Babble Of ‘Babel’ Frying Humanity’s Brain

April 11, 2022

Sunshine this Monday early evening here in California’s Central Valley — we were forecast for some rain today  but after a few hours of overcast, the clouds seemed to have disappeared and brightness will most-likely carry us to dark and on into the week.
Weather is sometimes a toss-up.

In my scrolling (doom or otherwise) this afternoon, caught in the mix of horrific Ukrainian news and nasty-asshole Republican reports, I did come across a really good long read using the Bible’s Tower of Babel narrative to display how fractured and fragmented our entire society — tech vs the lying tongue:

Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business, at The Atlantic this morning couples the towers’ past and the present together. Go read the whole piece, it’s a really good explanation for our current bullshit/woes, and a deep-dive into the synopsis of blather — a taste:

The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.

It’s been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism; it’s a story about the fragmentation of everything.
It’s about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It’s a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.

Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the country’s future — and to us as a people. How did this happen? And what does it portend for American life?

Since the tower fell, debates of all kinds have grown more and more confused. The most pervasive obstacle to good thinking is confirmation bias, which refers to the human tendency to search only for evidence that confirms our preferred beliefs. Even before the advent of social media, search engines were supercharging confirmation bias, making it far easier for people to find evidence for absurd beliefs and conspiracy theories, such as that the Earth is flat and that the U.S. government staged the 9/11 attacks.
But social media made things much worse.

The most reliable cure for confirmation bias is interaction with people who don’t share your beliefs. They confront you with counterevidence and counterargument. John Stuart Mill said, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that,” and he urged us to seek out conflicting views “from persons who actually believe them.”
People who think differently and are willing to speak up if they disagree with you make you smarter, almost as if they are extensions of your own brain. People who try to silence or intimidate their critics make themselves stupider, almost as if they are shooting darts into their own brain.

As I wrote above, go read the whole piece, well worth the time, however the length. Haidt presents a righteous stake in how our humanity has swollen behind an eight-ball future. The test:

We can never return to the way things were in the pre-digital age. The norms, institutions, and forms of political participation that developed during the long era of mass communication are not going to work well now that technology has made everything so much faster and more multidirectional, and when bypassing professional gatekeepers is so easy. And yet American democracy is now operating outside the bounds of sustainability. If we do not make major changes soon, then our institutions, our political system, and our society may collapse during the next major war, pandemic, financial meltdown, or constitutional crisis.

Especially to our environment. Climate change is pushed off front burners, even off stoves. Idiots on a continuous babble of ‘don’t look up‘ bullshit:

What now?

Tower or not, once again here we are…

(Illustration out front: ‘Tower of Babel,’ 1928 woodcut by MC Escher, and found here).

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