In a world of endless data and the computing power to organise it, why is that we conflate extreme, disparate, and all data into single narratives?
A few things becomes EVERYTHING.
A few people becomes EVERYONE.
A few times because EVERY TIME.
Insidious remarks that over time, add up to bold summaries. Death by a million papercuts.
Humans have a knack for correlating to imply causation, even when the data points are coincidental (but not connected), completely disparate, a black swan, or entirely accidental. Casual rhetoric becomes hyperbole, which left unchecked turns into prejudice and judgement.
What’s worrying is that we find comfort in binary definitions to the extent that we enter defense mode should anything come along and threaten that position. The risk of ‘changing teams’ or entertaining the ‘enemy’ is treacherous, weak, and dishonest.
Yet instead of inspecting, inquiring, and trying it on for size, we shoot first before asking questions, and seek to warn others about things we really have a very biased and limited understanding of.
At some point, on every topic, you didn’t have a position. You didn’t have enough data or experience so you didn’t have judgement or decision. In the pursuit of gathering evidence, you searched for connection, formed a hypothesis, attached meaning, created a belief, defined rules, then developed skills to fight for those rules.
Before long, your identity is so caught up in your rules that it becomes your definition of truth and reality. A tangible and vivid construction of what once lived in your mind as a mere possibility. You seek others with the same rules (also called values and beliefs) thus enabling and validating biases, while rejecting and opposing those who disagree. You now have a side to represent, and the focus shifts towards playing a game of winners and losers.
There are also significant environmental factors at play. Our communities inform our thinking processes, and thus teach behavior which we call culture. Societal structure then rewards those who make one of two extreme choices rather than entertain variation and context. Those who try variation are often outliers and are initially persecuted for non-compliance. Should they survive, persevere and gain traction, they stand a chance to revise the cultural narrative and create new processes for future generations.
It seems to me that we could spend more time developing our reasoning and critical thinking abilities more than dispensing answers or chasing one-size-fits-all solutions. To create a world where conflict isn’t avoided or manifested as violent disagreement, but constructive and creative problem solving.
To do that however, it would take a bigger risk than most can handle: being vulnerable, open to new ideas, and willing to resist creating casual rhetoric that makes for juicier (but inauthentic) stories.