based analysis. Maybe it wont be so bad. Maybe he will govern in a responsible manner. Only time will tell. There is very little we can do about that, but the one thing we do not want to do is make things worse by adding to the noise.

What is the value to protesting at this stage? What is the value of calling him illegitimate? What is the value of members of congress boycotting the inauguration?  Will it encourage him to change his mind? Of course not. Will it encourage his supporters to question their choice? It will not. All these actions will do is amplify the noise and deepen the polarization.

If he does not turn out to be as bad as many fear, the country will only be hurt by the worsening of the national divide. If, on the other hand, he turns out to be a failure either because he is as inept as his public persona makes him appear or because he can not function outside the corporate environment, then what? What are our priorities? What is most important?

In that case, the most important thing will be for those who were fooled by him to get it. More important even than removing him from office will be that the bulk of his supporter have the space to see what was obvious to the rest of us all along. To see that they were taken in by a con-man.  Unfortunately, as long as the US-vs-THEM narrative supplants the good of the nation, this will not happen. If there is any way for his failure to be blamed on the left or the media, it will only be a question of time before another small-minded con-man succeeds in fooling enough frustrated people to gain the White House again.

Its not HIM we need to defeat, it is the mindset.

VICTORY FOR THE REPTILIAN BRAIN, 11/08/2016

There is no mystery. Surprise maybe, but no mystery. The reptilian brain has once again usurped the cortex and the power of small-mindedness has spoken. The priority now is to start building a world, not where historians ask “How could America have been so stupid?”, but where they already know the answer. A world where historians say “Back then, no one thought about the distinction between the cortex and the reptilian brain.” A world where it is taken for granted that this could not happen again, because today we think with our cortices. Today we focus on problem-based goal-oriented thinking. Today we question the justification of dichotomous thinking. Today, people are not as gullible as they were back then.

It is time to take this problem seriously. It is time to truly think about how we use information, how we categorize information. It is time to ask why the internet is failing us. Why is the greater flow of information associated with an increase in hatred and division? The goal must be to minimize the effects of yesterday’s catastrophe and prevent the next one.

DICHOTOMOUS THINKING: PHASE 3

The idea that the distinction between goal-oriented and dichotomous thinking is a fundamental issue first occurred to me sometime after 9/11. For the first 10 years I simply bounced the idea off friends and family. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I decided to begin blogging and later began tweeting. Over the years I have only become more convinced that this is an issue of the greatest importance. The rise of ISIS, the increase in racial tensions and the choice of candidates in the upcoming U.S. election are, in my mind, clear demonstrations of the power of dichotomous thinking and the ease with which it spreads.

One hour ago, I uploaded my first YouTube video (https://youtu.be/yV9QYy6kzZE).    This video uses excerpts from the presidential debate held on September 26, 20126 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY as source material to attempt to illustrate the distinction between cortical, goal-oriented, problem-based thinking on one hand and simple dichotomous thinking on the other.

The choices of when a speaker was thinking dichotomously or not was made by me and are entirely open to debate. It is just this type of debate that I am hoping to stimulate. It is my firm belief that the battle between the cortex and the reptilian brain is humanities most fundamental problem. The ease with which simple back and white ideas flow over the internet is a threat to our survival as a species. We are in the middle of an epidemic of hate and mistrust fueled by dichotomous thinking.

WHAT IS OUR MOST FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM AS A SPECIES?

I asked this question to a number of individuals at the 5th anniversary celebration of Occupy Wall St in Zuccotti Park in New York City (09/17/16). Here is a summary of the responses I got:

 

Selfishness x 3

Fear x 2

Lack of communication x 2

Ourselves

Lack of understanding of ourselves

Orthodox thinking

Our thoughts cover up our souls

We are trapped by our thoughts

We focus too much on problems, we need to catalyze fairness from within

Greed and megalomania

Violence to greed is destroying our planet

Envy, greed, materialism

Ego

Male dominance

Lack of connection among people

Forgetting our unity

Stratification of the human race (Master-, Puppet-, Sub-humans)

There is a moral crisis caused by rapid change

Poverty and starvation

Lack of a fair system to distribute our goods and services

Lack of political consciousness

War profiteering

Banks and military

International banking system

 

In conversing with each individual, I was able to show how most of the issues raised can be thought of as a direct subset of the larger problem of dichotomous thinking, particularly selfishness, greed, envy and problems related directly to thought or involving division among people. Fear can, at certain times, be beneficial, but is a problem when it leads to inappropriate or counterproductive dichotomous thinking directly interfering with problem-solving.  Dichotomous thinking is the reason for the various forms of division among people. I propose that dichotomous thinking contributes to the more systems oriented problems (last 6 on the list) by enabling gullibility and promoting apathy through distraction.

