We Fell into Our Own Social Trap

Simply put, the Cognitive Revolution allowed larger-scale cooperation because suddenly, information was a commodity, and people could now trade information like they would trade food or animals. Once humans fell into the Agricultural “trap,” they had no use for their previous nomadic lives, and, as surpluses of food grew, it became necessary to find a way to hold information outside of the humans’ minds. This sparked the “imagined orders” that have come to dictate our present lives. One such example Harari uses is the company “Peugeot.” Peugeot, much like any other corporate entity, requires people to collectively “believe” that it exists in order for the company to have power over people (Harari, 26). These companies do have a benefit of furthering human cooperation, though, because humans who have a collective belief tend to find a semblance of brotherhood in their fellow humans.

Imagined orders are definitely a prerequisite for science. All quantifiable measures are imagined orders. Science itself, then, is also an imagined order because science, by definition, is “…the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” While the natural phenomena may exist and happen all around us, science is the imaginary imposition of order upon those phenomena. Objects in nature may take up space, but we are the ones who quantified and measured that space they take up.

In my opinion, this calls into question what we do as humans. Are we pursuing this order in a futile attempt to live our lives immersed in imagination? Is the meaning we find in this pursual truly fulfilling, or are we merely using it to distract ourselves just enough until we, as ourselves, cease to exist? Are we truly facing life as nature intended, or are we facing the disadvantages of the orders we have imposed upon ourselves? This is definitely a lot to think about, and apologies if these questions caused any existential crises.

3 thoughts on “We Fell into Our Own Social Trap

  1. Lots of big ideas to ponder here. I agree with you about how science is established upon several imagined orders. Though the physical world and its processes persist despite our efforts to understand them, the methods by which we come to our understandings require consistency, standardization and precision. Humans are error prone. In order for a finding to be accepted into the body of science, experiments must be replicable in a lab. There must be empirical evidence. But if everyone has different ideas about what constitutes empirical evidence, science won’t work. One of your points in the last paragraph regarding what nature intended for us got me thinking. Nature doesn’t “intend” for anything to happen. Nature isn’t the least bit concerned with us or living things in general (as evinced by the 5 going on 6 mass extinctions this planet has witnessed). Like Harari writes, none of our human behaviors are “unnatural” because if we are physically capable of doing it, as in the laws of physics, biology, chemistry etc will allow it, said behavior is considered natural. But to be fair, the way we live our lives today is very different from how we evolved to live, and our DNA seems to be in conflict with the urbanization and isolation we have brought upon ourselves when you consider how unhappy and discontented we tend to be. Nice write up!

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  2. You ask some very good questions in the last paragraph. I mean it really makes sense that we use technology to further our own own pursuit of happiness. But will we ever truly be happy? Probably not. I also definitely agree with your assessment that states that imagined orders and science go hand in hand. As far as your statement on viewing life as nature intended, I have a thought. I’m thinking that humans are natural creatures, so, therefore, everything we do must be natural, even if we might view it as being unnatural. We are part of nature and I think we forget that when we get bogged down in the complex world we have created. But just because it’s complex does not make it inherently unnatural.

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  3. I like the way you started your post by comparing information to physical, tradable objects. It is a very good way to explain how valuable communication is. After humans developed a more sophisticated form of language, they would still use food and animals as a form of currency, but it is communication that allowed humans to do it on a larger scale. You then talked about imagined orders as effects of the development of communication by stating that imagined orders needed to be created in order to organize the immense quantity of information humans had to deal with. I mostly thought of these two things as different phenomenon, so it was very interesting to me.
    I really enjoyed how philosophical your point of view is on the subject. It seems to be the best way to think about something as abstract as imagined orders. The physical and natural world would still exist if humans were not studying it. Therefore, what we do is not essential and does not have a direct impact on what we are studying. So, what is the point? I believe that since we have been satisfied by imagined orders for as long as we have invented them, it is natural for us to be fulfilled by abstract ideas and work that creates results that do not technically exist outside of our constructed reality. We are absorbed by our mind and could not live in a world where imagined orders don’t exist.

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