Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Thinking About it

The rapidly tiring fad of the day is that we’re all going to collectively meet our end from nuclear war, asteroids, global warming, a pandemic, financial collapse, bad diet, a nuclear meltdown, acid rain, cancer, an ice age, violent crime, toxins, an old age home, aliens or any number of other immediate “threats” that are use to continually scare us into passivity.  This month it’s, ummm, errr, …., don’t know, I forget.

Ironically, the real threat to humanity seems to come directly from us. Most people, most of the time are walking around doing things, making choices, interacting, but they have their brains completely shut off. They’re over-whelmed by the exponentially increasing complexity of our societies, and in response to this, they’ve decided that trying to get anything done -- anything at all, even if it is stupid -- is far better than having to sort out the underlying problems. It’s full speed ahead, right over the cliff.

Of course, this shallow depth and complete loss of reason or responsibility simply makes the underlying problems worse. In response to the failure of existing rules, politicians simply create more stupid rules. In response to people loosing faith in the major media, the journalists turn to even more outrageous stories. In response to lawsuit lotteries, we just get more and more weasel disclaimers and less people willing to stand up to admit the truth. In response to the “cause of the day” most believers just spout propaganda, without even trying to understand the real issues.

The farther down we dig, the more people just shut off their brains and try not to think about the brewing insanity. Eventually our rampant loss of intelligence will just overwhelm us, and everything will collapse around it. We’ll just be wandering around in a daze saying “I thought you were going to take care of that!”.

And don’t think that we’re going to be saved from this horrific fate by some unknown “smart people”. It seems as if intelligence is inversely proportional to thoughtfulness. That is, the longer someone has spent trying to fill their brains with very deep knowledge about a very deep subject, the more likely they seem to just shutdown their thinking with regard to everything else. We get experts that know everything about a tiny slice of our collective knowledge, but nearly nothing else. A room full of super-bright specialists talking about general issues has a phenomenally low collective intelligence (thus the failure of most committees).

Our biggest impending threat is that even though we are an intelligent species (barely), we aren’t utilizing our one and only advantage. We’re all just cruising through life, with only some minuscule percentage of our population ever thinking hard about stuff, and they’re only thinking about the stuff that is fun to think about. Everything else is getting intentionally ignored (and is only going to get worse).