It has now been 5 years since I began actively blogging on this issue. Despite a lack of success in generating widespread interest in this issue, I have only become more convinced that the framework I am proposing is a useful one and that this is ultimately our most fundamental problem as a species. Nothing has validated this more than the rise of Trrummp whose direct appeal to the reptilian brain has come as a complete shock to many analysts who think primarily with their cortices. I continue to Tweet and several months ago, began working on a book which will attempt to spell this idea out more comprehensively.  As always any thoughts or feedback are greatly appreciated.

MATEEN HAS SINGLE HANDEDLY ELECTED TRRUMMP PRESIDENT, SO WHAT’S NEXT?

When historians ask how the United States could have been so stupid as to elect Donnald Trrummp president, many will look to June 12, 2016 as the pivotal moment. Omar Mateen was probably not on the payroll of the Trrummp campaign nor even aware of how killing scores of people in an Orlando night club would benefit his presidential bid, but his act has done more to cement Trrummp’s victory than any speech or rally or slogan ever could.

June 12, 2016 was a great victory for hatred, fear and violence. It was a victory from which the thinking end of the U.S. population may not recover. What is left for us to argue? How can we justify not excluding Muslims? How can we justify not building walls or not arming average citizens? How can we justify not “Bombing the sh-t out of ” our enemies?

Donnald Trrumnmp will be our next president. It is time to accept this. He will take us and the rest of the world down a catastrophic orgasm of hatred, violence and revenge. The most useful thing the rest of us can do is start now preparing for that day, decades in the future, when people start to ask what went wrong? How did this happen?

If we start now, maybe we can prevent the next Trrummp from coming to power. The only war that matters is between the cortex and the reptilian brain. Between the spirit of problem-solving and small-mindedness. We have lost this battle. Trrummp and his terrorist allies have won. The weapons industry and the prosthetic limp industry are in for some serious profits in the next few years.

Why did this happen? Is it human nature? Is it simply our destiny to cycle between war and peace? I say no. The reason this keeps happening is because they have two natural advantages over us. First, they have the advantage of simpler ideas that flow more easily, especially over the internet. It is much easier to spread hated and fear than the boring and tedious details of solving complex long standing problems. This is why the information age is failing us. This is why we continue to loose the “hearts and minds” battle.

The second natural advantage they have over us is entropy, that tendency of the universe to move towards greater disorder. We may all disagree with Trrummp and his terrorist allies, but entropy prevents us from coming together on a unified strategy of how to combat them. We draw too many distracting distinctions: Republican and Democrat, Muslim and non-Muslim,  American and non-American, criminal and non-criminal. It is my hope that, when we look back on this period in history, we finally realize WE COULD HAVE DEFEATED TRRUMMP had we realized where the fundamental distinction lies. It is between the cortex and the reptilian brain. It is between problem-solving and noise making. It is time for a unified strategy against stupidity.

Only history will tell if comparing Trrummp to Hitler is hyperbole or not. With the combination of his thin skin and the nuclear codes, he could in fact kill far more people than did Hitler. But this argument, too is a distraction. Even if it turns out that comparing Trrummp to Hitler is like comparing catching a cold to dying of AIDS, the comparison is still worth making. The problem is in the mindset. It is the dichotomous, black and white, us-v-them thought process they both share. Had more of the German people of the early 1930’s recognized the dichotomous nature of Hitler’s arguments and questioned the true utility of blame, the world might have been spared the subsequent horror. So to, if our education system had started 30 or 40 years ago to teach children the fundamental nature of the distinction between the cortex and the reptilian brain as well as the distinction between problem-solving and dichotomous thinking, Trrummp would not stand an chance today. A far greater number of people today would simply ask “Will more hatred, fear and violence really solve our fundamental problems?” and “Can we really take such a simplistic approaches to such complex problems?”

Similarly if Muslim families and Muslim clerics had started teaching children decades ago the distinction between loving God with the heart and serving God with the brain, terrorist recruiters would having a much more difficult time convincing young people that the way to serve God is by murdering innocent people. The futile nature of this dichotomous strategy would be obvious.

I hope I am wrong, but it appears the deck is stacked against us. It is simply too late for this round. I suggest that our priority turn towards the survival of our species.  Whatever happens in the next few decades, we will survive as a species, but the question remains: how many more rounds of this can we take? If we start now to address the fundamental problem, we might be able to make this humanities’ final round of senseless dichotomous stupidity.

DICHOTOMOUS PEJORATIVES

A very insightful Twitter contact (@pallobberjot) recently raised the question of whether promoting the concept of BigBrain/LittleBrain will encourage the casting of dispersions on other. This is one of the few times someone has raised an issue relevant to what I like to call Step#2. It if far too complex an issue to address through Twitter.

