I watched an interesting documentary this morning about fake news, fast and slow thinking, ‘us’ versus ‘them’, and Russians hacking our minds to sow confusion and division among us. Many of the ideas were drawn from the book below (which I read). The core problem is that we all have two modes of thinking: fast mode and slow mode. Both serve us well, but in different situations. Fast mode may be used when we don’t have time to thoroughly think things through, to analyze the data, compare, verify or validate, pick the best or optimum of alternatives, etc; for instance, when a lion is chasing us, we’re surrounded by enemies, a car just swerved into our lane, or our aircraft ran out of gas at 10,000 feet. Slow mode may be used when fast mode doesn’t come up with a viable solution, the problem is too complex for simplistic solutions, or the problem is important or consequential and you have the time to consider the risks and/or opportunities.
Unfortunately, most of us prefer or fall into fast mode thinking due to laziness, ignorance, or inability to operate in slow mode. Also, there are a few of us who can’t get out of slow mode thinking to save ourselves, when there’s no time to analyze, compare, verify, validate, etc.
Fast-mode thinkers are highly vulnerable to fake news, us versus them, Russian mind hacking, and snake-oil salesmen and politicians. The results of this vulnerability can range from a few people getting swindled to riots, looting, and lynching, to outright civil war. We are all vulnerable to inappropriate fast mode thinking; not just Republicans and Trump supporters – also Dems and everyone else, from elementary school drop-outs to PhD’s, scientists, philosophers, and religious leaders.
Politicians exploit fast mode thinking to garner votes. Social media and other advertisers exploit fast mode thinking to sell products and services, and Russia (and China) exploit fast mode thinking to weaken our democratic institutions and our unity.
Of course, slow-mode thinkers are vulnerable to lions, enemies, driving fast on freeways, and flying planes, unless they know how to turn on their fast mode.