ItBears a Striking Resemblance to Cognitive Distortions
This post was originally going to be another one about dangers of techno-utopian thinking, which is supposed to be the subject matter of my next book . That one is going slowly for the time being, but I described it a bit in a previous piece on transhumanism-as-religion here.
It was originally inspired by Tristan Greene’s “Why developing AI to defeat us may be humanity’s only hope” because at first glance I thought that was going to be another “AI will fix everything” piece along the lines of Fully Automated Luxury Communism (which is TL,DR: a full blown Marxist version of The Singularity is Near)
But as I read it I found myself unable to even parse out the rationale behind what the author was proposing.
The suggestion was that because “[t]he rational end game for humanity is self-wrought extinction” we should intentionally create an existentially threatening AI and then turn it loose against ourselves, in order to unite humanity…
“with concentrated redirection, maybe our passion for adversity could become a strength for our species.
Maybe we need an AI adversary to be our “Huckleberry” when it comes to the urge for competition. If we can’t make most humans non-violent, then perhaps we could direct that violence toward a tangible, non-human opponent we can all feel good about defeating.”
The singular premise upon which he scaffolded his logic is that “the entire history of humanity is evidence against [world peace] ever happening. We are violent and competitive”
That had been “proved” citing a single study out of which he had plucked flawed statistic:
Since World War II, homicide rates have actually increased rather than decreased in a number of industrialized countries, most notably the United States.
The US homicide rate did increase after the end of WWII until it peaked in 1980, it has been coming down ever since and has dipped below the end of WWII rates at 4.5 per 100,000.
In fact it may surprise many that the US is toward the lower end of the spectrum at 0.7% when it comes to the national homicide rate.
But when you listen to some people talk about this, you would think it’s murder and mayhem everywhere, perhaps at the level of their southern neighbour Mexico, where the homicide rate is a staggering 6.07%.
It was understanding these statistics that interjected some reality over Greene’s underlying premise that apparently justified his over-the-top idea.
It was so devoid of intellectual rigour as to be a non-sequitur (not to mention that even if humanity accepted and went ahead with this idea, there’s no recognition of the possibility that it might not work and we end up being exterminated by an AI we invented to unite us. Unintended consequences abound.)
What the piece did do was make me think of one of the cue cards I carry around with me in my pocket journal at all times.
This is a list of the Big Ten Cognitive Distortions.
Cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we take on ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time.
When somebody is depressed or suffering from a full blown depressive episode, their thinking can be distilled down to these cognitive distortions.
Depression is a characteristic of being human that probably everybody struggles with at one time or another. When it intensifies or persists, it can cross into the realm of mental illness and it can be devastating.
Like its close cousin, alcoholism, of which I’m personally all too familiar with, depression is pernicious in that it’s a type of mental illness that tells you you’re not sick.The mind folds in on itself and spins out a hall of mirrors to convince you that reality is objectively hopeless and foreboding.
What struck me was that the author was succumbing to more than one of the Big Ten Cognitive Distortions in putting forward a pretty extreme policy (intentionally creating an adversarial AI and unleashing it against humanity) because of a conclusion he had arrived at that probably seems perfectly objective and beyond refute to him (that the human race was irredeemably violent and regressive).
But when you run down the list of these cognitive distortions you realize not only this particular idea, but on examination, what I call The Four Horsemen of the Woke-pocalypse (systemic racism, climate alarmism, anti-capitalism and cancel culture) – in other words Wokethink in its totality, actually relies on and is defined by these cognitive distortions.
The other thing I realized about all this was that in normal depressive or anxiety episodes, the sufferer is in effect irrationally brainwashing themselves that they are flawed, unworthy, alone or overwhelmed. In some way they feel inferior or incomplete.In the extreme woke, the überwoke, these same 10 cognitive distortions are oddly inverted in order to convince themselves that it is the world outside that is irredeemable, unworthy and doomed.
Meanwhile they The Woke, are attempting to save it.
The Woke are not flawed. They are not even suffering from normal human uncertainty or healthy doses of self-doubt and skepticism.
They have no need for introspection because they have their hands full taking everybody else’s inventory and Literally Saving The World™.
Here are the 10 cognitive distortions that comprise #wokethink.
We can riff off a quick example or two for each one, but as we step through them, we’ll realize the current MSM driven zeitgeist is saturated with it. It actually gets pretty creepy when you look at it.
#1 All or Nothing Thinking
My personal view of left vs right thinking comes from a book about the human brain by Ian McGilchrest called The Master and the Emissary.
He examines the two different hemispheres of the brain as “two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experiencing the world.”
But despite those ways of experiencing the world being incompatible, most people are able to integrate them in order to unify both sides of their brain into our subjective experience of “I”. (In McGilchrist’s analogy one side will act as an “emissary” for the dominant side, the “master”).
I am probably guilty of mangling this book to make a tortured analogy about the political spectrum. Right and left thinking may very well be whole and incompatible strains of political thought.
But a healthy society needs both sides of the political spectrum, functioning coherently. Both.
At different times throughout history they may trade the roles of master and emissary, one may be dominant, the other may be ahead of the curve and setting the overall agenda or identifying the imperatives.
But the important point is that they co-exist and cannot function without each other. To the degree that one side, left or right, is marginalized or persecuted, society becomes unhealthy.
In today’s environment I will accuse the Woke Left of dominating the narrative and operating on the basis that anything right of center is not only wrong, but morally and ethically impermissible to exist.
Any conservative thought or libertarian leanings will in due course become negatively branded by being hitched to narratives of white supremacy or climate denialism and genuine dissent is in danger of being criminalized.
Under Wokethink, everything society has accomplished until now (if you’re reading this it means “you’re soaking in it”), is not an accomplishment at all but an affront and a crime against humanity.
Everything has to be dismantled, deconstructed and decolonized.
It all has to be burned down.
Photo credit: Issy Bailey on Unsplash