Distraction Really Is the Enemy

If you read this post at all, you will believe it.  Every word of it.  At least initially.  You will only come to doubt it, or critically evaluate it, if you have time for quiet reflection on what it has to say, or are presented with strong evidence to the contrary, at some later time.

It turns out we’re programmed to believe what we read, hear or see, by default.  This is an adaptation that prevents us from disbelieving things that happen to be true, which would, if believed, prevent us from being killed.  Statements like, “watch out for cars, when you cross the road”, or “Duck!”, turn out to be things you must accept immediately, at face value, rather than evaluate for yourself by experiment, because you won’t get a second experiment if you initially disbelieve the proposition as presented.

We take all our information in this way.  We believe it as soon as we understand it.

The problem is that believing what you are told, immediately, makes you endlessly manipulable.  People with a mind to deceive you, for their own advantage, have a readymade and highly effective way to do so.

The research is interesting and it’s described in these links:

http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/why-you-cant-help-believing-everything-you-read.php

http://lesswrong.com/lw/k4/do_we_believe_everything_were_told/

What the research concludes is that the more distracted you are when you take a piece of deceptive information in, the more likely you are to believe it.  The more you have time for quiet reflection, the less likely you are to take the lie at face value.

Think about the modern world.  What’s being valued?  We have the cult of busy, where people are boastful about their continual, perpetual motion and not having a moment to think, in the service of their business, whatever that happens to be.  We have people that brag about multi-tasking.  There are even advertisements for mobile devices that promise to help you multitask more efficiently, as if that was the goal.  You’ll believe it’s the goal, because you have had no time to weigh the idea, during a period of quiet contemplation.  Everybody is competing aggressively for our attention.  They even call it the attention economy.  We’re told to work harder, go faster, be more productive, read more email, take in more information and to eschew downtime or thinking time.

Social media provides an endless fire hose of distraction.  Television programmes and films are edited at such a pace, that you are accustomed to expecting to be distracted and unfocussed.  Computer games are paced similarly.  We have twenty four hour rolling news, where there can be no greater allocation of time to debate and evaluate the important issues, yet every studio debate seems to be cut short, because they have “run out of time”.  We’re being distracted professionally and deliberately.  We’re being taught to not evaluate critically.  People wear their wilful ignorance as a badge of pride and put great store in not thinking about things in depth.  We’re proud of our supreme gullibility.

In short, we’re being spoon fed ideas, many of which are lies, and taught to never consider whether or not they are true.  Consequently, we believe the most absurd ideas.

To amplify our natural proclivity to believe things at face value, we’re actually being taught and conditioned to believe lies.

Does this matter?  If you have to even ask the question, you’ve definitely not been paying attention to the real world and the distraction techniques have worked on you.  It matters immeasurably.  Our very existence is threatened by profiteers and evil doers that can easily implant ideas and views, against our own interests but in line with theirs, which we will enthusiastically support and disseminate.  That’s how nations go to war to disarm countries that actually don’t have any weapons of mass destruction, in fact.  That’s how Afghanistan is equated with Al Qaeda.  That’s how we come to believe that evil masterminds can bring down buildings in the world’s most heavily defended nation, by spending per capita, from their cave in the mountains, remotely.  It’s how we, as a nation, panic buy and stockpile half a billion pounds worth of a flu drug that doesn’t even work.  This is how we come to believe that a relatively tiny number of illegal immigrants do more damage to the economy than corporate tax avoiders.

We can be told any old tripe and be expected to reliably act upon it.  It takes us into wars.  It causes us to allow grannies to freeze, in the name of austerity.  It allows our wealth to be siphoned off by the 1% and we respond with the fervent belief that there is no alternative.  It lets us become farm animals, preyed upon and used, as if we were sheep and cows.  It prevents us from coming up with dissenting ideas, creative solutions, disobeying, stopping the endless flow of wealth to the top and saving our planet from destruction.  It means we live an existence full of ideas that are not our own, which are wrong and which do us all great harm.  Our credulity is our own worst enemy.

The solution, though, is relatively simple and it’s something that everyone can do: silence the distractions.

Silence the distractions.

Take time to contemplate, to evaluate and to find evidence.  Overcome your own biases.  A responsible, sentient being takes the time to weed out the auto-suggested rubbish.  They slow their lives down for long enough to mull it all over.  Focusing on working out if something you immediately believed is actually true is a valuable thing to do.  Of course, everything you read about the matter, in an attempt to sort the truth from the lies will be immediately believed as well – especially the lies that confirm your bias toward believing the lies you already believe.  It’s not an easy thing to do.  Time for reflection is precious.

Understanding how it is that our minds take information in and how our belief systems are constructed should be something taught to everybody at a young age.  We’re not the objective judges of truth we think we are.  We ingest everything, right and wrong, without distinction and only work out which ideas are lies later on, if at all.

What we must assiduously resist is the tendency to become so pre-occupied with the intake that we never do the filtering.  Distraction will kill us.  It’s not a flippant matter to be too busy to really weigh the evidence and sort out the deceptions from the essential truths.  Ignorance is not bliss.

Do us all a favour and think hard and long about what you believe.  Most of what you believe could be and probably is wrong.  You’re a menace to everybody if you never take the time to weed out the untruths.

I think we should all go away, now and think about what has been written here.

 

 

Advertisements

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: https://michaeltopic.wordpress.com/. There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s