The Thinker and The Prover: Part 3
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We left off with how the ability to challenge consensus reality could be a horrible or great thing, depending upon where society finds itself at the time.
Generally, the more open and free a society, the greater the impact of people who challenge the conventional wisdom. One of the reasons why my Prover always finds free markets superior to other systems is because they have provided the lion’s share of new things and ideas. This wasn’t always so, and for certain regions ruled by Fundamentalist political or religious beliefs, *still* isn’t so.
When we study history, we see that before the connected computer age, consensus reality changed very slowly and often was extremely hostile to anyone who injected new ideas that changed the consensus reality of society and individuals.
It wasn’t just the Church that condemned Galileo, it was also almost every “respected” scientist of his era. The same was true for Einstein and the early Quantum theorists — all were enthusiastically and and aggressively dismissed and or attacked by the majority of established scientists of their era. And note, we’re talking about *science*, where the scientific method is supposed to be the most objective of systems of study. The same is true in almost all aspects of human society pre-internet consensus realities. For example, the group of artists many revere as among the best of history — the Impressionist — were given this name by members of the established French Academy in order to mock and deride them.
Entire generations of humankind lived and died under the same consensus reality. The Christian Churches of the West; the Islamic Rulers of the middle east and the Hindu, Taoist and Confucianist beliefs of the East ruled their populations almost unchallenged for centuries.
They created powerful symbols and doctrines that few living under their rule dared challenge, for the fate of a heretic or apostate was usually a very quick, yet grueling death. Generation after generation of humankind had these doctrines and symbols embedded in their consciousness so thoroughly that they still have a powerful effect on a majority of the world’s population to this day.
The invention of radio, talking movies and TV changed the balance of power for those wishing to maintain a steady-state consensus reality. They became the most powerful tools for shaping and creating consensus reality to a point unseen in human history. The design of our HumanOS often fails to distinguish between what’s “real” and what is “fiction.”
Thus, these new mediums became the most powerful tools for the broad distribution of ideas that our Thinkers can contemplate. For a while, that seemed to work out well, because, in the US, there were only 3 TV networks, a few national newspapers, and a studio system in Hollywood where the owners of the movie studios had an ironlike grip on what could be and couldn’t be made as a movie for broad audiences. There were, of course, exceptions, but one reason why people are often nostalgic for this period is that — on the surface — there seemed to be a strong consensus in society they were living in.
All the Thinkers were apparently thinking similar thoughts and the Provers were proving them.
I say on the surface for of course this wasn’t exactly true. There were many subgroups who had very different beliefs, but they were seen — largely — as very taboo and the Overton Window didn’t make them eligible for broader consideration. Members of these subgroups were also largely confined by geography. If you lived in the rural South, for example, your “reality tunnel” was much more severely restricted than if you lived in San Francisco. But cracks started appearing in this seemingly placid consensus reality. First as a trickle, then as a flood. The 60s and 70s were such tumultuous decades because subgroups (Tribes) started to openly challenge the prevailing authorities (who were thoroughly indoctrinated in consensus reality, at least publically) with often violent results.
Younger readers may not be aware of it, but many, many things were dragged into the public consciousness over those 20 years: gay rights, antiwar positions, the ability to proclaim yourself an atheist without losing your position in society, X-rated movies, and much more are, for the most part, uncontroversial today, but people sacrificed blood and treasure to make this so.
And then, the Internet was created. For the first time in history, anyone with access to a modem — now, anyone with a smartphone — could make their views on, well, *anything*, known and there was NO WAY to stop them. The Internet and Social Media became the single most advanced delivery system for any belief that wanted to see how many Thinkers it could attract.
There’s an obvious reason why authoritarian regimes attempt to limit or outright block access to the Internet and social media — they intuitively understand the power that these distribution systems have to topple them and their ideology.
But with this amazing interconnected, universally available communication network came lots and lots of noise. This is one reason, I believe, that many people feel so unmoored and anxious now. We are living in the largest social experiment in human history, and there’s no control group. Lots of research shows that *more* choices being available often led to people either making no choice at all or reverting to a more simple belief system that is broadly shared and “feels” comfortable. Life now offers almost infinite pre-packaged belief systems. It does this primarily to “help” you avoid thought.
But things have drastically sped up due to the Internet giving a microphone to virtually anyone who wants to change consensus reality. It may be counterintuitive for many, but this tsunami of ideas are hitting perception filters in our brains which were not designed for this type of onslaught and the results are telling — many people retreat into well-worn and time-tested belief systems and unconsciously turn off their Thinker and let their Prover seek out subgroups with similar beliefs — leading back to a lot of the fractures we see in society and culture today.
Is this inevitable? I think not.
In the Part 4, we’ll look at how you can re-engage your Thinker in ways that will help you upgrade your mental models and belief systems and tactics you can use to smoke out ideas living rent-free in your head without your conscious approval. Ludwig Wittgenstein said “to understand is to know what to do.”
Hopefully, with a better understanding of this process, we’ll all be able to openly explore new ideas and turn the ones we like over to the Prover, who will, no doubt, prove it.
A Twitter thread by Jim O’Shaughnessy