Written by: Barry Borgerson, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
The European Enlightenment, which occurred in parallel with the Science Revolution in the West, created new responsibilities for citizens by unleashing personal freedoms and the ability to participate in selecting who will govern them. Now we have tragically reached the point in the progression of human activities where our freedoms are working against us in many crucial ways including putting our self-governing systems on a power dive. If we stay on our current course, the wonderful life that increasing numbers of citizens of the West have enjoyed for so long will not be part of our future. However, by penetrating to a higher level of access to human nature through comprehensively understanding and systematically managing automatic human activities (the auto-self), we now have the opportunity to reverse our descent and create a new spectacular form of widespread ascent. So, in addition to making discontinuous improvements in our social systems for which you saw two previous examples in Part 5 (business) and Part 6 (self-governance) of this article about our internal, involuntary contextualizing lenses (auto-contexts), we also now have the opportunity to make discontinuous improvements in our personal responsibilities.
We Need an Empowering Personal-Responsibilities Certainty so We Can Effectively Manage Personal Responsibilities
Learning to Manage Our Certainty Illusions and Certainty Delusions
Our Elusive and Illusive Auto-Contexts: Because auto-contexts are elusive (i.e., they elude our normal detection or awareness) and illusive (they often mislead us – they create illusions of reality), we refer to a potent property of these auto-contexts as certainty illusions. Certainty illusions are a fundamental part of human nature that create internal beliefs, “truths,” fundamental assumptions, theories, and certainties that operate independent of correspondence with facts in the world outside of our mind or alignment with our success needs.
An Auto-Context that Empowers Us to Conquer Auto-Contexts: Unbeknownst to most people, auto-contexts play a key role, and often the dominant role, in many aspects of personal responsibilities. Therefore, we will benefit greatly if we construct and propagate an auto-context that provides the foundation for understanding and managing the auto-contexts that control crucial areas of personal responsibilities. In other words, we need to propagate a certainty that we can and must take direct actions to manage the hidden mental mechanisms (auto-contexts) that control overpowering aspects of personal responsibilities.
Understanding Our Certainty Illusions: You don’t have any deep beliefs that are dead wrong – do you? Actually, we all carry a massive load of internal (i.e., in our auto-contexts) certainty illusions. Many of our certainty illusions serve us well such as worldviews to solve complex problems, cultural elements that are in line with our business success needs, patriotism that provides the mental glue that holds societies together, and positive values. Auto-contexts incarnate our certainty illusions that operate independent of facts in the world, of our success requirements, and of the well-being needs of ourselves and others, so we have an increasing need to understand and manage them. It takes many repetitions accompanied by strong feelings to construct powerful certainty illusions, but that process has now become so easy due to digital technologies that whole societies are suffering through widespread constructions of certainty delusions.
We Must Learn to Overcome Certainty Delusions: We all have many certainty illusions – some helpful, some not so helpful, and some counterproductive. Due to massive and accelerating changes in social environments, certainty illusions that were once functional now become dysfunctional certainty delusions quite rapidly. This is the same process identified by Thomas Kuhn that creates the need for revolutionary science, which still occurs very slowly. However, a dramatic example of certainty-illusion to certainty-delusion migration happening increasingly often is in business cultures. Most people also have a few certainty delusions, and these are usually highly dysfunctional and even dangerous. Tragically, the process of constructing dysfunctional certainty delusions that never at any time were functional or benign certainty illusions is growing to the point where, if not checked, will cause our self-governing systems to waste, exhaust, and murder themselves. Certainty delusions reside “in here” (i.e., in the auto-context part of the mind) and have the characteristic that they verifiably do not correspond with realities “out there” (i.e., outside of the mind). So how do we distinguish our good certainties from our bad certainties and how do we manage them? No other visible mechanism exists to overcome this self-governing suicide than learning to manage our auto-contexts. In order to overcome fantasies and pretending, we must construct a widespread foundational certainty (auto-context) that some of our certainties are delusions that we must learn to challenge and reconstruct. An even better mental capability is to learn how to avoid the construction of certainty delusions in the first place. Following are brief descriptions of some crucial personal-responsibilities areas where we can make immense improvements once we conquer auto-contexts.
Discontinuous Progress in Managing Crucial Personal Responsibilities
Resurrecting Self-Governing Political Systems: Since we don’t want to and pragmatically we will not curtail most of our freedoms in the West, we must work the other side of the equation on voter manipulations. The path to accomplish this is through constructing and widely propagating an auto-context that mentally inoculates voters against disinformation and Big Lies. A key part of creating resistance to the raging mental pandemic of voter manipulations requires constructing an internal (auto-context-based) need to examine assertions for anomalies (facts that contradict the claims) before they construct an auto-contexts-based certainty delusions that blocks future examination of evidence. Ironically, the freedoms we enjoy so much have now reached the point where they enable massive manipulations, which construct certainty delusions that rob people of effective freedom on the topics involved. The freedom to embrace different policy positions remains, but certainty-delusion constructions render the victims impotent to examine or even notice that they have been manipulated into dysfunctional fantasies. We have dramatic evidence on this topic in the so-called “Stop The Steal” pandemic that has caused massive numbers of people to embrace beliefs that are unmistakably certainty delusions. Another part of that new manipulation-inoculation process is to stay on alert for endlessly repeated slogans or mantras with emotions attached, which has become ubiquitous in many political arenas. Training voters and future voters to recognize malicious auto-context constructions will create one of the best mechanisms to resurrect the effectiveness of self-governing systems.
