Is ignorance the biggest catastrophe in our society today?

Is ignorance the biggest catastrophe in our society today?

[ 18/7/20 ]


We are all, eternally and necessarily ignorant to some significant degree – the more one actually learns of mathematics and logic and cosmology and biology the more one begins to appreciate the necessary depths of ignorance.

One of the major problems we have is the flip side of that coin, the arrogance that comes from ignorance and over simplification of complexity. And to some degree some of that is necessary, as reality often demands of all of us that we make rapid decisions on very little information, and has done so since life emerged, so the subconscious processes and structures of our brain do that for us, leading to us experiencing as “reality” something that is already many orders of magnitude simplified from what seems to actually be out there beyond our perceptions and experiences. In this sense it seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that we all live in our own personal virtual realities within the larger objective reality, and must necessarily always do so. Awareness of that fact can bring a certain humility to discussions with someone using a very different set of models.

The many levels of “structure” within brain and culture that push us towards social agreement over trust in our own sets of distinctions and abstractions and awareness are a big part of the problem. This tends to make “being right” in the social sense far more important to most people than actually being in agreement with reality (whatever it actually is).

One of the biggest catastrophes of our society is the use of AI algorithms on social media and advertising platforms to optimise feeds for the simple metric of attention time on screen. These algorithms know nothing of the historical significance and relevance of the many levels and sets of biases in our brains, but they do in fact exploit them to get eyes on screen time (and thence probability of spend at some level). The effect of this is to amplify difference. People end up in echo chambers of like minded people; and small errors that in the past would have been smoothed out by normal social interaction with trusted people with different sets of understanding, no longer have those sets of interactions, and so the difference amplify.

We see this process driving people to extremes on simple polarities that are themselves simplifications of hugely more dimensional structures.

Those ways of thinking self reinforce, as they tend to exclude anything that doesn’t reinforce their pet bias (whatever it happens to be).

One might naively think of this as ignorance, and in one sense it is, but in another sense it is intentional exploitation of ignorance for very short term gain with huge long term risk.

More people need to understand the mathematical and logical necessity underpinning the emergence of all levels of complexity in evolved systems:
complexity can only emerge and survive in cooperative contexts.

Competitive contexts always lead (over the long term) to the destruction of complexity and the removal of freedom.

Modern economic dogma that evolution is all about the creative aspect of competition could not be more wrong if it tried. And that subject is deeply complex – even for someone like me who has spent over 50 years exploring it.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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