Step#1 is recognizing the importance of the distinction and the struggle between problem-based/goal-oriented thinking and Black&White/Dualistic/Dichotomous thinking. Once the importance of this distinction is recognized, Step#2 is realizing that dichotomous thinking is not always bad. The key is to treat DT with suspicion and to require dichotomies be justified.

If my idea were to be widely adopted, the short run would likely see an increase in the use of “Little Brain” or “Alligator Brain” as pejoratives, especially among children. Avoiding the idea because of this concern would be like telling the Wright brothers to stop what they are doing because people are going to get hurt.

People do not need an excuse to insult each other. When it comes to some individuals (terrorists, mass murderers) pejoratives are generally acceptable. What I am proposing is a framework within which to justify pejoratives. In the world I envision, pejoratives would be justified for 2 general reasons. First, an individual with no goals or stupid goals. Second, an individual with reasonable goals who proposes or actually takes actions that are not consistent with achieving those goals. Dichotomous thinking is usually the reason for the latter.

People who join terrorists organizations for the excitement are examples of the first group while people who join terrorist organizations because they think they are promoting God’s Will on earth are examples of the latter.

We all have a Big Brain and a Little Brain so the pejorative should not be in the form of “You are stupid, you have a little brain.” It will eventually be “You are stupid because you are USING your little brain when you should be using your big brain.” “Your arguments/proposals/ideas are too dichotomous, for such a complex issue.”

We all know very intelligent, skilled, talented people who make stupid choices. Why? They are thinking with the little brain rather than the big brain. The reptilian brain has shut out the cortex. On the flip side, insulting someone solely on the basis of a limited intelligence would be seen as making dichotomous noise. To the degree we feel justified in judging anyone, it should be on the basis of how they use the brains they have, on HOW they think rather that WHAT they think.

IT IS TIME TO DECLARE WAR ON DICHOTOMOUS THINKING

As the dust settles in Paris, self-amplifying dichotomous noise reverberates. Extremists celebrate a “Victory.”  Hawks ask “Who is to blame? Who should we be killing?” Muslims in Paris brace for more Islamophobia. Pundits scratch their heads in disbelief and everyone wonders what will happen next? Of course the law enforcement community should go after the perpetrators and the intelligence community should continue to try to identify and disrupt similar organizations, but there is something the rest of us need to start doing. Its time to declare war on the real problem, the human problem, the problem we have been dealing with since we lived in caves.

For years I have resisted putting it this way, but I think it is time for an all-out war on dichotomous thinking. Every time there is a serious problem, our approach is to declare war on something.  “War on Terror” sounds good, but it is clearly not working. Perhaps it is time for a new approach in addition.  I propose the word “dichotomous”  become an immediate part of the lexicon. I propose it be recognized as referring to the process by which simplistic Black-and-White or dualistic thinking usurps or interferes with higher level problem-based goal oriented thinking.  I propose the terms cortex and reptilian brain be used to support this distinction. I propose that educators adopt, as a priority, anti-radicalization curricula based on the idea that everyone has two brains in their heads, a big brain and a little brain.  The next generation needs to be more resistant to radicalization.

It is time to stop tolerating arguments centered exclusively around blame. We have to start pointing out every time a small-minded idea is used to usurp a goal directed process.  As much as we may deplore “evil”, it is time to start treating “evil people” and “evil acts” as problems that need to be solved rather than things that need to be “opposed” because they are “wrong” . This means cortical thinking. This means nuance. The information age is failing us and we are loosing the battle because simplistic dichotomous ideas flow so much more easily over the internet. It is much easier to spread hatred and division than problem-solving and cooperation. It is time to recognize this process. Rather than attacking specific people or ideas, it is time to start attacking a mindset.

No amount of killing or bombing will frighten the terrorists into submission. Every dead terrorist only amplifies the noise and promotes radicalization. It is just as stupid for us to think this will solve the problem as it is for them to think that acts like the killings that took place in Paris yesterday will somehow lead to the West embracing Islam or adopting Sharia law or even ending its involvement in Middle Eastern  affairs.

Otherwise normal people will stop turning to terrorism not because they are afraid but because they realize that randomly murdering people does not promote the presumed goals of spreading Islam, brining about Sharia law or curbing Islamophobia. The one and only barrier to this realization is dichotomous thinking.  “Attack the evil doers.  Make them suffer” in place of “What are we really trying to accomplish and how  can we accomplish it.” There is not much we can do about those that are already radicalized but we will never stop the spread of radicalization without acknowledging the contribution of dichotomous thinking to the process.

I fully realize that taking on the DT problem today will not do much to improve our current situation with regard to the growth of terrorism.  No matter what, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Beyond that, the debate over how much violence to inflict and on whom will simply reduce to how far down the road do we want to kick the can.  The sooner the rest of us start to address the root problem, the sooner we have a chance at turning the corner.

The only battle that really matters is between the cortex and the reptilian brain.