Mental Immunizations to Create Drug-Addiction Phobias: It would be an easy addition to our universal precollege education systems to construct mental phobias against recreational drug use. It may seem that using our required education systems to construct auto-contexts is inappropriate. However, although you likely haven’t recognized it as such, we already do that effectively and necessarily for a particular type of auto-context. That happened to you, and if you have children or grandchildren in school, it is happening to them now. To provide a historical perspective on the possibility of making radical changes in education, at the beginning of the modern West it was unthinkable that we would have universal taxpayer-funded education. Nevertheless, the pragmatic need to create a literate workforce with at least a minimal level of education to fuel our economic, well-being, and prosperity advances required our predecessors to make that cultural transformation. Now, the practical need to create a systematic path toward a greater future requires that we add direct construction of auto-contexts in our universal education systems to create discontinuously better personal responsibilities including blocking drug addictions.
Attitude Vaccinations to Release Prisoners to a Responsible Life: Many people and groups focus on helping prisoners achieve a responsible life after incarceration. Vocational training can provide a useful mechanism. However, we should add to that direct systematic behavior-habit (auto-behavior) transformations. Additionally, we can create behavior changes indirectly (as you saw in business with William in Part 5) through attitude transformations in prisoners, which is an auto-context reconstruction process. The cost of any such program should be minuscule compared to the savings in prison costs, damages caused by reoffending prisoners, and the turmoil it causes to the lives of victims and family members of both the victims and the perpetrators.
We Need a New Values Foundation to Create and Propagate Shared Positive Values
I introduce this topic here because the values that we display are part of our personal responsibilities. However, when shared with others, values also create a massive social system.
Why Have Creating Shared Positive Values Been so Slow and Painful?
Constructing Widespread Positive Values: We have made progress in constructing widespread positive values in the modern West, but have you ever wondered why that process has been so slow and painful? The positive-values progress that the West was able to achieve since the Enlightenment, including eliminating slavery, drastically reducing capital punishment and torture, creating rights for different religions, women, racial minorities, gays, and other previously marginalized groups, and establishing widespread freedoms, opportunities, and dignity has nothing to do with biological evolution. Our biological nature remains brutish – a remnant of distant natural-selections battles for survival.
Yes, Our Values Reside in Auto-Contexts! As we learn more about the auto-self aspects of human nature, we see increasing areas of our lives where the auto-self plays the dominant role. Of the four auto-self types, auto-contexts create the greatest currently unmanaged control over our successes, prosperity, and well-being. You have already seen how auto-contexts provide our problem-solving foundations in the form of worldviews, create stability and block changes in cultures including for businesses, control our attitudes, and establish a second, often deceiving form of “truth.” You have also seen how certainty illusions often confuse us and certainty delusions create devastating self-deceptions. However, the range of effects of auto-contexts does not end there. All of our civilizing values ascents have come through indirectly and unknowingly constructing auto-contexts. That is, without realizing that was what we were doing, we struggled through very difficult times including wars and persecutions and finally (indirectly) constructed and propagated positive-values auto-contexts.
Directly Managing Positive Shared Values: As with other forms of stability and progress in the West, we have indirectly constructed our shared values. We will benefit greatly by directly constructing future values based on agreed-upon values aspirations. I will focus on this topic in a future article. For here, I just point out that for us to create the possibility of directly constructing positive shared values in societies, we must somehow come to an agreement on a foundation for those values. In the West, we have many candidates, and individual countries have their own versions, but we can make systematic progress if we can reach an agreement and then explicitly construct widespread auto-contexts that establish the foundation for enduring positive shared values.
A Thin Veneer of Positive Values
The Bad News about Positive Values Construction and Maintenance: That we have slowly constructed positive values is the good news. The bad news is our enduring values have resided in a thin veneer of indirectly constructed auto-contexts that the West has not understood well enough to manage directly, so they are extremely vulnerable to deconstructions. We see that now in many parts of the West and dramatically in the US under some leadership that drags people back to their base biological instincts. We also saw that happen spectacularly during Hitler’s Germany. Most of what you have seen in this article about auto-contexts has focused on understanding and managing automatic human activities so that we can maintain progress in our business successes and economic prosperity (including systematic, widespread improvements to standards of living), and resurrect political stability in the West. After the Enlightenment revolution, we gradually and painfully started managing values by indirectly constructing positive-values auto-contexts based on slowly realized aspirational values. In the mental revolution, we now must launch, we will finally have the opportunity to manage values by directly constructing positive-values auto-contexts.
