Monday, July 25, 2011


Humanity is all about dualisms. Almost every activity has its own. In politics there is Left and Right. In MMORPGs there is Themepark vs Sandbox, game vs. world, casual vs. hardcore.

What's interesting is that there is a high correlation between themepark/game/casual and sandbox/world/hardcore. Without much reason. The same is true in politics. There is a high correlation between pro-nuclear energy, contra-abortion and small government. Without much reason it seems.

The reason is evolution. In the 10.000 tribes scenario I described a few days ago, the best way to solve complicated problems was try & error. That's why humans tend towards one side of a dualism and band together. The opinion becomes an ideology when people have a strong initial reaction towards something.

Remember that NYT article ?
Subsidize Vegetables
We could save billions in health care costs and make healthier food cheaper if we taxed nutritionally weak foods.

I'm not giving you the link, because I don't want you to read it. Fact is that most of you have a strong initial emotional reaction once you read this. Only after that initial emotional reaction will you start to try to find arguments for or against it.

In the 10.000 tribes scenario this is a powerful evolutionary mechanic. The tribe becomes ideological about the most important questions and eventually splits. Since the tribe must not split into too many parts, groups converge. Thus, the guy who believes in global warming suddenly also believes in higher taxes. What is important to realize is that this convergence is (mostly) arbitrary, completely subtle and unconscious.

Of course, nowadays we cannot realistically split, let alone wage planet-destroying world wars. So we need to compromise eternally. Modern societies are all about this eternal compromising.

If you want to reach beyond your "ape instincts" as the lovely ideologist Gevlon so fittingly calls it, you need to try to ignore the first initial reaction. You need to look at the arguments first and only then form your opinion. Of course, you will fail; you're human. All you can do is be aware of this effect.


  1. Indeed. You cannot ignore yourself or your reactions. You can only be aware. Not only of the reaction itself, but potentially why the reaction occurs.

    Only then can you truly have freedom of choice.

    But if you continue to allow your emotions to be your only trusted source of "insight", you will be ruled by something that is irrational and reactionary.

  2. I suggest this non-arbitrary split: belief in human-created and human-solved problems compared vs. belief in 'forces'. This is not entirely compatible with "left vs right". It is not absolute either, as some people may assign individual problems to different categories.

    So the tax person may believe that economic problems can be fixed by active intervention and that global warming is the same. A fundamentalist may attribute economics to the market and global warming to God, neither of which should be messed with.