The Bear (Lions & Tigers & Bears)

In the face of complexity and rapid technological change we are told to be smarter, rely on our rational minds, and to think our way out of our present challenges.

Enter the emerging fields of cognitive science and evolutionary psychology.

The human brain is amazing. It is an advanced analytical engine with hundreds of  billions of connections. The features and functions of the human brain have been refined over eons for survival and we’ve leveraged the brain to become the dominant force on the planet.  We have even defeated literal lions and tigers with reason and logic (applied to weapons engineering, we didn’t actually argue them to death).

It appears as if we can tackle modern problems by carefully examining the facts, reasoning them through, making sound arguments, and building logical conclusions and judgments.

Unfortunately, this is not how we human animals actually operate.

When human thinking itself is subjected to careful study the view that our minds are mostly or even partly rational falls apart. Scientists studying when and where decisions occur in the brain tell us that almost every decision we make is mostly subconscious and, for all practical purposes, irrational.

We thought we were about to tame the lion and the tiger with reason and logic, but we forgot about the bear.

The bear is human nature.

The mind is real, a function of the physical brain, and it operates in specific and increasingly better understood ways.  It turns out that when you carefully study the human mind the results are both amazing and appalling.

Today’s most informed insights tell us that conscious minds were optimized for winning arguments not rational discussions. The mind exists for survival, not for finding truth. Have you ever had an argument you lost against someone who was clearly wrong? Have you ever won an argument when you were wrong? You already know that arguing and truth do not necessarily align.

We are social animals, not rational animals.  This is not good news or bad news really, it is simply reality.

The scientific evidence is inescapable. We cannot even trust ourselves to make reasoned and logical decisions naturally. To be successful fighting off the lion and the tiger, we must first tame the bear.  Our process must be designed for how our brains really work, not how we think they work, feel they work, or wished they worked.

Later we will discuss an amazingly effective solution to this problem, a solution which has been with us, yet mostly unrecognized, for a long long time.

TL;DR: We cannot tackle modern problems by relying on people to naturally use reason and logic to arrive at sound conclusions.  The conscious mind was designed to win arguments, and to survive, not be rational.

(Tom & Kyle)

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