Collective Mind

in Deep Dives4 months ago

That's not science fiction. And I'm also not specifically talking about the vast amount of data and knowledge stored in the electronic global brain called "the internet." No, I'm talking about you and me and the rest of the world's population.


source: Pixabay

This is a topic that may be hard to get across to a certain kind of people. I'm talking about the ones who wholly bought into the individualism paradigm, generally found among the more right-leaning idealists, conservatives, libertarians, objectivists, anarcho-capitalists and the likes. If you believe that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk (and the likes) got to own insane amounts of assets and wealth because of their personal achievements and merits, this post might contain information that's hard to swallow. There's nothing more personal, nothing more your own than your mind. Right? Your personal mind, your personal beliefs, your personal opinions, your personal accumulated knowledge and wisdom; what's more exclusively your own than that?

Well, it turns out that the acts of thinking, decision-making, reasoning and remembering may in fact be much more of a collective process than previously assumed. In the cognitive sciences the standard assumption is that knowledge is stored in the individual brain, but modern research shows that this assumption begins to break down rather quickly; in fact the individual brain contains very little knowledge and is ignorant about 99.9999 percent of all there is to know about all subjects. And yet we have an opinion on almost anything and everything, even very complex subjects like politics, the economy and science; you know these are some of my own favorite subjects to opine on. And I agree with the scientists when they say that having access to the vast amount of knowledge, opinions and data on the internet, makes one feel like they themselves are smart. That's an admission I and most other people I know must make.

It's exactly the limitations of individual knowledge and the dependence on the knowledge of others for understanding, or even beginning to understand most subjects that are the themes of "The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone," a book written by Phil Fernbach, a cognitive scientist and professor of marketing, and Steven Sloman, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences. The latter co-authored a paper, suggesting that efforts to understand human cognition should expand beyond the study of individual brains, with neuroscientist Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology and Richard Patterson, a professor emeritus of philosophy.

“Without relying on experts in our community, our beliefs would become untethered from the social conventions and scientific evidence that are necessary to support them,” he said. “It would become unclear, for example, whether ‘smoking causes lung cancer,’ bringing into question the truth of our beliefs, the motivation for our actions.”
source: NewsWise

It's really obvious when you think about it, but this is the first time I've heard of an actual scientific effort to really understand and explain the fact that thinking itself is a collective effort. This has some negative implications as well, as discussed in the below linked video from a TED-talk by Phil Fernbach; it also means that it's easy for us to believe in things that are false. He takes the flat-earth movement as an example, but this can be extrapolated to all beliefs that simply do not conform to any kind of shared reality. Watch the video, it's not that long, and maybe it'll shed some new light on how we operate as human beings.

Why do we believe things that aren't true? | Philip Fernbach | TEDxMileHigh

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