Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Catastrophe Thinking




The earlier we catch a problem, the better off we are. When we wait until a crisis and then grasp we have a problem, that is not intelligent behavior; wisdom is when we can anticipate a problem and then act upon it in a non-crisis stage. Intelligent people often exhibit this waiting behavior, they live only in the immediate, they are dogmatic, they learn only by great suffering which comes from a catastrophe.


Catastrophe thinking is not true thinking; it only reacts.  This is reactive thinking of the worst kind. We live in an age of catastrophe thinking. And its result will inevitably be catastrophe.

It is often said that it is Human nature to learn through our mistakes, and to some extent this is true. But when the powers of a species become very large then the possible disasters must be avoided at all costs -- because these events can have fundamental and irreversible results (calamities involving global war, the environment, resources, economics, climate, cultural and civil war, mass illness, mass mental illness, etc.)

Consider this logic:

A)     If Human beings learn through their mistakes
B)      And at the same time our powers become greater and greater
C)      Then at some point our mistakes will be big enough to eliminate Human beings
D)     Thus, learning from our mistakes is a mistaken strategy

Death and extinction do not enhance our learning abilities. Animals are subject to the unpredictable forces of Nature, they are made victims over and over. But Humans can avoid death and extinction because we have higher intelligence. And secondly, we have moral imperatives that demand action on our part -- when they are not impeded by other "values".  So this separates us from animals because we have moved to a higher level of behavior.

But unfortunately, being "Human" may not be enough. The consciousness that evolution has presented to us may not be adequate though it has all the qualities that we need. It may lack a specific stress, a certain alertness, an apprehension, a particular fear that propels us to increase our consciousness, to devise a kind of "Super-consciousness" of disaster and tragedy -- so that one part of mind can monitor the technological products of the other part of our mind. At this point in our evolution, our primary threat is ourselves, this is recent in historical terms. And this phenomenon changes all the rules.

A certain bliss of modern society, a distinct tendency to pleasure and diversion is what most of us want. We in effect want "unconsciousness".  Displeasure, pain, anxiety, the negative are banished. We slip into a collective unconsciousness of contentment.

But this is a conduct that we cannot afford to over-stress. For it is a remnant behavior of the age when we sought relief from the strains of primitive survival, yet today this activity has the potential of hiding from us the terrible dangers to humanity that we ourselves have generated. Creating a new consciousness requires new behaviors and new institutions.

And what of natural Human mistakes?

Of course, we know that mistakes are crucial to the correction of our behaviors, but the point has been reached where mistakes must be grasped much earlier and acted upon much sooner. Then we can anticipate and predict crisis, and act decisively in a pre-crisis stage.

It is a matter of accelerating the Learning Curve so that it stays ahead of our Power Curve. As our capabilities increase exponentially so must our skills of learning, and in fact, they must outpace the acceleration of our technical powers. Otherwise power interrupts and corrupts learning. We have no choice but to learn faster, act faster.

Thus we must increase the power of monitoring with more observation and science, more theory and prediction. And give more voice to experts in education, media and government.

Anti-catastrophe thinking also does best in a direct democracy where forces that profit from ignorance are excluded from political control.

And anti-catastrophe thinking is reduced when millions of individuals take it upon themselves to do what they can to ward off a disaster either as individuals, in social movements or ideally both.

This ability of prediction is based in data and scientific theory. But there will always be those with "ultra-empirical" minds of a very narrow type. They will demand to see the catastrophe before they will change their minds!  Of course then it is too late because the fools will be dead as well as the rest of us. This being the result of proactive morons whose core message is, actually, inactivity.

From these people we learn the axioms of social suicide:

·         First axiom of social suicide is denial of a problem
·         Second axiom is dismissal of all critique and evidence as hyperbole
·         Third axiom is to pose a trumping necessity or excuse for the behavior
·         Fourth axiom is to go about your lives as if everything is quite alright
·         Fifth axiom is, "let's wait and see"
·         Sixth axiom is, if we survive the catastrophe, then let's blame the victim.


These individuals cannot imagine, they cannot abstract, they cannot deduce. These are tactile minds of the worst kind that can only react to immediate reality. And apparently do not have the "magical" and "mystical" powers of the Human brain such as the capability of detaching from a situation, creating abstract concepts and theories, considering many situations at once, doing thought experiments, and predicting  the course of events from A to B to Z.


Catastrophe thinking comes out of an entire set of behaviors:

·         Reactive thinking that only reacts to events rather than controlling them
·         Myopic thinking that only looks at parts, details and not a whole phenomenon
·         Iso-thinking that thinks only in terms of one factor
·         Short term thinking that only deals with the now and future states, this is myopic thinking that is temporal, the tunnel vision of now.
·         Overly "empirical" or tactile thinking
·         Non-abstract thinking, the inability to detach into a realm of ethereal ideas
·         Non-deductive thinking, the inability to follow out the logic of a process
·         Non-fantasy thinking , the inability to imagine, compare or predict

What are its sources?

