WARNING (Climbing onto my soapbox)

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.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “WARNING (Climbing onto my soapbox)

  1. Getting people to engage their slow mode thinking is a challenge, particularly when they prefer not to believe the proposition to begin with.

  2. One aspect of fast-mode thinking that was mentioned in the investigative report that I didn’t mention was that it is largely unconscious or subconscious, whereas slow-mode thinking is deliberate and conscious. If true, it would imply that people don’t choose fast-mode when they encounter a proposition that they like or don’t like, but are unconscious of their bias in choosing the proposition that confirms the one they like. A slow-mode thinker would say to himself, “Hey, that sounds too good to be true or I’d better Snopes that or verify the assertion before passing it on to someone else, or it seems like this post is trying to cater to my whims or something else skeptical.” Unfortunately, it is our nature (probably in our genes) to consider those unlike us as evil and those like us as good, when logic tells us that each group of people probably has a similar percentage of good and evil, smart and stupid, and everything in between. They all want to live and they all love their kids. The problem is that we don’t trust each other, but trust is a vulnerability. Mutual gestures of trust with baby steps might be one solution.

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