I’m Not Copying, I’m Being Efficient

-Gary Larson(c) from Prehistory of the Far Side

Evolution proposed a novel solution to surviving in a seemingly chaotic universe. It was a bold move based on the grand assumption that what has happened and is happening contains information about what will happen next. It would require an organism to gather data about the environment, integrate it, store it, analyze it and build models which would allow it to see into the future. Evolution it seems was the first data scientist.
While this is all very impressive it exposes a feature of these predictive organisms which is really a function of the universe itself. The infinite amount of interactions and processes bubbling around us means there is no accurate predefined model. Instead the creation, elimination and updating of the models is constant.
Our predictive organisms enter this world then somewhat dumb. They need information to be thrive. Being a member of this predictive class we humans have this same requirement and are driven to acquire it to the same degree as any of our classical biological needs like food, water, and breathable air.
With every bit of this process involving the consumption of energy an organism must be efficient. If a successful model exists it is economical to adopt it rather than create it. How many of the models in your brain are yours? How many have been copied?

Rene Gerard who proposed the Mimetic Theory of Human Behavior would say nearly all are mimicked. Mimetic Theory says our desires, goals, likes and dislikes are acquired from others. We value something because others do. We seek objects or experiences because others do. Remember after breaking up with someone and being completely fine with decision until someone else showed interest in your ex? This is just a tiny sliver of the theory and it’s worth exploring if you’re interested in the first principles of how humans behave.

So what does this all mean? It means we’re lazy. It means we’re totally fine to have someone else to the thinking. This is the basic mechanism of how governments, companies, religions and people influence and exploit others. Those digital bread crumbs you leave behind on your phone, laptop, or a connected device are not used to assess whether you have this vulnerability. Sorry to spoil it but you do. What they’re attempting to discern is who or what you are most likely to mimic.

It is easy to feel powerless in the face so many entities toiling away night and day to influence you for the purposes of separating your time and money from you. “I’m boring.”, “I don’t mind being shown advertisements for things I want.”, are just a couple of ways we express that powerlessness. It doesn’t matter if you’re boring you’re still subject to influence and you don’t even know that your desire for that product is in fact your own.

How do we take some power back? We acknowledge the reality of our nature, the well worn path we are designed to take. Then we walk right off that path. We become inefficient, slowing down to consult multiple sources especially opposing views. We acknowledge that we are heavily biased toward the source, more readily mimicking those we like and doing the opposite of those we dislike. We ask ourselves, why is this my goal, why do I want that object, why am I a part of this social group? We can’t escape our nature but we can give ourselves the opportunity to make a choice rather than blind adoption.

Do you agree? Or have you adopted my model, acting out the pattern of Mimetic Theory?

Musings fueled by my interest in data science, crytpo currencies, human behavior, knowing the future, and buzz words.