Daniel Schmachtenberger (Notes)

'War on Sensemaking 4: Pandemic & Conspiracy, Daniel Schmachtenberger'
Rebel Wisdom



29:53 - One of the things that I find with regard to conspiracy [is that] people have an aesthetic bias, where anything they hear as a conspiracy is rejected up front. They just auto-reject it without studying it, even though history shows how much people have conspired.

On the other hand there are people who, if they hear any conspiracy they assume it’s probably true and if they hear that anything came from an authoritative institution it’s probably corrupt.



36:10A lot of people have a strong bias towards wanting certainty. Which means that they will adopt more certainty than the epistemic that they went through should warrant. 

It’s generally wanting security, and conflating security and certainty. Recognising how big of an infinity the unknowable is [means we have] to make very deep friends with uncertainty to not be mentally ill. That doesn’t mean that [because] there is uncertainty […] nothing can possibly be known - the fact that I can’t know anything with perfect certainty doesn’t mean that I can’t know things with much higher relative certainty based on certain epistemic processes that inform my action.

A mature relationship with certainty and uncertainty [means] that [we’re] not uncomfortable with either. 

There are a lot of people [with a postmodern mindset] who are actually uncomfortable with any uncertainties, even relative ones. The assumption [is] that all certainty is probably imperialism. But there is a lot we can say with pretty high certainty about [for instance] the molecular properties of water, or the speed of sound, or [other things] that are pretty well established.

It is important to seek certainty - to seek a better and better undemanding of reality [in order] to inform more responsible choice-making. In order to do that I have to admit and be comfortable with [an] amount of uncertainty, so that I can assess where I’m currently at and [ascertain how to progress].



42:12 -  Do I think that there are people erring on the side of unfounded conspiracy theories, and with more certainty - yes, definitely.

Do I think there are also other people erring on the side of being comfortable with more authoritarianism […] that are actually under-paranoid about what we the authorities are telling them and how they will handle things - yes. 

I think that both of those are happening, nearly equally. I’m more concerned by the second one.

I think that there is a problem with people saying that there isn’t a virus, but I think the people who call for national security actions to solve this - that leave authority states - also creates a problem that could be worse than the virus.




50:39 - I definitely see people that have a towards or away-from conspiracy bias, that corresponds with their general bias in how they relate to authorities. 

(This is a pattern that we can observe enough of the time that it’s interesting to look at. The reason I’m careful in saying things like this, is that when someone over-norms their patterns that’s where sense-making becomes bad).

I have seen, relatively often, people who generally think that government bodies [...] mostly regulate in the right interest, [and that] you can largely trust authorities. These people also generally have a frame that ‘things are mostly getting better in the world.’

Generally those people did better in childhood - at school [for instance]. Often times their parents were more successful, or they did better relative to them. So they have this experience that ‘the system actually works for me, and that the authorities are actually trustworthy, and that I have a good relationship with them’.

This creates an intuitive, felt sense, wherein even if they’re in an environment where that’s not true ([even] if it was true in the little micro-environment of their childhood) that’s still the felt sense. They sometimes will keep that forever, or sometimes they have to be disabused of it at some point.

Other people have the general sense that most authorities are probably corrupt and probably abusing power, and that most institutions can’t be trusted, and that people with less power can be trusted more, and [that] there is usually some process of corruption that is required for climbing power ladders.

Those people generally weren’t very successful at climbing the ladders, and often had authorities around that abused power or [had a negative experience with authority] whether that was school, or church, or whatever it was.

I’m giving an example of a kind of bias that can occur which is a towards or against authority bias; a kind of result that can happen - more likely to believe in conspiracies that the authorities are bad, or more likely to reject that the authorities are bad; and the kind of developmental environment that could give rise to it.

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