Symaptico w/ the debil

Call me a contrarian, but the more public discourse seems to break down into a collection of loosely connected, self-referential reality-distorting echo chambers where people congregate based on shared prejudices and unexamined beliefs, the more I find myself going in the opposing direction, reaching out and paying attention to people I intuitively disagree with.


I remember my marveling, in the early days of the interwebs (circa 94), at how it was suddenly so easy to assemble and exchange according to shared interests and self-selection criteria, rather than by imposition of external factors such as locale, class, age, creed and other opportunity-limiting parameters. [all subject to the usual caveats about future's uneven distribution, etc.]
It was a nice change of pace.

The net created a privileged space where (a subset of the many) voices that couldn't be heard before could speak up and reach like-minded individuals, of the sort previously doomed to the solitude that comes from worshiping at no(t the right) altars, or failing to embrace the local unquestioned consensus — wherever one happened to have been born.
This new information age seemed to open the doors on a much richer, diverse future, and really, so it did.
Thanks to being fearful, bunchy apes, with sectarian reflexes drilled into us by history as the winning strategy for survival, this explosion in complexity and variety soon led to us seeking safety in exclusionary self-selected cliques. This mindset eventually leaked into meatspace and most venues of public debate as our daily lives got more networked and net-entangled, turbo-charging trends that had started with the advent of the TV age, and trampling whatever semblance of shared normalcy we'd painfully imposed upon ourselves through centuries of self-inflicted mass punishment.

Flash forward to now, where simply getting people to agree on basic facts gets problematic, since it's become so easy to tune all inputs, and receive only those feeds that confirm and reinforce one's expectations (good and bad), to engage only with people who share one's worldview.

If the takeaway lesson from the 20th century was to be wary of the ideological and military continent-scaled monstrosities enabled by mechanization, modern media and commerce acting as force multipliers for simplistic cure-all utopias, we certainly overdid the formula when we leveraged the wondrous potential of a networked world to create the epidemic of self-assembling cults that now seem to be tearing to bits every attempt at building any sort of social and political consensus.


Mobs freak me out today more than ever, as they've never been so well-insulated against any call to reason or practicality, now that self-delusions have been promoted to the 'new normals'… 
Strangely enough, this proliferation of self-contained insanity bubbles also makes me hopeful in the potential of education and shared intelligence in our technological age.

If we managed to shred the social fabric(s) that had gone essentially unchallenged for the previous eight thousand years in just a few decades (not to mention ecosystems and climate dynamics), then it could be a hint about our potential to collectively grow out of this phase, too, possibly in no more than a generation or three, and maybe even of us getting a clue before we self-exterminate, as cultures, and as species.

Hence me no longer seeking out like-minded types — it's good enough for me to know there are, a plenty — and instead looking in the most unlikely spaces I can parse for the sort of intelligence that differs from mine.
I'm not saying UFOs (you silly), although if you have some actual (or alleged) space aliens willing to sit down for a drink and a chat, I'm down with that, too.


So what do I mean by that ? 
Since I've always been driven by curiosity, I must now assume I can't rely on my sense of wonder and adventure alone to take me where I've been a dozen times already, and see better this time around.
Instead, I go where I normally wouldn't. 

If something or someone rubs me the wrong way, with that familiar "this is beyond dumb" feel, I go against my so-called best judgement and ask myself two things :
  • Why exactly does it trigger my scorn, disgust or mere irritation (when some hold it so dear and / or true) ?
  • What would it take for me to relate ?

I suggest you try it, it's interesting, and often fun.