Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's Official: We Are Saps

I'm reading You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier. A friend once said my blog was too heady. Well, compared to Lanier's work, my blog is about as heady as the instruction manual to a garage door opener. The part I understood best was his criticism of the "hive mind" concept; that is, the idea that averaging the opinions of a large number of people is a good way to ascertain the truth.

One thing that bothers me about the hive mind is that it's so easily manipulated and so vulnerable to the human desire to fit in. Haven't large groups of people converged on beliefs that turned out to be false and destructive, not a few times but over and over? 

A few years ago I read about how the personality cult developed around Kim Il-Sung. I had thought these things happened only because a person became so powerful he was able to compel everyone else to fawn over him. But at least in the case of Kim Il-Sung, it had just as much to do with the psychology of the people surrounding him. At some point it became clear that he had acquired a great deal of authority. The way everyone else reacted was to try to appropriate a little bit of that authority by sucking up to him. This sort of snowballed until you had formerly intelligent human beings going around saying Kim Il-Sung invented the airplane. It became sort of a contest to see who would abase himself more completely.  

The hive mind can enable a cult. The hive mind theory says that if millions of North Koreans insist that Kim Jong-Il got 11 holes-in-one on his first round of golf, then it's likely to be true. It's just stupidity magnified.

Advertisers and entertainers know more about human psychology than any psychologist. They know we are all susceptible to groupthink. Appeals to conformity have always been a part of advertising, but lately they've become more obvious and naked than ever. One red flag is the use of the "we" to mean "you, me and everyone". I found these in a couple minutes on Huffington Post and the like.

We Are the Most Unequal Society in the Developed World... And We Don't Know It

Dakota Fanning, We Know You Can Do Better Than This

These May Be Some Of The Tackiest Advent Calendars We've Seen

Then there's the phrase "It's Official" to try to put an objective gloss on something that is obviously a matter of opinion.

It's Official: The Best and Worst New Shows of the Season Revealed 

It’s Official—iOS 8 Is Apple’s Buggiest Release to Date

It's official: The religious right is calling it quits

It’s Official: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Moral

It’s official: Marijuana has gone mainstream

It's official? My, I wouldn't want to hold a non-official opinion. Here's one more for you, courtesy of your blogger: It's Official: The Internet is Full of Crap.

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