Friday, June 29, 2018

Cognitively Dissonant

Recent investigations into the definition of "cognitive dissonance" have yielded a disappointingly simple explanation for what is a much larger and more complex problem, with far reaching implications.

For example:
cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance
noun
PSYCHOLOGY
  1. the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
In the context of world affairs "cognitive dissonance" seems to be much more than a "state of having inconsistent thoughts". It is more like a continuous challenge to make sense of the world, or to get a grip on some sense of objective reality with regard to our species.

If you can relate to the above statement, it just might be because the real issue at hand is not so much the "thoughts, beliefs or attitudes" involved in processing information as it is the information itself. If the information about the world around us is wildly inconsistent ... this in itself is "cognitively dissonant" independent of individual "thoughts, beliefs or attitudes".

In other words, inconsistent information creates inconsistent perceptions. And those perceptions are transmitted, and so on.

To be clear, you and I both have a very solid understanding of our immediate surroundings, much as primitive humans did thousands of years ago. Our senses inform us of temperature, lighting, air quality, weather conditions, various risk assessments and assumptions - a whole range of dependable sensory elements that have proven to be reliable indicators of our environment and our firm sense of reality.

In our modern digital information age, we take for granted that our understanding of the world is greatly expanded by the processing of information that lies outside our basic biological sensory inputs (which have always been reliable) and we now rely upon information sources to expand that sense of reality beyond our immediate surroundings.

But what if this external information we are processing is completely unreliable? What if the "facts" are actually "opinions, lies and propaganda" designed to invoke a response based upon false realities? This is "cognitively dissonant".

Just as Kuhn established the idea that one cannot logically make a valid argument that objective "progress" occurs in science, Roacheforque would argue that (for similar reasons of what we might term "paradigm dissonance") one cannot logically identify an objective reality that exists outside of our original, primitive, immediate sensory perception. Certainly not one that makes any sense.

There is no "agenda" in the relative humidity of the room I am typing in at this moment. It exists independently of any human transmission of information. I process this humidity level accurately, physically, and reliably, as my ancestors have for thousands of years. But if I tell you that "it's so humid in this fucking room that you can cut the air with a knife" I have just transmitted information to you that greatly expands your understanding of the humidity of a room, in a town, in a state, in a country, that may be thousands of miles away.

That's no big deal today, but just so you know - the information was a big fat lie. It's quite comfortable in this room, not humid at all. And while this little bit of misinformation was quite small and unimportant, what if I was to tell you that the vast majority of information you process about much more important things outside the room you're reading this blog post in, is mostly opinions, lies and propaganda?

In the very best case scenario, the opinions you are considering are based on a large proportion of lies, propaganda and misinformation being processed in their formation, and in the worse case scenario, you're simply being subjected to the same (or different) flat out lies, propaganda and misinformation.

The cognitive dissonance that humans transmit to one another, digitally, impersonally, in our information age, goes a level beyond the arguments that consider a single human's imperfectly perceptive "filters". The arguments you may be aware of about the limitations of our individual perceptions - making them unreliable transmitters of any objective reality  - are inconsequential by comparison. I would argue that our individual perceptions are relatively accurate and reliable (after all, it's all we have to go on) but when a human transmits information digitally to another human - which happens millions of times every day - all bets are off.

When you read the words of Roacheforque you must ask yourself, "is he Crazy? Brilliant? Paranoid? Delusional? What is his motive? What is he selling? What is his agenda? And you do. Consciously or unconsciously, you are processing all these possibilities and weighing their probability on certain factors, to determine the value, or the veracity, or the usefulness of the information being offered.

And we all do this, with every bit of information we receive: every truth, every lie, every con, every pitch, every sermon, every news bite, every interview, every headline, every commercial, every Facebook post, every tweet, every amber alert, every announcement, every proclamation, every road sign, every protest, every comment, every speech, every human action.

Welcome to our cognitively dissonant derivative world. We process every single conceivable variable in our definition of the reality beyond our immediate senses. We weigh them, consider them, value them and order them into a cognitive perception of reality. And then we speculate on how these perceptions will change in the future - all based on inputs that are completely unreliable.

Let that sink in for a moment, as you sort through the puzzle pieces that make sense of this world, and ... order them accordingly.

10 comments:

  1. How beautiful and scary the world would be if all would follow the teachings of Christ. Speak only truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So great a thought ... and yet ... our value system teaches the morality of profit. Truth is irrelevant. This is human nature. The apple was eaten.

      Delete
  2. You can thank the Epistomology of Modern Scientific thought for this one...Ever ask yourself why it took so long to discover the law of gravity??Hint: The ancient Greeks viewed all manner of repetitive things as tendencies only. Further clues can be seen in math for example The Number 5 can be represented as follows:
    1. *****
    2. ** + ***
    3. II + III
    4. 2 + 3
    5. x

    Note we move from the self evident to the abstract value for x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. An interesting progression in that each iteration does become more abstract. For example, the first three iterations depict actual representations of physical units. In the 4th iteration the units are replaced by abstract representations, and in the 5th the units become a variable in a yet to be determined equation.

      You have basically represented the progression of our physical markets into their derivative abstraction, just as explored two posts back in "300".

      Of course the two posts are related topically, but your comment really does speak directly to the former post.

      The implication is clear. We become further removed from a self evident reality and find ourselves in an abstract reality attempting resolve that which should be self evident.

      Delete
  3. You could say that among polite company, or you could say we are f@cked and get what we deserve. Until of course, we catch up and understand that numbers (math) can exist in 3d ...i.e "x3d"

    ReplyDelete
  4. We are definitely fucked. Only time will tell what we get.
    ;0)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, if Kuhn has anything to say about it, we are entering a post capitalist, stateless paradigm where a new form of "illiteracy of the masses" occurs. Sure, people can read and write but so can AI. The new paradigm would likely incorporate art at its core, i.e. creating from nothing, or showing what "could be" from what "is". I could go on, but this is your blog.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Th reality of the cognitively dissident struggles against illiteracy, but the masses (as in the little people) are already so cognitively biased that literature in the classic sense is completely irrelevant.

      The masses are shown what to think, and how. And as long as they choose from the extremes, their cognitive process is satisfied - through the virtue signaling of their chosen meme.

      Learning is replaced by "posting".

      Delete