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If you have inadequate self-esteem, you lose the ability to rationally assess your capabilities.

Tomasz Piotr Sidewicz

The dark side of the XXI century

In the previous post Funny money … I announced why social influence is becoming much easier, what you need to do to influence others and how to protect from succumbing to influence. What is necessary to influence others is effective communication. In the alleged text by Noam Chomsky  – “Top 10 ways to manipulate people” it is concluded that influence on masses needs simple childish language and tone, with focus on emotions, not reflection. These are just two points selected from the list of ten. Interestingly, Noam Chomsky denied the authorship of the text. However, many experts (including specialists from CIA) state that the text was not written by an amateur. (source – Racjonalista.pl)

We live in a world of information indigestion. The researchers from the University of California, San Diego, in 2009 counted that daily we consume 34 GB (gigabytes) of information. What does this mean? Living in the era of information, due to fast-growing mobile technology, our brains to not go crazy from information excess tend to process information very selectively, what they consider to be necessary for our survival. Therefore, we choose the information that fits our cognitive structures mindlessly. You must always remember that your brain sees what it wants to see. Example – let’s assume you have an emotional need to posses a new car. Of course, it may seem that your choice is rational. Stop deluding yourself, unfortunately it is not. Your choice will be rationalized in the brain soon after. You consider the pros and cons of your decision, but in the first place, you have been driven by your survival instinct and your position (hierarchy) in the group (society). The better the position in the group, the easier way to survive. Instinct involves certain hormonal stimulation, which is your emotions. Returning to your car, your brain starts to absorb only the information that suits its purpose and is reluctant to process any information that does not fit the pattern. So you already have your dream car, you are able to spot the desired model on the street from a much greater distance than a lump of butter in the fridge. You start organising your first joyride and suddenly you find out that the car has a subtle problem, due to the technical parameters. So, what do you do with that information? First of all, you repress it and you start a mode of seflinfluence which I wrote about in the previous post.

What does it have to do with influence? Very much. Nowadays, with brains overloaded (allegedly 34 GB per day), as a result of lack of proper training, we have not been adapted to process such large amounts of information, which emphasizes the importance of saying – Ignorance is bliss. In fact, ignorance is a state of peace and quiet, but only in short run. If you do not want to think for yourself, one will for you. You think that you have the cognitive peace. Good! The next point of “Top 10 ways to manipulate people is”: encourage the public to be complacent with mediocrity

The comment to “Funny money? No, thank you!” points out the need of teaching others how to think. I agree, but first we have to get rid of all technology impairing our thinking. If you doubt it take a simple test and divide 11171 by 17 on a piece of paper. Calculators, GPS, Google, etc, all these impair our cognitive processes and abilities in our brains. Another example – see to what degree of cognitive effort protagonist are forced in catastrophic movies. Without electricity, tools, weapons, they must survive in hostile environment. This does not change the fact, however, we all can be reflexive. Especially, when we are in a group and succumb to groupthink. In the nineteenth century, a man named Gustave Le Bon already knew this. His psychological analysis of crowd behavior (“Psychologie des foules” –  Crowd psychology, 1895) states that through the Industrial Revolution, political life is controlled by mobs, psychologically abnormal and irrational creatures behaving irrationally and ruled by instincts, with a tendency to yield to suggestions. His work inspired Dr. Joseph Paul Goebbels, the creator of propaganda in the Third Reich.

Well now let us summarize. We live in times of information inflation. Our brains are constantly focused on catching novelty and changes, that may be crucial from a standpoint of survival, but we are still slaves of instincts. It seems obvious, that in the age of information people should be much more reflexive. It is the opposite. Excess of information and choice accelerates defense mechanism in our brain called ignorance. Technology frees our brains from reasoning. We create procedures which we abide by mindlessly. Orwell’s “1984”? Recall the days of the Trojan War, Odysseus and cunning liar Sinon, who had used Trojan’s godliness (Psychology of crowd?) convincing them that the horse shouldn’t have been burnt down, but should have been pulled into town. The Greeks thought of everything. Even transporting rolls .

The antidote ? And here psychopaths enter the scene. Due to their brain dysfunction they have much greater ability to process and manage information. Drop the image of Hannibal Lecter. He never existed. Find the top 10 professions that attract psychopaths and draw your conclusions. If you are not able to process huge amounts of information take care of it. Knowledge is power because ignorance is bliss!

Tomasz Piotr Sidewicz