Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The search for a more human rational explanation of humanity

http://www.thebetterindia.com/16571/my-story-honest-man-lottery-ticket-seller-sudhakaran-kerala/?ref=sidebar

This article brings out the rift which makes me steer towards being a person who respects emotions and intuition more than the current standards of logic. I identify myself with this guy much, much more than all the "rational" explanations I've heard that describes human beings. In all my travels I've seen that the less "educated" or "modern/sophisticated" a person is, while at the same time still being exposed to the same or more stark realities, the more he/she is likely to be like this guy. This seems to be the default state of human beings.. not what Fraud.. sorry, Freud (:P) predicted.

How is that happening?  I think it's because the mainstream explanations of human behaviour have an interference effect : Being taught that human beings are self-maximizing rational selfish beings ends up influencing people to behave that way more. That is, our "passive" sources of knowledge are playing an active interfering role. This really screws the whole objectivity notion of knowledge, and sabotages the "failsafe" of the knowledge establishment (the assumption that they will honestly change their stance when more facts emerge which challenge present assumptions.. honestly I don't see that happening without a serious fight). An influential resource like, say, Wikipedia or Harvard or National Geographic or BBC, if it makes a mistake and portrays an erroneous conclusion as fact, then chances are that they will make it come true and turn the false assumption into reality. Later on there's no way in our present mechanism to prove that they were wrong.

This has implications far beyond the intellectual debates : war, terrorism, economic instability, fortunes of competing sides.. all of these when predicted with enough persuasion, become real even if they initially had no basis in reality. If the world's media propagandizes that a country is full of terrorists, then the actions that follow end up making terrorism more and more prevalent there, which then reinforces that notion, irrespective of what reality was previously. If a country's media continuously predicts a certain side's victory in the next election, then that's precisely what happens even if it wasn't true to begin with. The "placebo" effect is only exposed at the rare times when sufficient numbers of people, or ardent-enough changemakers, see through the prophecy and do something radical, difficult and challenging to violate it. (As we saw in the recent Delhi elections. Now please don't get started with the latter developments.. that's another placebo effect underway that's currently not getting violated! :)

An erroneous interpretation of this all is to assume that depriving people of knowledge is the way to keep them human. I'd like to declare here and now that I absolutely disagree with that idea and I think this type of conclusion is the result of the same simplistic, linera, knee-jerk, ill-thought-out, short-sighted thinking that created the self-maximizing selfish individual explanation of humanity in the first place. All the examples we've seen of good, ethically conscious people who positively impact people's lives and make good things happen.. aren't people who were deprived of knowledge.. rather they are people who have seen MORE of the worst of humanity, people who have had more exposure than others, and a greater quality of exposure to different perspectives and conflicting viewpoints. Therefore the theory of depriving knowledge to preserve humanity falls flat on its face when confronted with facts on the ground. Rather my conclusion is that there should be more exposure to conflicting viewpoints without much effort to settle the debate, if anyone is thinking of how to go about this pedagogically. Tip for educators : Confusion Achha Hai! This is what I experiences in my two years at Swaraj University, and I'm extremely thankful to our facilitators for their self-restraint.

It would be great if anyone who claims themselves to be a rationalist can work on this and bring up an explanation that predicts this side of humanity rather than what is currently predicted by the self-proclaimed rationalists occupying the commanding heights of academia, industry and government. That is, it would be great to see a rational explanation of humanity that acknowledges and factors emotions/values/intuition/faith in, and takes account of their positive effects, rather than taking the conventional and convenient path of censoring them out or dehumanizing/de-existing them.

-Nikhil

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