Brain bugs II

I stumbled upon the following tweet-storm the other day. It’s just too relevant to what I see in the longboard community not to post.

Turi Munthe (of Parlia) wrote:
“We lie to ourselves all the time. In fact, our thinking processes evolved to help us lie to ourselves about the facts around us.

Because being accurate about the world around you was often less important than agreeing with the people around you. Whether the earth sits on a giant serpent, or is flat, or was created by a warty, self-immolating mini-god (I see you Nanahuatl) ONLY has an impact on your life if you disagree with the majority – just ask Giordano Bruno. 🔥🔥🔥

In other words, it made more evolutionary sense to be wrong with others than it is to be right alone. Others provide us with a sense of belonging, group solidarity, protection, even status.
Ideas? They’re only really important as stories that bind us. We are programmed therefore to privilege the emotional impact of a fact over its accuracy.

Not convinced? What does it make you feel when I tell you Adolf Hitler was an exceptional speaker? That process of weighing the emotional value of an idea (does it threaten my identity, does it attack my in-group, does it confuse my sense of the world) ABOVE its truthfulness is called ‘motivated reasoning’. And we all do it.
In fact, as @drvox has put it: “Motivated reasoning is likely what cognition is for.”
And there’s masses of evidence to suggest that the cleverer and more educated we are, the better (or worse) we are at it. [See @d_a_robson‘s ‘Intelligence Trap’]

All that would be fine except:
1. motivated reasoning gets in the way of truth. It’s why scientists spend so long trying to take themselves out of their experiments, and making sure they’re repeatable by others.
2. motivated reasoning accentuates the divides that already exist in society along value-lines. Liberals refuse to accept any data or evidence that would suggest a Conservative policy might objectively be better, and vice versa.
3. motivated reasoning is massively, explicitly and perilously thwarting our capacity to deal with the existential threat of Climate Change.”

Zaene responded:
I guess a lot of people are just not interested in the theory, also it’s extremely uncomfortable for them as it’s pretty complex – starting with a simple concept as “force”. So they want to help and talk about what worked for them without having bad intentions. It’s hard to get the best answers from a big community of anonymous users but you can always ask clarifying questions and go further: what advantages does x have over that, what is yours answer based on and so on.

Perhaps I do make a mistake thinking people would even care about the theory. But I don’t assume bad intentions: I fully acknowledge people in forums simply like skating and talking about it and just want to be chill.

That said, I do notice a few rather more sinister tendencies. One is what I mentioned above, namely that unpopular opinions are violently suppressed. Another is, when people don’t understand you, not only do they take their lack of understanding as proof you’re wrong, but also get extremely angry at you. Actually, simple questions like the ones Zaene mentioned do make people feel attacked. Another thing I’ve noticed is that there is a tacit assumption that status (and credentials as experts) is conferred upon those who’ve spent the most money and own stuff from specific brands. Which I find classist.

Last but not least there is virtually no R&D in the skate industry (for more, see here) and no other venues to advertise products except through online forums. So it’s “anything goes” for the companies. Bad technologies don’t get swept away by the competition (as they would in the bike industry for instance) and the companies simply offer what the public in forums wants, without really having the incentive to improve or even understand what they’re making. I have collected a couple of examples of companies being obviously, laughably ignorant about what they are producing. But as long as they have a good name in forums they can keep on exploiting us. So, if they are not going to do any R&D, then who is? And why do we voluntarily advertise them?

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.