Writings & Documents

Why We Seek Negative Information

“Send not for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

~John Donne

If you’re deeply troubled by the plainly astonishing degradation of moderh humanity, give yourself credit.  You still care deeply, but you notice – quite suddently – that it’s become a metaphorical Mt. Everest.  Not only is human degradation too tall and too massive, but something even more basic has occured to you.  

Humanity is ill-equipped to begin the climb to sustainability, let alone complete it.

Let’s expand on the Mt. Everest analogy.  If you were to show up at base camp, wearing a pair of jeans, a light spring zip-up jacket, and a pair of Converse sneakers, yu would be welcomed.  If you intended to climb Mt. Everest in that outfit, you would be saved from yourself by people who know better.  If you attempt a climb you are ill-equipped to start, you will die.

The modern human race doesn’t understand itself.  I stress, for clarity, that the human species doesn’t understand itself in any way.  To be clear, humans have no idea how we got here, how we’re leaving, what our past was, and what our future will be.  The being I describe is going nowhere, and fast!  What cannot trace its past HAS NO FUTURE.  

As the Founder of Noēsis, I’m sworn to be a professional explainer. I don’t judge what I see, and I don’t blame it. I explain it.  We will need to understand WHY we do WHAT we do, or we will perish.  There is no argument whatsoever that defeats the simplicity of that.  We either dress for the climb ahead, or we die.  

Let’s get started.

Here’s the nickel tour on “Negative Information”. It’s all around us.  We’re going to hell on a rail, right?  We most certainly are not.  We’re acting normally. 

This once-central requirement for human survival, negative information, has now fully turned on us. We’re in grave danger, placed there not by human weakness.  We’re endangered by the modern, perverted version of what was once central to survival for evolving humans.

If the following doesn’t look familiar, there’s not much I can do.

You and I have been looking for negative information all day. Neither one of us even noticed. We know that we need negative information, but few of us know why. And that’s why Noēsis exists. When we understand the evolutionary relics still inside all of us, it will assist us in deducing the uselessness of our behavior. We can only then weed out multiple cognitive distortions inside of us, ones that continue to see dangers that are way smaller than we think, or that aren’t there at all. I call these evolutionary hallucinations.  We misinterpret everything we see.  We respond with heavily misaligned force. 

That’s why the guy who honks his horn at us risks being pulled from his car for one delicious second.  You never thought of that.   I get paid for thnking of it.

Today’s version of “negative information” has several, brilliant disguises. One of them is gossip. When we share negative information (i.e., when we gossip), we experience a natural high. Did you ever notice it? Not only is it fun to gossip, but we can hardly wait to share a juicy tidbit. We all know that, but we never knew why — until now.

As we gossip, that jolt of excitement we feel is not incidental. It’s Biology. That buzz we feel is a shot of pure dopamine, straight to the pleasure centers of the primitive mind. Gossip is part of the evolutionary heroin that now makes human beings unsustainable. Just as a flat tire is fatal to a car ride, human failure by these unchecked evolutionary mechanisms is assured. 

Why is negative information so central to us? Be patient! It’s coming. First, consider this:

We’ve all read about those laboratory rats, the ones that tap on a bar to get a fix of what they think they need, even if it kills them. That analogy describes how brightly ancient impulses continue to shine inside all human beings. In our frenzy to locate negative information, just like those laboratory rats, we’ll turn over all the mattresses and rifle through all the drawers, because we need to find the dirt!

Oh, and, one other thing. As we hunt for negative information, we might accidentally run across some positive information. Don’t let it worry you. Let it pass naturally, and trust me, it will. Positive information has no value.  


And I answer:

We have no choice. Our thinking brains don’t make the rules, folks. In the primitive areas of the human brain, where human beings spend most of their days, we still think that we need negative information to plot survival strategies for ourselves, and for our tribes. If you’ve noticed that we no longer have tribes, try passing that on to the baser areas of your brain. Good luck with that.  The human fight or flight system isn’t listening. It’s there to pulverize anything that threatens it.

These ancient relics of protection are unimpressed with kinder, gentler present-day realities. Their brutality is no longer required, but they can neither listen nor think. They activate many times faster than the thinking brain.  More than that, they shut down the thinking brain to do their job.

Are we overmatched?  That word isn’t strong enough.  These ancient compulsions carry sledgehemmers.   The thinking brain carries no weapons whatsoever. 