The first answer is ignorance. Some people are just stupid. They suffer from the various thought dysfunctions listed above: reactive, overly empirical, myopic etc. They have not as yet made the mental evolutionary leap to higher brain functions.

But the problem is more than ignorance. There are other social factors, and the combination of ignorance and social forces provides a reproduction cycle for idiocy.

The second and more prevalent answer is an entity that benefits in an immediate way from this reckless behavior -- corporations, the wealthy, political parties, leaders, nations and so on. Because there is profit and power involved in some damaging behavior it will continue regardless of the consequences, these organizations and individuals simply do not care. And they can generate counterarguments and most importantly produce distractions that remove public focus on these issues entirely, creating a kind of mass sleep walking of consumerist desire, entertainment, self absorption and career obsession. Government and politicians are of service too.

These entities and persons are essentially sociopathic to begin with – sociopathic meaning that they are hostile to other Human beings and society, they do not have any compassion or empathy. This is because the game they play has a completely different set of rules. And their measure of success is anti-social. Thus, they do not have the ability to distinguish good from bad, they are beyond good and bad, they are seeking wealth, control and status which are far more compelling issues for them. The pleasure of moral satisfaction or doing a good deed are not rewards in themselves.

This state of mind we must point out has the keen ability to censor out sensory information. It does not see data, events, or ideas that contradict its paradigm. This mind is "Censorial" -- censoring out the disagreeable, the contradictory, the undermining.

Needless to say, this kind of mind is not creative, or more precisely this brain avoids creativity because this would imply a massive change would be necessary in one's paradigm. Minor creativity or "Mis-creativity" in the marketing and selling of products is fine, but Major creativity however is too dangerous for it thinks too big and questions everything.  In the battle of the Trivial and the Vital, the crucial, the essential and the imperative have lost. Health and survival are not aims of modern creativity.

From a neurological perspective, we find this catastrophe thought process is happy with old models, familiar operations and comfortable equations.  It is securely rooted in the left temporal region happy to continue doing what it has always been doing, over and over. And this mindset is promoted in culture because to promote another would destabilize the entire status quo. Dogma, the obsolete and unconscious repetition are the needs of this mind.

Further this personality has a minor use for his or her powers of decision and judgment. A catastrophe thinker uses judgment based on limited data and ideas so as not to challenge the dominion of self gain.
Also, moral principles are excluded from synthesis.

Normally, we look at all facts and ideas, we access moral and philosophical paradigms, we consider counter arguments, we consider risks, we look at self gain vs. affects on others, we look at short term vs. long term consequences and so on.

But the catastrophe thinker is selective, he uses an exclusionary judgment or segregated judgment  which increases the efficiency of thought. The result is that the parliament of wisdom rubber stamps the programme of logic and reason.

Catastrophe thinking is alive and well for the moment in our evolution. It corrupts and interrupts predictive thinking reducing our ability to:

·         Evaluate data, create concepts
·         Foresee events
·         Act decisively

Consider these:

·         A financial collapse in 2008 that could have been avoided
·         Global warming which is now clearly manifesting itself
·         Renewable energy, a clear imperative
·         Obesity on a mass scale and its inevitable results: diabetes and heart problems
·         Mental maladies that have resulted in 11% of U.S. citizens taking anti-depressants
·         The overproduction of guns and their easy availability
·         Disturbing declines in the measure of empathy among citizens
·         The seemingly unstoppable advance of the 1% whose share of U.S. national wealth is rapidly increasing in this recession
·         The growth of poverty in the largest economy in the world
·         And so many more issues of health, psychology, the environment, economics and social injustice.


When we have the ability to do damage on a great scale to ourselves, other nations and Nature, Catastrophe Thinking can be of great service. It can realize a disaster rapidly and enhance its size.

There is a naïve belief that when things get bad enough then somehow we will find a savior and get saved, as in a Hollywood movie. But the fact is that as catastrophes get larger and larger, this is unlikely to happen because problems are simply too great for the mythical cavalry to defeat.

This is an evolutionary problem we face. We require a leap in consciousness, a consciousness that watches consciousness, a wisdom and judgment that monitors technology and capabilities. We need a degree of anxiety, suspicion and fear so that we do not accept all activities and projects without question. The risks and penalties are too great.


We can avoid "catastrophe thinking", the mindset of otherwise intelligent Humans which does not anticipate problems, take seriously negative data and events, and resolve problems in their early stages.

If not we will surely be numbered with other species in the universe who could not make the leap to a transcendent mind. This too is a form of "natural selection".

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