The madness of crowds always rule: it’s a consequence of several deep instincts which made humanity possible. However, one hundred was an immense crowd, then. Evolution did not expect, because it never experienced with, crowds in the thousands. Now, we have crowds in the billions.
This is no exaggeration: several billion people supposedly follow and revere a religion founded by somebody who tied up his son, to slash his throat, like a vulgar goat. Then the “god” in his head told him not to do it, after all: why would that madness be revered for millennia, is a striking example of the madness of crowds.
There are even greater follies in power now: why would bankers and financial types be let to enjoy the power they do, in violation of the basic principle of democracy (which is that power, kratos, is to the people, demos)?
Another folly: that warming up the Earth’s polar regions by as much temperature difference as separates us from the last maximal glaciation, will have dramatic consequences in a few millennia… but not before.
An even greater madness is that none of this is very interesting, and it’s much better to read and fantasize about “Harry Potter” (not “Hairy Potter”).
The madness of crowds has been the argument of those who favor the madness of one, monarchy, or aristocracy, the power of the best. Of course, one has to determine who “the one” would be, or what “best” means. Most often, it turned out to be best born.
The “Internet”, in many countries means “Facebook”, a private company, which, historically has been used politically in many ways, including spying by the government of the USA. “Facebook” also spies on its customers’ “likes” and habits, and sells the information to advertisers, while tweaking what its customers see, in consideration of what they like, or apparently associate to. This amplifies the (already preexisting) bias towards tribalism.
So what of better thinking in all this? Or, more simply, what of creative thinking in all this?
It’s not favored. Indeed, only thoughts that please crowds get amplified. This tribal thinking is a form of intellectual fascism. Intellectual fascism: What concept is this? Subjugating all too much of one’s mind to all too few ideas, principles, or emotions.
Could technology help to foster (more) correct, (less) erroneous thinking, just as it has favored, so far, to all too great an extent, tribalism and intellectual fascism?
Yes. Original thinking could be determined by very sophisticated software. Software could also determine whether (supposedly) known facts are contradicted, and highlight them. Software could also being made to find META hierarchies, thus determining plausible depth of arguments.
Whereas software could not determine whether an argument is correct, it could determine if said argument satisfies the preconditions to be a paradigm jump. Including whether it involves new concepts, and, if so, what they appear to be. And whether the argument lives in another logical dimension (a precondition for originality).
A creative thinker can get discouraged when informed her thoughts are irrelevant. Claimed irrelevance is the first step towards complete impotence.
So technology could help fostering creative thinking considerably. However, the main point remains that ethics would have to change. The mood, at this point, is that thinking, cognition and association, all serve the most basic instincts of tribalism, and, more generally, intellectual fascism. We are far from having put TRUTH as the ultimate god we have to serve.
“Postmodernism” and “French Theory” instead insisted that truth was tribal. In truth, abusing truth is tribal. Truth itself is not tribal.
Verily, it’s a mark of particularly fanatical tribalism to insist that truth can only be tribal: “French Theory” is tribal.
It has always been true that discovering new concepts tends to be the mark of the ascetic ones: one has to be a monk to ferret the truth. Thus great creative thinkers discovering new truths tend to have had difficult lives. So one has to choose: creative thinking of the worthiest type, means a hard life. Marie Curie’s Nobel money was used to build the bathroom she did not have prior.
And when one rolls out more famous thinkers whose lives were easier, it turns out, often, that a good case can be made that they were more opportunistic, or more lucky, or better tribally connected, or to a tribe which amplified renown better, than the ones who really originated the idea. I have documented this many times: Poincare’ originated Relativity, and not just its name, but even E = mcc. Yet, a German was attributed the discovery. The same German was fully attributed the theory of gravitation, although the main idea therein came from Riemann, another German who had the misfortune to die young. This is not just about being nice to pioneers: recognizing Riemann is recognizing that the fundamental idea of gravitation a la Einstein is a tautology. An all-too-easy way of thinking.
So what? Some will suggest to give time to time… And wisdom will blossom. But here is the problem: creating new truth could not change the world much in the past, and that world was rather static. However, now, both potential impact and the world, are highly dynamic. Pure thinking is extremely mighty, and thus, an ethical bomb. Which will expose ever worse, if not properly handled.
New truth can change everything fast. For example, if I am right, and I have exposed detailed reasons why, Antarctica’s iceshelves can melt in decades rather than centuries, if that were a new truth, the impact on present civilization would be huge. I have even exposed how East Antarctica, supposed to last 5,000 years by conventional climatologists anxious to be taken very seriously, is actually already melting, below the surface. If I spent all my energy writing silly sorcery for little children, I would have, no doubt, more readers. But why to try to do what the tribe wants to honor, to justify its own existence? In the end we are all dead, as (plutocrat) Lord Keynes (not so) subtly noticed. So distinction is not about dying, but how we die.
How we enjoy living through suffering is how we reach for greater values, the highest gods. Camus famously said: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
There is no need to “imagine” Sisyphus happy. It comes naturally. Struggling, even suffering, not too much, but enough, is necessary to fill a human beings’ mind, and generate happiness. Struggling and suffering are even more necessary to creative thinking. (The pseudo philosopher BHL cannot replace them with the stimulants he takes, such as cocaine, amphetamines, and various illicit cocktails; struggling and suffering, for real, are much more potent.)
The world is changing fast. We are approaching various singularities of our making, none of them we can stop.
The way out is straight, yet narrow: truth, and lots of it. Nothing superficiality can produce.
Against perceived irrelevance creative thinkers contend in vain. Yet, therein salvation, and only there.