My theory on Human Behavior

I think that a lot of human behavior is driven by the desire to simplify continuous (or very close to continuous) values into a binary system. Let's call it the tendency to binarize.

Let's start with an evolutionary perspective. First note that the ability to make decisions is a very advantageous one as there are essentially always two basic two decisions that result in varying in usefulness outcomes - do nothing and conserve energy, move to obtain energy. Thus with this view intelligence and its growth would be a very helpful tool. This idea of intelligence is supported by the concept of logic arising out of a social context (see this great vsauce video: as logic helps organisms make better decisions.

This is further evidenced by looking at human organization. Us humans tend to form groups based on identity. Thus we simplify the essentially infinite (in our perspective) number of people we meet into having a characteristic or not having it. We can see this in the consistent rise of 2 party systems, education/success, culture and even very early in our history with families and religion: even though others may be 99% like you or practice almost everything you do, they are simplified into being the outsider/bad group. Even the modern dominance of individualism can be seen as a manifestation of this lens. By making the individual the only in-group, they make deciding the split much easier: everything else is the out-group. We also see this tendency a lot in our modern society from the proliferation of echo-camber algorithms on social media to the desire of easy rankings (think product stars, tier lists, product labels etc). Thus there arises the problem of seeing the world solely through binary lens.

On an idealistic level, the demarcation of in and out is highly arbitrary. Thus for greater truth we wouldn't want to be doing this senseless creating of "truth". On a practical level, this brings issues of communication and oversimplification.

The issue of communication stems from the demarcation of in and out group being arbitrary. Thus when trying to convey where that line is to others, it becomes difficult to quantify, if even possible. In addition, there are factors like personal preference, factors to consider (definitional), weights, etc. This then leaves everyone disconnected from one another as the meaning of what is trying to be conveyed is interpreted differently. This is especially problematic for a world as connected as ours. If person B misconstrues person A and then sends that to people CF, and then do the same, then by the end this will result in horrible disconnects (just consider the classic game of telephone but even more exponential; in case you don't know what I 'm talking about: Therefore the polarization of society we see today may be contributed to immediately by binarization and subsequently by communication issues. A double whammy.

This issue also leads to oversimplification. By converting potentially multiple continuous factors into simple in and out groups results in a great loss of data, thereby reducing understanding. Having a complete understanding of complex issues is very important, especially if making a significant decision. For instance, the goodness of companies is a highly complex issue. In response to this, we see a lot of internet guides trying to binarize them into good and bad. Many would consider Google to be a good company overall for their high use of renewable energy. However, if people consider water of privacy or something else Google is lacking in to be more important than renewable energy, then Google would be bad. Thus people are twisted into believing the wrong thing.

Perhaps on a realistic level, it is impossible to not binarize as by my own ideas on free will ( we are limited in our abilities, including information processing. However as we move into an increasing connected and global world, the issue of communication and understanding (complex issues are only going to rise in number) are going to only increase in importance, thus I believe we should at the very least try and maybe humanity can overcome greater obstacles than we could otherwise.

Some final remarks I'd like to add are suggestions on overcoming the issues. One could stop using social media, or at least those with echo-chamber algorithms. One could also ensure that you go back to the source when spreading information. For oversimplification, simply give the raw facts and then engage in discourse over importance and then come to a decision. I'd also like to add that when I believed in binary free-will, I attributed this tendency to laziness. However, a philosophical limitation would also work.

Update: Oh WOW, I read this blog post for the first time and I didn't realize how much it aligned with this article: There still are some arguments that I want to think over, but I mostly agreed with this.

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