Evolution of the human mind: Essay on the illusion of decision making.
“There are numerous ways we can make mistakes in making a decision in life, this series of essays teach us about the way our brain thinks, makes decisions and effectively improves our both thought and action processes.”
May 02, 2020
Humans evolved much like any other animal on this planet. We were chimps, and with some evolutionary magic, here we are, advanced monkeys, with 2 hands, 2 legs, 1 pair of headphones, a shirt and a pant. Well, my point is we are not like other animals, something has changed during the process and that change was because we evolved with a bigger head. We have far too many neurons, billions of connections firing up when you are reading this essay too.
This big brain has changed many things for us, firstly we are not as strong as other animals in the animal kingdom, we are weak, we are slow. However, we rule this jungle, because we have a brain that can strategize things in the future, as Jordan Peterson says, “we are aiming creatures, we have to have an aim”. I will come to aim, later on, the important question is how did we survive in extreme conditions in the forests for millions of years? We beat the lions, tigers, and other competitive chimps like Neandertals. That is impressive!
It wouldn’t take too long to figure out that the human mind is one of a kind, yet to find any other creature or even alien to match the capability. One of the aspects of greatness comes with our capability of critical thinking. So what is critical thinking? Let's go to the dictionary and search it, I found this: ‘the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.’ However, it turns out we are pretty bad at critical thinking. We suck it! But why?
First see an example I found in the book, ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’. Where author Rolf Dobelli explains some of the most common biases that affect our decision-making process. He mentioned 99 biases, and the real list is over 200. My favorite one is ‘The Calamity of Conformity’, and he explained how in real-life setting our decisions are affected by the group we work in or when we are making decisions in a team. During the Cuban revolution, when Castro and his team ruled over Cuba, the United States was planning to overthrow the government and President Kennedy with his secret service agents, brainstorming to overthrow Castro’s regime with the help of anticommunists living in the US exiled from Cuba.
The plan became one the biggest military blunder of American foreign policy and Castro continued killing its people in Cuba. But why did the plan fail? According to Rolf, it was an error in decision making. Kennedy was considered as the smartest president at that time and the majority of agents working on this blindly trusted Kennedy and the second reason was unanimity; it’s probably occurred with you as well when in a group meeting at work, you found something really objectionable which can cause the whole project to crash but you didn’t speak up, you nodded along with others and finally found weeks later that you were right. Similarly, unanimity was the reason the US failed in this mission.
With this lesson, I am ending the first part of the essay to let you digest what I have talked about. Next Sunday, I will post part 2 of this essay series. Till then, goodnight, and Happy Sunday!