Yesterday, in a conversation with somebody who knows more than most people about the human brain, that somebody referred to the brain as "a cognitive miser." At first, I assumed that he meant a phenomenon David Eagleman (at least I think it was he) has addressed: Our brains filter out the great majority of external stimuli because, if it didn't, we would be overwhelmed, unable to respond to all of it at once, and end up remembering far more unimportant stuff than the important stuff we actually need.
But no, he wasn't thinking along those lines, even though he identified one of the brain's primary functions as to protect us. He was referring to the way the brain receives information and puts it in virtual drawers, or what he called "buckets." We categorize the world and evaluate things based on whether they might be harmful or beneficial to us. Categorizing helps us learn associatively: New Object X is similar to Familiar Object Y, and Y is good, some X is most likely good too. This is also an aspect of the brain's protective function.
The downside, as I observe it, is that our brave new Web-Wide World exposes us to more stimuli and information than our brains can properly process. Too much of the information is inaccurate or incomplete, and we need Snopes or some equivalent as a third-party bullshit detector, but that's a side-issue. If our brains do not have time to figure out which bucket something belongs in, we tend to winnow down the number of buckets we use.
Too often, that number of buckets is reduced to two. We stuff information haphazardly into buckets labeled "harmful" and "beneficial." Perhaps later we'll devote the time to examine something and categorize it appropriately, but perhaps we won't.
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who think there are only two kinds of people, and those who know better.
A dichotomy /daɪˈkɒtəmi/ is a partition of a whole (or a set) into two parts (subsets). In other words, this couple of parts must be
Since I seldom watch television, and even seldomer spend my evenings engrossed in cable news, I barely know who Marc Lamont Hill is. However, a glance at Twitter this morning made me want to know him better. CNN has jettisoned Hill as a commentator because he dared to call for full human and civil rights for the Palestinian people.
One of the problems inherent in Twitter, and social media in general, is that it gives a virtual soapbox to people who react and respond to information without really thinking about the context or implications of that information. Tweeters assume that anyone who opposes A must therefore support B, because there can be no other alternatives to the A-B dichotomy.
One of the problems inherent in today's mainstream Media Industrial Complex is that our trusted information sources do the exact same shit and get rewarded handsomely for it. Think-tanks and political consultants leverage people's instinct to dichotomize: They propagate the message that, if you support A, then B is the opposite of everything you hold dear and thus your enemy. They traffic in fear, because fearful people buy stuff to make them feel better.
B is not your enemy. A is not your enemy. Dichotomistic thinking is your enemy.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.