Why do humans have a hard time getting along?
There are so many possible causes of conflict.
At one level, the default settings for humanity are that we would rather be right than be in relationship. It seems that this is the direct result of the way in which our reflective self awareness is bootstrapped into being via a declaration in language that it is wrong. Being wrong becomes something to be avoided, hence being right dominates.
It takes something to become aware of this, and choose another way of being, and few people manage it.
Once established in our neural network, this pattern tends to recur at all new levels; so requires constant vigilance to create something else.
Once the “honeymoon” period of relationship is over, being right tends to degrade relationships.
At another level entirely, people often have different ways of interpreting situations and reacting to situations. At times of low stress these differences are easily tolerated. At times of high stress these small difference can be magnified out of all proportion.
This is not related to being made wrong (though often being made wrong is a component of the situation); but is rather a function of the way our brains have evolved to narrow focus and direct attention in times of stress. Over our evolutionary history of facing predators in the savannah it was a really useful trait, living in a close confines with someone under stress from mortgage or work it is not such a useful trait.
At another level, we are often not consciously aware of things going on in our subconscious, and often the subconscious goings on leak out into expression in some aspect of who we are being.
We may not be consciously aware of a sneer on our face, and the sneer is there none-the-less.
Such things can be an ongoing source of conflict in relationship.
At another level, many people have a relatively small group of people that they regard as being truly human. For some it is family, for some tribe, for some gang, for some those who profess a particular belief set. For such people, people outside that small set occur as less than human, and slightly more interesting than animals, so can be treated as entertainment value by whatever means produces the most entertaining outcomes.
At another level, some people really do have the emotional connections in their brains “cross wired”. This can happen due to genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors; and the outcome is the same in each case, that they do genuinely experience pleasure in the pain of others. For these unfortunates it is not a conscious choice, but a fact of chemistry.
Then there are an infinite class of possible justifications that anyone can create for doing something to someone else. We have evolved as cooperative apes, yet raw cooperation is unstable and vulnerable to cheating, so evolution has had to supply attendant strategies that prevent cheating. These strategies give us tendencies to jealousy and a sense of injustice and a drive for vengeance. Unfortunately, these can be triggered by accident, but once triggered often end up in a righteous reciprocal spiral.
So all things considered, that we manage to maintain relationships with anyone is little short of miraculous.
Often it is other powerful drives that hold us in relationship.
And sometimes, just sometimes, we manage to transcend all of the pitfalls inherent in being human, and create a level of acceptance that promotes and sustains relationship at all levels of being.
I find it interesting that you wrote only of seeking agreement (or not) with other people, and wrote nothing of seeking alignment of understanding with reality.
I understand the strong social pressures to seek agreement with each other, and observe all the cultural variants that result from that.
I see in science something quite distinct, which is to seek, through testing, alignment of our models with reality, and then to use those models creatively, to both create abundance and security in the physical reality within which we seem to find ourselves, and to create alignment at higher levels of abstraction and awareness.
And for me, the alignment with reality has a clear precedence over any sort of human social level agreement.
So in that sense, I am willing and able to be a heretic to any set of beliefs, if my experience in reality strongly suggests that it is required of me.
I do not (nor do I advocate) follow for the sake of following, or agree for the sake of agreement.
I most certainly seek agreement where possible, and my integrity (which is my highest choice) requires of me that all such agreement be compatible with the most reliable evidence I have of reality (acknowledging the fundamental uncertainties in everything – so no comfort of absolute certainty here at any level).
So if the evidence from reality is such that it calls me to disagree with all other humans, then that is what I do.
Integrity (my highest level choice), for me, makes that demand.
And the same integrity has convinced me that it is possible to create technical and social structures that support all human beings in the highest levels of security and freedom, with the diversity that must result in all dimensions of being.
And that vision is firmly grounded in an uncertain reality, in an analogous fashion to how it is possible to build a firm and stable house on a swamp by putting hundreds of bamboo poles into the swamp, and firmly lashing them together. Each pole provides only a little floatation, a little support, and the combined effect of all those many small supports gives a stability that is not hinted at if one considers the supports in isolation. The millions of experiments carried out and accurately reported in the name of science are those supporting poles. Each one uncertain in itself, yet the resulting structure remarkably resilient in areas that have been thoroughly tested and explored (and there will eternally be boundaries where uncertainty prevails – such is the nature of infinity).
Hi Torch, Judi, FOS, Randy and lurkers,
Thank you for the posts, most particularly Torch.
A lot in what you wrote Torch, a lot that I align with and some that is not in alignment with my experience.
The two major areas I wish to explore are freedom and reality, and after much consideration I will start with reality.
Both Torch and Judi raised the idea that reality is subjective.
That does not appear to be so in my experience and understanding.
What in fact seems to be the case is that our experience of reality is subjective, but reality itself is objective – this is something that many people have a hard time appreciating.
It seems that we do in fact live in an objective reality, but we have no direct access to that reality.
It seems that our consciousness is a “software entity” and as such can only directly deal with other software.
