Note to World
The Problem of Recognizing Problems

The human ability to recognize problems is heuristic, and thus imperfect. It is biased and limited in various ways. We evolved to solve certain types of problems, and we are good at recognizing those problems. Conversely, we are bad at recognizing problems that our ancestors didn’t have to solve. We have blind spots and glare spots. Each produces a different type of error. Blind spots cause false negatives. Glare spots cause false positives. People often perceive problems that don’t exist, while ignoring real problems.

Our glare spots are:

  • Competition: We expect problems to be caused by other people, acting as individuals or as groups.
  • Scarcity: We expect a lack of resources to cause problems.
  • Constraints: We expect constraints on our freedom of action to cause problems.
  • Oppression: We expect problems to be caused by those in positions of power.
  • Evil: We expect problems to be caused by evil.

Our blind spots are:

  • Ourselves: We don’t expect problems to be caused by ourselves.
  • Processes: Most people have a hard time understanding abstract processes, such as evolution, or the “invisible hand” of markets. That makes it hard to see processes as both problems and solutions.
  • Abundance: We don’t expect problems to be caused by having abundant resources.
  • Freedom: We tend to assume that freedom is generally beneficial, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the freedom of others.
  • Morality: We tend to assume that morally good behaviors, such as altruism, must have good results. We don’t expect morality to cause problems.
  • Technology: We think of technology as a solution to problems, not a cause of problems.
  • Information: We don’t think of information as something that can be dangerous.
  • Human nature: We don’t think of human nature itself as a source of problems. Instead, we assume that problems are caused by pathologies or external conditions.
  • Nature: We don’t expect problems to be caused by natural processes.
  • Feedback: Feedback controls almost everything in reality, and yet we don’t intuitively understand it. Most people don’t understand how feedback loops create problems. The failure to recognize exponential growth is one example of this.

Problems that lie in our glare spots are easily recognized, and we know how to respond to them. But if a problem occurs in a blind spot, it will not be recognized. If its negative effects are felt, they will often be explained incorrectly as caused by a glare-spot problem.

Our biggest problems lie in our blind spots, and so we do not recognize them as problems. And that is a meta-problem.

The biggest problems of the modern world are not caused by enemies, scarcity, constraints, oppression, or evil. Of course, those things exist. There are always enemies to be found. We don’t have an abundance of everything. Some people are oppressed. Some people are evil (in our moral paradigm). However, none of those things is a fundamental cause of modern problems.

The real, underlying causes of our problems are:

  • Feedback: Modernity is out of control. It includes several amplifying feedback loops that generate exponential growth (of the economy, the population, and money).
  • Nature: Certain problems, such as competition, death, and selfishness, are baked into the pie of nature. We have to accept that reality and work within it. But our culture is in denial of reality.
  • Human nature: Our brains are not adapted to the conditions of modernity. Also, we are naturally selfish and violent, not altruistic, and that makes competition inevitable. We have to control human behavior to create cooperation. Instead, our culture believes that altruism solves problems.
  • Freedom: Modernity has liberated women from their ancestral dependence on men to survive. It has also liberated men and women from children, with birth control. This has caused the breakdown of the family and the collapse of fertility. We now have choices that we aren’t equipped to make.
  • Technology: People are increasingly using technology to create artificial substitutes for real problem-solution cycles. In modern civilization, life has degenerated into masturbation of various forms, enabled by technologies such as the birth control pill, opiate drugs, and the internet.
  • Information: Modern communication technology enables parasitic memes, such as ideologies, to propagate rapidly and easily. Our ancestors did not live in a world with rapid, global propagation of information. We have no defenses against parasitic memes and other pathologies of information abundance.
  • Abundance: Material abundance has allowed us to subsidize a global dysgenic population explosion. It has also enabled a mass status-signaling competition in the richer parts of the world. The struggle to survive was a problem, and we created modern civilization to solve that problem. By doing so, however, we created many new problems. Premature death solved certain collective problems, such as dysgenics and population growth. The struggle to survive also gave individuals a sense of meaning and purpose. We evolved to struggle. Without that struggle we have to find a new, sustainable way of life.
  • Morality: Altruism does not solve problems; it creates problems. The altruistic morality of the West promotes dysgenic reproduction and mass immigration. Eugenic population control is viewed as evil, even though it is necessary to maintain modern civilization in the long run. We cannot solve modern problems without abandoning morality, or radically changing it.
  • Processes: Most of our problems are caused by long-term processes, not agency. Agency is involved in some of them, such as mass immigration. But most of them are just happening. The population explosion was not planned by anyone. It just happened as a result of abundance and modern medicine. The same is true of dysgenics and the breakdown of male-female relationships in modern civilization. No one planned these things. The birth control pill wasn’t a nefarious plot to destroy Western civilization. It was intended to give people more control over their lives. There is a tendency to explain the problems of modernity as due to a conspiracy of some kind. In reality, the problems of modernity are mostly caused by historical processes that no one controls, and that most people are not even aware of.
  • Ourselves: Collectively, as a species, we are the ultimate cause of all of our current problems. They are all solvable, if we choose to solve them. Likewise, the individual is often the cause of his own problems. To solve our problems, we must recognize our own role in creating them, and accept the responsibility for solving them.

The problem of recognizing problems is a big meta-problem. We have reached the limits of our instincts. To go beyond them, we must use rationality. The problems of the modern world are not intuitive, but they can be identified and solved with careful thought.

The biggest problem of the modern world is philosophical. To rise above our intuitions and rationally define our problems, we first need an explicit theory of value, or in other words, “the purpose of life”. As individuals, we have to define the purpose of our lives. Collectively, we have to define the purpose of our civilization.

Unfortunately, the philosophical problem of purpose is itself an unrecognized problem. The problems of modern civilization are making themselves felt, not as explicit problems, but as growing anxiety and confusion.