Cognitive Barriers and Rethinking Assumptions
To really think clearly, it’s important to clear away cognitive barriers. Pesky assumptions that prevent us from seeing the truth.
These assumptions can be big or small. The big ones prevent us from seeing what’s coming, acting on the opportunities presented and taking precaution against potential threats.
In our current situation, one of most prevalent current cognitive barriers is our reliance on economic logic. People apply it to everything. This wouldn’t be bad if the logic of economics was universally applicable — across all times, scales, and places in human history — but that’s far from truth. Economics, particularly Capitalist macro-economics, is not only a modern construct, its applicability is almost completely restricted to the modern world.
This means that if you clearly want to see what comes next, it will require a rethinking of assumptions, even if they are central to economic logic. In fact, an inability to understand the logic of economics was an insurmountable cognitive barrier to the last group to rule the world, and it cost them everything.
Up until the ~1600′s, the world’s “political economy” was a largely variation on a Feudal theme. Yet it was a system that didn’t operate according to economics in any meaningful way. The bulk of “economic” production was agricultural. Almost everyone farmed. The remainder were focused on mastering the skills of war. In this system, ownership of land was hereditary and aristocratic. The dominant way to view the world was through a logic of blood, traditions, and relationships, from the loftiest ruler all the way down to the peasant working the field.
Maneuvering for success in this system was largely finding a way to marry well or fighting wars that provided generous honor/spoils. Commercial activity, when it did occur, only represented a small part of the overall economy. When it did, it was normally in terms of the small amount of surplus agricultural output available (beyond what was needed to feed the peasants and local nobility).
This logic was so successful, it took over the world. It also prevented the aristocracy from seeing the rise of Capitalism. At the time, it made sense. To them, Capitalism wasn’t anything new. It had been around for thousands of years and represented little threat. In contrast, a loose hierarchy based on blood ties, honor, and violence was eternal.
What they didn’t see was that the Capitalism of the 1600′s was different. It wasn’t just the buying and selling of baubles or the short term financing that made wars easier to wage. It was something fundamentally new.
This Capitalism was being fueled by new approach to science and technology (the application of scientific insight to real world problems). Due to a unique confluence of conditions that occurred in Western Europe during the 1500′s, this science and technology got better over time. It built on itself, and Capitalist economics was an effective catalyst.
Fueled in this way, this modern Capitalism was a real threat and it growing logic, its economic logic, gained followers with each passing day. It soon bankrupted, bought out, or beheaded the dominant aristocracies, long before they began to understand what was happening.
That’s exactly what a cognitive barrier can do on a global scale.
It can prevent you from seeing the obvious, even when it is going on all around you, up until the point you find you and your way of life is obsolete.
PS: I’m not sure I’ll include this in the book I’m writing online, but I thought I’d share it with you anyway. Like always, if you want to make sure you don’t miss something good, sign up below.