How the collective shapes the individual
The asymmetric relationship between the individual & the collective mind.
One of the reasons I enjoy reading & understanding the field of memetics is because it provides for a framework to understand how ideas spread, how they compete amongst each other, and how they influence us.
One of the applications is understanding the differences between the individual mind and the collective mind. Specifically, how they influence and interact between each other.
Back in the late 1800s, Gustave le Bon already started to write about how crowds had a different psychology which emerged from the individuals that conformed them. These differences make individuals behave in such ways that they would never do so if they were alone.
And this is due to how the individual mind and the collective mind interact between each other.
For the purposes of this email, we will define the collective mind as the whole sum of our individual minds. The mind that emerges from the interaction between individuals.
There exists a feedback loop between the individual mind and the collective one. The former adds information and influences on the latter, and vice-versa.
However, it is an asymmetrical relationship.
The information and data that the individual provides to the collective is far smaller and less relevant than the information and data the collective mind provides the individual. Culture influences us individually way more than we shape culture, even when it emerges from us.
This distinction is important to realize. Many put most of their focus on trying to affect change on the collective mind, without realizing that is occurring the other way around.
Let me make it clear that there is nothing inherently wrong with the collective mind shaping us individuals more than the opposite. We are social beings and it is the way we work. But it can be dangerous for us.
Due to our asymmetrical relationship with the collective mind, its influence over us is something that we cannot eliminate. We can, however, proactively try to reduce it.
We should try to minimize the influence the collective has on us, because if the collective mind is a water well we all drink from, it is easier to hijack the source over each individual glass one by one.
When I say there is an asymmetrical relationship between the individual mind and the collective one, I say so because most of us have close to zero impact on the collective mind.
However, it follows a power law. There is a small number of people who influence massively on the collective.
There is no conspiracy here, these people are important scientists who make breakthroughs, philosophers who shape thought, celebrities, artists, politicians and statesmen, etc. and the ones that have influence on the collective mind, have a massive one.
So, when I say we should reduce the impact that the collective mind has over us, I say so because most of us have zero impact on the collective, we are massively influenced by it; and it, in turn, is massively influenced by a small few.
In my next email, which goes out to my premium subscribers, I write about how cyberwarfare is shaping and affecting us. The main reason behind this is due to how cyberwarfare operates on the collective mind, shaping public perception, culture, pushing certain narratives and agendas, etc.
But cyberwarfare is not the only game occurring for influence over the collective mind. As mentioned above, many spend a lot of time trying to influence over it.
Some can end up succeeding.
Success over influencing the collective mind does not mean success over the whole collective. We are all living atomized & personalized experiences online.
Success of influence can be influence over niches & echo chambers.
However, this will be explored in future emails. For now, lets focus on how we can place “barriers” which limit the influence the collective mind has over us.
These barriers are nothing new:
Rules of thumb and mental models
Understanding of cognitive biases and fallacies
Further developing our common sense
Sure, the first and the second one are easier to understand and apply: you read and study different ideas, decision making patterns and understand how we can be blinded by them, and later apply them.
But how can we further develop our common sense? It has, after all, become a somewhat platitude and meaningless idea. It’s easy to say “develop your common sense”, yet not so easy to explain how.
For me personally, what helps in developing one’s common sense is understanding.
This email, for example, hopefully helps the reader understand that there exists an individual mind and a collective one which emerges from all the individual ones. These minds interact and influence each other in an asymmetrical way, and it can lead to exposure to actors influencing in us.
Understanding this can lead to a better perspective on the problem at hand, hence developing a better “common sense”. In general, my approach at further developing my common sense stems from understanding first.
This newsletter will continue to explore and make sense of the world, specifically regarding how culture, ideas, etc. influence in us and our behaviour.
With a better understanding, everyone can make better decisions.