Variations on a theme : protecting incorrect core beliefs in a NNN

So, I’ve been reading Thinking Fast And Slow, which talks about several things that I’ve already thought about considerably, but from the perspective of considerably more research than I’ve done about them. One of the things it’s underlined for me is the idea that our brains have both configuration that is still flexible and configuration that has been compiled – well, actually hardwired, via interconnections between neurons – so that it can run at sub-second speeds. As a musician I am trying very hard to make the connection between the music I imagine and what my fingers do be built this way – at the moment, it is for my right hand but not for my left.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been thinking about is the right wing’s continued defense of Trump even though he’s obviously a abomination. One of my friends, out of ways to defend Trump directly, has a never-ending series of ad-hominem attacks for Biden. This is the same friend who was once talking about how we shouldn’t have government healthcare because it could involve the government paying for a citizen’s mistake even though he’s only alive because the government assisted him after he did something fairly boneheaded.

So I’ve been thinking about that, and about how we parrot the statements of our peers and the talking heads on the television without thinking about them, and part of what I’m contemplating is that we may do such things as part of the process that defends our core beliefs even when we know they’re wrong.

See, it takes a certain amount of neurochemical resources to rebalance our neural networks – one of the things that ends up happening is that subnets that become a large nexus point between interconnects are still relevant even if they represent a belief that’s been disproved, because other firing patterns still pass through them. Now, of course, as with things like a closed-head injury, there are systems in place to arrange for alternate wiring, however that process must be pace-limited by the fact that it’s actually consuming resources – making wiring connections between neurons in a human brain is *not* free – *firing* is not even free, it involves uptake of chemicals that must later be released and so there’s a limited amount of it that can happen for any given amount of time.

As a result, I would imagine we have evolved defense mechanisms that will protect core beliefs that large amounts of neural circuitry are routing through *even when we ourselves know they are wrong*. I wonder if that’s part of what’s going on with my friend, since the alternative involves him having a deep lack of self-awareness.

I also wonder – one of the things in general that’s difficult to absorb and understand about the right is how they can over and over see their cherished points of view being obviously proved false (the laffer curve, for example) and then go back ot them. ANd I wonder how much of that is the above phenomenon, and what sorts of checks and balances one needs to have in place to correct for the fact that humans will cling to beliefs that are provably wrong.

One part of what’s going on with this election is that people on the right are accusing nearly all news channels of being ‘fake news’ – so they are living in a alternate reality where Trump isn’t a evil bastard who steals from vendors and from the american people, is in massive debt, has routinely acted abysmally towards woman, is probably a white supremacist, and lies constantly. Instead, everything the media says is “leftist lies”. Now part of what’s alarming to me is this demonstrates they have no memory, because we can point to things like Trump’s handling of COVID as demonstrating that he’s making statements that provably turn out not to be true in ways we can all remember. What’s also alarming is even after Trump completely flubs COVID due to treating it kind of like the right treats global warming, the right will continue to go on about the “global warming hoax” – even though other science-y things demonstrated the scientists were right, they won’t recognize the pattern and start to listen to science. These people are not in touch with reality and they don’t know it and (possibly because of the above) there is no way to put them in touch with reality. I am not sure what the solution is going forward but I am starting to think freedom of the press should be slightly abridged such that things like Fox and Friends must actively say at the beginning of each show “This is entertainment only. We are going to lie to you. None of what we are saying is true.” or some such.

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