To understand this better, try to see the world through the eyes of our ancestors of 50,000 years ago. Everywhere we went, nothing of a positive nature mattered to us. We were always on high alert. We were engaged in plotting survival strategies, all day, every day. We plotted these strategies by locating negative information, and then reporting it to others. We used it to stay alive. The bearer of bad news had more survival value to our tribe than those who had good news. 

Good news doesn’t hunt.  Literally.

As an example, let’s say that we conveniently learned where a pack of hungry boars were hiding, waiting to ambush one of our own. We now possessed added value to our people. That’s why gossip continues to supply a natural high in the modern day.  There is one convenience, of course.  Our feverish need to gossip has a bad habit of destroying its hapless targets — people we call friends.

I view this evolutionary relic, our need to create and to absorb gossip, as something that we must retire, if we expect to evolve to sustainability as responsible stewards of a great gift. Now that I’ve explained the evolutionary mechanism of gossip, that’s a good start. We go from here. But understand something first. This once-vital survival tool now fully forbids human survival to sustainability. 

It’s the “Mother of Paradox” for a lost species.

More dots can be connected here. Modern humanity, with its propensity for hammering away at the negative details of everything, has arrived at self-loathing.  Self-loathing is wholly undeserved. We simply haven’t figured out that our actions, while ruinous, are not purposeful. These unresolved relics of human evolution rule the schoolyard, like bullies.  They’re no mere inconvenience; they’re making the rules.

In areas of the brain inaccessible to us, we continue to plot survival strategies, against dangers that don’t exist anymore. The human race can now assimilate this new information. We can grow out of these old clothes, and grow into some new ones, ones that will allow us entry into the party we plan, but that we cannot attend.  It’s called, “sustainability”.

Here’s a casual example of our ruinous tendency to churn negative information:

— Let’s say you and I run into one another at the park. We first exchange pleasantries. I might tell you that it’s a lovely day. We’ll both easily agree on that. But we won’t linger over the positive for long. We’ll quickly put aside the positive, and we’ll get busy plotting survival strategies.  You know–the ones we stopped needing 20,000 years ago.

— You tell me that our mutual best friend, Bill, is getting divorced! You add that Bill’s wife is having an affair.  Guess what. Now you have my full attention! You and I will linger on this subject, and we’ll milk it dry. Poor Bill! No matter what the truth is, when we’re through shredding Bill’s woes into pieces, truth is an orphan. And so is Bill, who retreated into privacy, so shamed was he by our words.

You see where I’m going here? Bill’s tale of woe never assisted either of us. It made nothing better; it made nothing worse. Modern humans think, in baser areas of the brain, that we’re increasing our chances of survival by churning the social disasters of others. Bill doesn’t know what just hit him, but neither do we. Bill is the latest victim of an ancient itch that human beings continue to scratch. These deeply-ingrained compulsions are like so many ancient puppeteers.  We are their marionettes.

It gets worse. These compulsions do not think. They will never release their prisoners. Only by exposing the ancient, evolutionary triggers of modern behavior, can we free ourselves. If we don’t, we’ll continue to circle a drain to Oblivion. If this inertia is not understood and altered, it’s a ticket to hell for a beleaguered human species. We feel it, we sense it, but we can’t alter what we don’t understand.

With GOSSIP now completely outed as a deal-killer, we move on to multiple other behaviors that lost their utility eons ago, but never packed their bags when their ancient enemies ceased to EXIST.

Let’s check back with Bill for a second. Bill’s psychic wounds will make him retreat into privacy. He won’t resolve his pain, because we’ve hurt him, and we don’t know.  Even if we did, the ownership Bill needs will not arrive.  Bill will move past his hurt, and arrive at resentment.  Resentment is foreign to a collaborative being. These ancient impulses are stronger than our will to view them, let alone to defeat them. 

Let’s forgive ourselves, and choose a forensic disposition. Let’s recognize and defeat this common enemy of all Humanity.

The above tale plays out billions of times a day, across the globe. How’s that working out — any good? Human beings, all 8 billion of us, have 2 million years of evolution pressing down upon our present moments. We’re haunted by ancient ghosts that view the most benign of events as a situational threat. By these relic mechanisms inside us, the human species is, and ever shall remain, in ceaseless conflict.

If you think it’s necessary to use a howitzer to kill a fly, then carry on. If not, then let’s get busy properly ALIGNING our responses to others. The frightened child inside of all of us could use it. Your homework is simple and straightforward. For now, just notice it. Notice the buzz you get when you absorb gossip. Don’t try to change it, not yet. We’re not ready.

We’ll tame these un-bargaining monsters only when we figure out who’s boss around here. Here’s a hint. It ain’t us.

Anthony A. Wall, Jr.



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