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Cognitive Biases and IP Numbers

July 23, 2014 - Posted in Blag Posted by:

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I have often wondered why we, the human race, evolved to have these biases in our way of processing information.

I’m sure there are explanations as to why we have most of them – clearly, some of those are there to reduce processing load and ensure an individual processes enough information to survive within their tribe and under the conditions the tribe exists. There may even be plausible explanations for all of them – I am not and expert and I would be the first to admit that I haven’t read more than one or two books on how our minds work.

But let’s just not dwell on my shortcomings and take the bandwagon effect, for instance. However frustrating it may be nowadays, it is a mechanism through which one can reduce time spent on heuristics and focus more on survival – if so many people are telling you that the fruit with the yellow marks and a bluish flower is cursed, it must be cursed! Congratulations, by believing this you just avoided eating a fruit that could give you diarrhoea as people also think letting you dehydrate solves that particular problem even though you actually need more water when your intestines decide to deny it to your body!

However, the way some of those work seems just too quirky in their synergies.

Now, imagine a primitive tribe where the elders’ word is the law as what they say comes from the great one, the wheel in the sky or the spaghetti monster itself. Makes sense, when you think about it really. They have experience whereas the social structure is not yet developed adequately that younger population would recognise this looking past their elders’ physical frailty in a reality where physical prowess is imperative for day to day survival.

When a child living in this small fictional point in time and space has an abnormally active bowel – from eating that fruit, maybe – and is getting weaker and weaker, the elders would say “nogok wagara h‘shaish” (translated roughly as “don’t give her water” from fictionalese) probably signing her death sentence.

Why? Well, the elders were young once and their elders told them so! They are so happy with their particular position in society they are invested in the concept of elders and their infallible knowledge. People know that elders are never wrong, too! Everyone says that, don’t they?

Sounds like corruption in an institution, yeah? Well, maybe partly but bear with me.

For a while, in the country where I live, there was this spot on the telly commissioned by the healthcare services. In the spot a little boy had diarrhoea and the narrator said repeatedly that the child would need salt, sugar and a lot of water to mend and keeping him dehydrated could have serious consequences.

Now, you know I am not over 5000 years old. I could be an elder in a tribe long turned to dust where the life expectancy was below twenty and where people just discovered they could go above and beyond grunts and shrieks to communicate but I am not even considered old in this day and age.

So, how did this belief survive to within my lifetime? Well, first of all, I may be way off in thinking that my fictional tribe was even concerned about diarrhoea so it may well be a much newer belief – but that’s beside the point.

Apparently, the longer we hold onto a belief, the stronger it becomes. Sunk cost makes an idea more and more plausible in our minds. With each mistake we don’t go “oh shit, we were wrong all along” but our belief in the very irrational idea that the elders are never wrong becomes stronger, escalating the situation.

I feel sorry for the mother I imagine to be named Sha-ha’il who was way too smart for that tribe and got bludgeoned to death when she was angry with the elders for killing her son and in her grief, found the courage to speak up.

Anyways, the aptly named sunk cost fallacy has many examples – and uses, if you are feeling evil master-mind-y – even in our time. Think of all the stupid shit people are doing like insisting that the vaccines cause autism, climate change is not around the corner and/or it won’t affect us much and my personal favourite, we did not evolve from primates but were created out of whatever base substance that particular person’s religion says we were.

Why no link for evolution?

You may have noticed that there is no link for that particular favourite of mine.

Well, if you know the meaning of the word “theory” then you just don’t need me to link you.

If you you are unsure, but already know that no scientist ever argue about whether we (and other organisms) evolved from less complex ones or not; it is as stupid as arguing whether the earth is a flat plane or a geoid; and the theory part is actually about the mechanisms by which these things have happened, you are harmless and this is a compliment.

If you think you do but are prone to saying shit like “but it’s just a theory and I personally don’t think Darwin was right. Intelligent design makes more sense” then you are already doing yourself a disservice by reading this heathen shit. Now, please go away.

Ah! And let’s not forget about the apocalypse that did not happen – and its aftermath. Would you believe if I said he corrected himself and said “oh it should be October, not May” and some of the people who gave up their life savings for this ridiculous campaign just kept with him? I didn’t at first either.

So, why do these little quirks in our cognitive processes exist? They certainly hurt more than they help now.

I personally think we slowed down on our evolution and really need to get with the programme real quick-like.

Think about it, we are about to head into an H+ age and we are not psychologically ready for it as we still have the urge to make babies. I personally don’t and our numbers are increasing (or, if you look at it from another angle, decreasing) but it is not nearly enough – but this is the subject of another spew in this blag of mine altogether.

In any case, another question to consider is why I am forced to jump all these hoops to find harmless – haha – analogies to the concept of belief in general to be able to tell you what I have been brewing inside this filthy head of mine.

Well, first of all, a great many number of the human race have been invested in some form of it for a very long while and trying to be rational with them is futile for reasons explained above. Also, admittedly a much smaller but still a significant number of them may be able to find out where I live as I have an IP number as you do unless you are Juno and reading this through some precursor super-science. Do the math.

Courtesy of Amelia 'Amy' Piper Counting.

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