Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Donald Trump as a Product of System 1 thinking.

I rarely delve into electoral politics but a recent essay I read on Facebook (of all places) started me thinking about the current election cycle.

In his book entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes two modes of thinking in the human mind. He gives these modes the the innocuous names of "System 1" and System 2". System 1 is the fast, intuitive, and emotional side whereas System 2 is more deliberative, logical and slower.

The two systems as Kahneman describe them, make perfect sense in an evolutionary context. I recall reading that a human neuron has a clock speed of about 15 Hz to 20 Hz. That means human reaction times are, at best, measured in tenths of a second. In a world where threats and opportunities happen unexpectedly, a system for selecting quickly from the available alternatives was necessary for survival. The System 1 we inherited from our ancestors was refined by millennia of a brutally efficient system of natural selection and it works very well for what it evolved for. By contrast, the more deliberative System 2 was patched on top of the older intuitive System 1 and is heavily influenced by it.

So, what does this a have do with Trump? Well, first politics is the real mind-killer. It may be an important aspect of life and we should certainly apply our individual rationality to it. However, it is an awful place to learn to be rational. To have a rational political discussion, all sides must first be rational. Trump, I think, represents the triumph of our atavistic evolutionary nature over the much more recent and less well proven rationality. He is in effect a super politician when seen through the filter of intuition and emotion. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing only time can tell

Which brings me to the essay. Like Mr. Yudkowsky I do not agree with everything Mr. Monroe wrote but the following does have a good exposition as to how a man like Trump can rise toward political power in a manner that appears nearly inevitable. The fault is not in our stars but in our genes.

Read it here. This is a Facebook post so it may not be visible to everyone.

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