Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Good TED Talk

This Ted Talk by Jonathan Haidt does a great job of describing the concept of the social animal and the socialization in general, not just among animals.

One of the things that bothers me greatly these days the the divisions between the ideas that people hold about how to move forward as a society.  The current political contest in America shows these differences clearly.

We have the political right in a heated battle with the political left.  Each side is absolutely and seemingly irrevocably committed to their beliefs that not only do they have it just right but the other side has it completely wrong.

This division into camps, tribes, parties, teams is shown to be a very natural occurrence by the Ted Talk.

The main take aways from this talk, I think is that our tendency to be tribal is 'baked-in' at a very, very fundamental level.

To get past the current and what I see as horrible divisions between our two tribal political parties is for both sides to, simultaneously, realize and embrace our fundamental nature and move forward from there.

I've written before about what a revelation it was to read Michael Schermer's book The Believing Brain. Shermer's book tells why our minds work the way they do.

The emergence of spoken and written language for humans is what allows us to develop and share between each other and between our groups, ideas and beliefs.  The emergence of civilization and on a more fundamental level, what we call intelligence is an attribute of language.

The technology we call 'The Internet' (and before that 'The Book') has allowed us to speak and communicate our ideas in a voice that carries across geographic boundaries at the speed of light.

This modern information technology has enabled our natural tendencies to form and cling to groups.  This has been characterized as the Balkanization of ideas.  Folks concentrating on getting their news about current events from certain cable news channels is an example this.

Realizing this and realizing how we evolved to be tribal and how we evolved to cling to our ideas so tenaciously the way we do is critical in understanding ourselves and then to moving beyond this evolutionary baggage that keeps us from forming a global tribe that moves us all forward. 

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