It seems that our brains use the information from our senses, combined with our past experience, to create a predictive model of reality, which is what we each get to experience as reality.
Thus our experience of reality is subjective, as we each only ever get to experience our own models, and these models are our own.
And at the same time, there does seem to exist an objective reality, that none of us have any direct experience of, that does seem to be one of the major inputs into our experiential models of reality, via the dual paths of current sensory input and recalled patterns of past experience.
The issue is that our neural networks make distinctions (categories) and classify our sensory input as belonging to certain categories, and present us with the expected distinction, rather than the raw data.
The reason this happens, is that our brains have to be predictive in nature, as there is always a delay imposed on information coming from our senses, as it has to create chemical conditions to start a nerve “firing”, then the signal transmission along nerves is actually rather slow, and then there are all the between nerve synaptic transmission and reception chemicals, with all of their delays and inhibition and excitation properties. So in order to be able to respond to reality in real time, it seems our brains have had to evolve an ability to present a predictive model of reality to our awareness that is about a third of a second ahead – to give us time to make decisions. This seems to be a large part of what our neocortex does – it is an amazing piece of general purpose hardware.
So when you each wrote reality is subjective, I say no.
Our experience of reality is subjective, reality is objective (and far weirder and more complex than any of our models will ever be able to cope with).
And to be clear, I am not claiming any access to objective reality; I have the same limits as everyone else. I can only experience reality through my model of reality. What is different is that my model now contains a model of the model of itself modelling reality (the sort of thing that a computer programmer really loves to do, creating models in software).
So in my model:
Reality is objective, but we have no objective access to reality.
Our experiential reality is subjective, mediated by the model of reality that our brains create for us to experience.
So in my world it is possible to discuss an existential objective reality, provided we acknowledge that we have no direct access to it, and we acknowledge the subjective nature of the clues we have to what the objective reality might be. This leaves us with yet another layer of fundamental uncertainty in our dealings with reality.
For me, science offers something very different to any of the cultural paradigms predating it.
Science has developed a large set of mathematical and logical tools to allow us to make quantitative assessments of (put useful numbers on) the probabilities that our subjective experiences are in fact useful indicators of the objective reality. Science assists us to develop tools, both hardware and software, to extend the range of our experience of reality, and to shape and refine our models as a result.
From my own direct experience, and from my investigations into neurophysiology, and from my investigations into generalised computational spaces (with much thanks to Stephen Wolfram, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Alan Turing in the particular, and many others) it is clear to me that the experience of being human is multi-modal (perhaps infinitely recursively so). Discovering new modes of personal experience is a profound event for each of us, interpreting those events has been problematic in history – which is not to deny many profound spiritual truths that are embedded in many spiritual traditions, and it is a challenge to the frameworks of all spiritual traditions.
Freedom is an interesting idea.
It seems that all freedom is constrained by reality, and all actions have consequences (including inaction).
Thus freedom has various boundaries either side of it.
Yes we are free to jump off cliffs, or drive at 200km/hour on the opposite side of the road to everyone else; and the probability of surviving such events is very small (consequence).
There is a very old saying – Nature to be commanded must first be obeyed.
We need to acknowledge the rules of objective reality (in as far as they are known to us) if we are to operate effectively in it (one of which rules appears to be we can have no direct access to it).
We have developed many technologies that can be very dangerous if not handled in accord with the rules of objective reality. Cars are one example; there are millions of others.
It is actually unsafe for all of us to have people driving cars on the wrong side of the road.
Similarly with the models of reality we use to make decisions in this complex world.
It is actually unsafe for all of us, in some situations, to have people operating from models that do not give a sufficiently accurate access to objective reality (some models deny objective reality altogether – these are amongst the most dangerous of all).
So yes – I am all for freedom, and freedom is not freedom from consequence, it is not freedom from objective reality – these are things that need to be acknowledged – for the safety of all.
And having acknowledged them, we can then continue exploring the infinite available paths in the realm of the possible (occasionally making mistakes and bumping into the realm of the impossible, cleaning up the mess, and continuing).
One of the things that I find most dangerous about our current market based system, is the huge incentive to promote misinformation (at all levels) in the search for, or maintenance of, power or money. It seems clear to me that the vast bulk of the information available on the internet is quite intentionally false in some essential manner. Finding one’s way in such a place is extremely difficult and fraught with dangers.
So yes – I am an unabashed champion for freedom; and even for the freedom to make mistakes, and not for the freedom to cause significant harm to others through recklessness.
For me, any failure to acknowledge the existence of objective reality is recklessness at the lowest possible level.
I’m not claiming to have any definitive understanding of what objective reality is, and I am claiming that the case for the existence of an objective reality is proven beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt – 99.99999999%+ probability.
Reality is not subjective, it is objective.
Our experience of reality is subjective. It seems that we can only infer the existence of the objective from the experience of the subjective.
Confusing the two is extremely dangerous – for self and others.
There is much more you wrote of Torch that we could discuss, and I think this is enough for one post.
Thank you all, Judi and Torch most particularly, for being willing to engage in this conversation.