Ever wonder why suddenly there’s all kinds of “fake news” and everyone, including El Presidente, can lie? A lot. Steve Faktor explains the five evolutionary reasons why bullshit is winning. Enjoy the latest episode of The McFuture podcast! (You can also read it below.) Like it? Please share & rate it 5-stars on iTunes!
It’s not just education inflating our egos. EVERYTHING is! We wouldn’t know the truth if it tried to smother us in our sleep. There are real evolutionary reasons why we’re suddenly drowning in “fake news” and a sea of lies.
Consider our ‘100% genuine’ lives…
My Levi’s still say they’re a ‘36’ — like they’re starring in High School Time Machine.
Everyone knows Little Timmy can’t sing, play basketball, or draw. But there’s his wall of trophies and Fridge of Sorrows – stick figure mommy riding a flaming…beaver??
Maybe he’s high. America is the Courtney Love of countries. We know where esteem, courage, and escape really come from: Pfizer.
And without antidepressants, how else would Katie stage her daily self-empowerment festival on Facebook? “All bodies are beautiful!” “Nothing’s sexier than confidence!” “True beauty’s got booty!” Great. Let’s test that at the bar.
There’s so much more.
Ads disguised as lives on Instagram and Bravo.
Bodies doctored by…doctors and Photoshop.
Days at the office spent “curating” “authentic” “influencers” – pretending anyone, ever, wanted to “engage with brands.”
Employee self-assessments that make PowerPoints sound like heart transplants. And bosses and HR-types who pretend to care about your ‘career development’ while transparently protecting company interests.
Then, there’s “fake news” and crackpot conspiracies…
Is falling for “fake news” really that different from cherry-picking real news to reinforce our fake realities? Or, our constant state of fake #outrage. Or, the mindless Buzzfeed advertorials and Refinery29 quizzes we share like e-Bola? Then, buy their shin little cures.
I haven’t read a science book in 20 years. But my Facebook page says I f*cking love science! I don’t even click on the links. Like, like, like!! Science is so easy! I love it! No, I f*cking love it!!
You’d think our f*cking love of science would smother pseudo-science in its sleep. Not so much.
Vaccines cause autism!
Coffee cures cancer!
Pot cures everything!!
The earth is flat!
It’s no wonder why. Scientific studies have become like Bible passages – you can find one to support whatever you think the facts should be. Thanks, corporate funding! And laughable academic research system.
What’s Really Happening?
We’re witnessing America’s transition from facts to feelings.
Perception and reality haven’t been this far apart since Dear Leader Kim Jong Un defeated the wizards at Dumbledore.
The further we drift from reality – into this sea of feelings – the more defiant we become in our truth. After all, our identity depends on it. It has to be true. So every product, every tweet, every opinion, must reaffirm that identity – to give us meaning.
If only there were some other historical example of people clinging to – and fighting over – unprovable dogmas… Possibly, a lesson we could learn…. Can’t think of one… Nope, not one.
When opinions and whole identities – are based on feelings, not facts – on the supernatural, not the observable – there’s no foundation for debate or compromise. Everyone occupies a fantasy world of their choosing.
The Thinker is on life support. Long live The Feeler! The Believer! The Belieber!
[Don’t forget to check out all the other great episodes of The McFuture Podcast with Steve Faktor]
5 Reasons Why This is Happening
Our newfound irrationality has five perfectly rational explanations – all rooted in evolution.
- The stakes have never been lower. Basically, we won. For the first time in history, we’re safe from extreme weather, plagues, and invading Mongolians. Food is dirt cheap and arrives on Styrofoam, just like Mother Monsanto intended. In the old world, we couldn’t afford not to agree – is there a bear in the village or isn’t there?? With mortal danger off our to-do list, even America’s poorest can finally afford bespoke realities.
- Validation deficit. When we were hunting, building, and defending, it was easy to tell who did a good job – they lived! Validation was built-in. Today, more and more of our lives are virtual or abstract. On one hand, yay, Netflix! On the other, PowerPointing, brainstorming, and Photoshopping produce no tangible impact on the world. We don’t even see physical money for all our work. Some numbers show up in an account. Then, some guy hands us Pad Thai in the lobby. This elaborate laundering scheme demands that others validate us. That they tell us our work mattered…to somebody…anybody.
- We’re still tribal. We don’t rely on communities for physical survival anymore. Much of that has been outsourced to government and industry. Social security, sanitation, police, 401K’s, etc. Americans move out of the house by 18 (or run away by 12), but we still crave community. Ever wonder why there’s a Chinatown in every major city on Earth? (Even more in China!) We crave the company of others like us. Tribes were always built on need – finding, defending or capturing scarce resources. Or, an irrational love or hate of someone or something – real or imagined. With need gone, we cling to the irrational to glue our new, shoddy tribes together.
- Virtual bubbles. It’s easier than ever to create tribes and protect our bubbles online. Follow whom and what you like. Then eventually, Facebook, Google, and Amazon will make sure that’s the only world you know. We’re all that kid who closes his eyes to hide from the boogeyman. Well, our room is full of ’em. Time to look them in the eye.
- Education. When Candidate Trump said, “I love the poorly educated,” thousands of conspiracy theorists orgasmed. They always suspected the last thing elites wanted is a bunch of critical thinkers…like them?…running around. Noooo…. They want dumb, obedient drones buying $90 anti-aging creams with pearl particles. (See my post on comedian George Carlin’s take on this.) Conspiracy or not, to channel Candidate Trump, ‘education is a disaster’. Even our best schools still churn out obedient little robots for mass-industrial employment…that no longer exists. What they don’t teach is how to think critically, be skeptical, solve problems, and resolve conflicts.
Make no mistake, I don’t long for the “good old days.” They weren’t very good, just old. But all our lies and liars are LUXURY GOODS. They’re made possible by progress. From “alternative facts” to intolerant #tolerance warriors to lying presidents. We’ve earned EVERY. LAST. ONE. of them. The question is how much more progress can we afford, before we’re back to those good old days?
Our luxurious lies demand brutal scrutiny – not of them, but of ourselves.
Just like grocery checkout, travel booking, and music discovery are now up to us, so is finding truth. But it’s not about idiot-proofing the planet, locking away anything that might possibly offend us. Oh no!!! FAKE NEWS!!! NUKE ‘EM!!!! It’s about understanding why we’re so easy to manipulate in the first place.
Why do aspirational images, comforting quotes, and half-truths feel so good?
Why do they feed our envy, fears, and biases?
Why do we bend to their will?
And pacify ourselves with pointless trinkets?
Asking those questions is a great start. Then comes the hard part – clawing our way to the source. Identifying what’s really missing. Is it love? Smarts? Empathy? Community? Open-mindedness? Family? Effort? Motivation? Goals? Friendship? Exercise…? All the questions we’re afraid to ask because we won’t like what we’ll find.
The good news is once we find the source of our void, there are limitless ways to fill it. There’s a “how-to” site, class, or guru for everything. Collectively, we have the technology and creativity to solve almost any problem. We just need the will – and an honest diagnosis.
We can also take comfort that truth is not dead, just wounded. Each new generation is more educated, more intelligent, more democratic, more secular, and more peaceful. That means our bout with Idiocracy is temporary. Much of what we’re experiencing is a slow, painful adaptation to our new digital limbs. As economics and culture catch up, we can reminisce about that crazy time we almost became cavemen, again.
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Originally featured on Linkedin Pulse – “5 Ways Evolution Killed Truth“