This is a very interesting point.
I tend to think that I am the same as you in this regard. However, - knowing that in all that happens in our world an objective truth exists - the real question is to what extent we are able to perceive this truth without adding our own biases to it?
Tristan’s observation “Our brains aren’t wired for truth-seeking”, I believe, is spot on.
When reading some information piece - e.g. a very good online article - that truly aligns with our formed opinion and beliefs it is easy to think “Fantastic, I agree! I have to share this with my friends and the wider public”. Yet later on, after doing so, you encounter people that are just as strongly opposed as you are convinced of the truth of the piece. Are they wrong, misinformed? Are they deceived, misled? Or are you missing the mark?
Well, this depends, of course, and ideally both you and your opponent try to come up with convincing arguments to strengthen your case. This is the truth-seeking we all do… to a certain extent. Important is that usually both parties will not be 100% on top of the objective truth. Biases will have crept in.
Objective truth-seeking is what most people do not do. It is exceptionally hard, requires dilligence, perseverance, open-mindedness and a great deal of objectivity. It is a scientific expertise, practiced by e.g. law-enforcement detectives and such. The difficulty can be made more manageable by distributing the effort of objective truth-seeking, by crowdsourcing it (like how Bellingcat is doing it).
But for most people the process stops when either you find an acceptable middle-ground, or you agree to disagree. In other words: Our truth-seeking capabilities are limited.
I think it is fair to say that this limitation derives from our Paleolithic brains. We are not superintelligences with unlimited memory, and in the time available to us we can only approximate the objective truth.
So now let’s bring technology - social media and the internet - into the picture. Tristan says “The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology.”.
Once again this statement is very accute. The technology - in the way it brings the wealth of humanity’s knowledge and information to our doorsteps - is godlike, as it far exceeds our Paleolithic brain’s capacity to process it. Then our emotions take over: Like when we enthusiastically share the article prematurely, or we get angry with our discussion partner and blurt out something very biased, possibly offensive, cutting off the discussion. None of our institutions have evolved to keep up with rapid technology innovation, and are not capable to correct let alone protect us.
In conclusion: Are we capable of truth-seeking? I’d say yes, … but at Paleolithic levels. So a bit more nuanced phrasing of Tristan’s argument would be: Our brains aren’t wired for truth-seeking [in our modern information age].
Finally I’d like to add a viewpoint of my own, which is not mentioned - possibly intentionally left out of scope - in Tristan’s opinion piece. They concern the true nature and extent of the problem, as I see it.
Tristan - and the CHT - limit their mission primarily to solving big tech - which is wielding godlike technology to harvest our attention - and the urgent need to regulate and change technology. This done both by governments as well as within corporations themselves, helped by public awareness, and with the goal to restrain tech’s power. The resulting solution is then called Humane Technology.
They also have their finger on the most likely outcome if we fail to act: An unraveling of the social fabric of society and collapse of democracy is likely to occur.
We can see this happening already; the evidence is all around us. But I think we - mankind - are, to more or less extent, culprits in aggravating the problem - most often unwittingly - by failing to address root causes and biggest drivers in our problem analysis.
This is where I’d like to extend the discussion to areas where CHT has been, so far, silent. I hereby coin my own term for the rest of this post, and call it ‘dealing with pluto-politics’.
Humanity is in truly turbulent times. We are in a state of transition towards a new paradigm, that will replace the post-war era. After WWII we have risen to unprecedented levels of prosperity driven by a synergetic combination of capitalism and democracy. As capitalism has been transforming while democracy stayed stagnant (and is now eroding) this synergy is now coming to an end.
Most of us take our predominant economic system for granted - a great success - but in fact I think it has been flawed from the very start. Capitalism is based on the presumption of infinite growth (which btw is impossible in nature), and works on the preconditions of continually adding new participants and consuming more resources. It is Ponzi scheme-like, and now that its preconditions - especially resource availability - are failing, the system is straining to maintain itself. Capitalism piggy-backed on top of democracy very well because it facilitated consumerism, but increasing resource scarcity is the party pooper now. As a result democracy becomes less relevant to the survival of capitalism itself.
Left to its own devices, unfettered, capitalism is an inherently predatory system. It abhors regulation and other restraints and, as wealth is flowing to the top, wealth inequality and power imbalance ever increases. A plutocracy is forming.
This is where we find ourselves today. Now let’s again bring technology to the mix.
Technology is a tool. It can be used or abused. Godlike technology is awesome, but its potential for abuse is awful. Technology and its innovation is for the most part owned by the rich and powerful. They get first access, and decide what trickles down to the rest of humanity. In the quest of the plutocrats to maintain their status quo - to keep the system that enriched them in place - they are discovering how to best wield this tool for their purposes. Technology is being weaponised as the enabling force for the next era of humanity.
The rise of the oligarchy. Pluto-politics is at play.
Root cause, biggest driver is capitalist plutocracy. Forget populism, partisan politics, the left vs. right divide or even geopolitics. These are mere strategies to divide, distract, confuse us. To overload our Paleolithic brains, if you will, and have our Paleolithic emotions cloud our vision. The internet and social media allow injection of these strategies and campaigning on them with high effect and efficiency.
Adding these insights to the efforts of the CHT - as far as you agree with this - makes it clear how exceptionally hard the mission to regulate tech and bring about humane technology truly is. Similarly it is understandable if they make no mention of these aspects, as that may be counter-productive (e.g. in lobbying activities). But I think they have to account for it in their strategies.
Yeah, I know. Quite some theory to pose here, so I am curious for your opinions and open to your own insights.
Note: In no way am I suggesting that there is a single one group of people behind these trends, acting in usison and in a concerted effort. No conspiracy thinking. Rather this is a very chaotic new reality that is emerging organically (as with everything in nature and society).