Film Review: “The Human Spark” – “So Human, So Chimp” Revisited

BO: When you reviewed “So Human, So Chimp”, you overlooked the fact that it is part 2 of a 3-part series called “The Human Spark”.

FH: Yes, and it concludes with the idea that what makes us unique is syntax, among other things.

BO: What other things?

FH: I’m more interested in the fact that it overlooks the most obvious answer, which is the strategic step.

BO: So you have a different opinion. That’s only human.

FH: Why don’t people just continue to believe that the sun circles around the earth? It won’t interfere with making a living, making friends, and leading a healthy, happy life.

BO: So you’re saying that from the perspective of a future historian, arriving at logically incorrect decisions is just as egregious as arriving at logically incorrect facts?

FH: No, the case of the future historian is stronger than that. Decision-based thinking will supersede fact-based thinking. The decisions have to be right. Whether you get the facts wrong is not important as long as incorrect facts don’t end up dominating over the true ones in the long run.

BO: Help the reader conceptualize this by being very specific and concrete.

FH: Nowadays when you join the workforce, whatever you do is extremely information-intensive. Fact-based thinking is rewarded and in fact has a 100% monopoly. If you’re an engineer, you need a vast body of knowledge to succeed. One day you work with a windows OS, another day with a Mac, and the next day with UNIX. Multiple standards are everywhere. Everything is vastly more complex than it needs to be. Just look at how many makes and models of cars we have, and they change the replacement parts they require constantly. They constantly come up with new technologies that usually serve more to place an additional burden on us than simplify life. I’ve seen a car mechanic lament in a forum that by the time a new technology has had enough time on the market where we can correct the major design defects, it’s already replaced with a new technology, so that we’re constantly sending our cars to the repair shop. Even without specialized knowledge in the field, it’s easy to see that power windows cause a tremendous maintenance burden, when manually powered windows were reliable and easy to use. As an individual, the best way to adapt is to absorb new information quickly, to process information quickly, to make quick decisions, and constantly move on to the next task and the next task and the next task. It’s a fact-based thinker’s paradise.

The predictable result is that society as a whole becomes extremely stupid and inefficient. There’s widespread agreement on something like the income tax code. Peter Schiff recently commented in his video blog that all these lawyers, accountants, IRS officials, etc who dedicate their lives to income taxes are a huge waste. We’d be better off abolishing it. How can you express such a thought and then fail to take the next logical strategic step, which is to apply the same reasoning to the rest of the economy? How can you understand that the tax system is a waste and then see nothing wrong with trying to keep a whole population employed at least 40 hours a week?

Clearly the next advance in our evolution has got to be that we learn to minimize complexity (in particular, the information burden placed on the highest level thinkers in the system, which is our brains). We should be high-level strategists, not low-level information-stuffers. I expect people to recoil in terror as they see how everyone willingly turns himself into a super-busy drone who is spectacularly productive in terms of the amount of information processed per hour or per day, but acts like a total dim-wit when it comes to strategic stepping.


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