Constructing Positive-Values Auto-Contexts vs. Destroying Them: In the US, we now have a major politician leading the charge to exploit readily available digital-communications channels to relentlessly construct dysfunctional auto-contexts in the form of negative branding and disinformation including Big Lies (as Hitler did). However, with respect to our hard-won shared positive values in the United States, this politician is not so much constructing new negative-values auto-contexts; rather, he is destroying (deconstructing) the positive-values auto-contexts (as Hitler disgracefully did) that we have propagated throughout society through a long and agonizing process. As stated above, our values reside in auto-contexts we create and propagate; when we strip away those positive auto-contexts, we regress to our uncivilized biological nature – to the way we treated each other before we learned to construct (indirectly) shared positive values (into the auto-self). Managing positive-values auto-contexts is a very problematic process, especially when we do it indirectly, which has been the case throughout the modern West. It is a tremendous tribute to the people involved that they made so much progress. Stripping away the thin veneer of our hard-won positive values (i.e., deconstructing the values auto-contexts we have so slowly but tenaciously struggled to construct and propagate) is not so difficult because it just takes unscrupulous individuals and groups hell-bent on dragging us back to our ruthless biological nature.
We Must Get Off Our Values Slippery Slope: The US is experiencing a tragic values devolution (and often even the destruction of common decency, honesty, and civil public discourse). The slippery slope comes in because as powerful forces strip away each new layer, it becomes easier to remove an additional remediating auto-context layer until many people descend toward their basic animal level without the civilizing auto-contexts we have indirectly constructed and propagated so laboriously. As we launch a new mental revolution, we will be able to define, construct, propagate, and maintain positive values directly as opposed to the indirect way we have been doing it. Therefore, we should be able to recover from the current values descent in the US and some other parts of the West much more quickly than we originally constructed them. However, deconstructing our values will always be a much easier process because any inhumane person or group with a platform can currently do it. That is still another reason why we need to start explicitly constructing auto-context-based responsibilities throughout Western societies. With a more empowering understanding of human nature than we inherited from the Enlightenment that now includes a solid model of auto-contexts, we can raise the bar on our values aspirations. We can now make discontinuous improvements on how quickly we can construct widespread positive values and how effectively we can defend them against inevitable future assaults.
Pretending that Religions Can Define the Basis of Our Shared Positive Values: Religions are very effective at enforcing values but they come down forcefully on each side of every controversial values issue including women’s rights, racial-minority rights, LGBT rights, abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. As a dramatic example, Protestant leaders and organizations, which had a near monopoly on religion in the US at that time, argued vigorously on both sides of slavery before and during the Civil War (see Mark Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis). They used the time-honored practice still in vigorous use today of establishing their positions based on such factors as economics, personal or group benefits, prejudices, or fears, and then they selected passages from the richly diverse Bible to support those values.
Seeing the Big Picture through the Lens of Big History
Parts 1-7 of this article focused on the fundamentals of auto-contexts and how to conquer them to create discontinuous improvements in some of our social systems and in personal responsibilities. The final two parts of this article will zoom back to look at the big picture of how the auto-contexts that we construct and propagate determine our widespread levels of successes, prosperity, stability, security, positive values, personal responsibilities, and well-being in general. The mechanism we will use to gain that big-picture perspective is the Big History framework as conceived and popularized by Prof. David Christian of Macquarie University in Australia. Christian’s Big History formulation starts with the Big Bang and focuses on eight major turning points in the history of the universe, referred to as thresholds. Part 8 will provide a new perspective on the mental mechanism responsible for Big History Threshold 8 – The Modern Revolution. It will argue that the underlying mechanism that empowered our predecessors to create the science and enlightenment revolutions was the slow and painful indirect construction and propagation of a new form of worldview. Part 9 will identify why we have hit the end of the effectiveness of the Modern Revolution and that our future successes, prosperity, and well-being now require that we directly launch a new mental revolution, which will usher in Threshold 9. Threshold 8 occurred when the West indirectly learned to create and propagate a new empowering worldview that emancipated the thinking-self to solve massively important problems including for science, technologies, freedoms, and self-governance. To reverse a structural failure of Threshold 8, we must, and fortuitously we now can, directly launch Thresholds 9 that will empower us to conquer worldviews and other forms of certainties that now increasingly harm us.
You can locate other Parts of this article by following this link: https://www.brainzmagazine.com/executive-contributor/barry-borgerson.
Barry Borgerson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dr. Barry Borgerson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Ph.D. in computer science and one of his minors in the management of human resources. Barry co-led a multi-year DARPA-funded research project at the University and then went on to a highly successful career in the computer industry, starting as a lead computer architect and progressing through successive promotions to increasingly responsible leadership positions in technical management up to executive-level general management. When he took over a business that was failing and initiated actions to change some dysfunctional behaviors and the outdated culture of that business, he encountered so much counterproductive resistance that he started a long-term study into why very smart, highly educated, and extremely experienced people frequently cannot enact externally obvious changes they need to make to succeed.
That study led him to discover that the underlying cause of so many dysfunctional activities and the tenacious, normally uncontrollable, resistance to deep changes reside in enigmatic automatic human activities that business leaders normally do not notice, cannot change on their own if others point out their dysfunctions, and often deny they even exist. Barry then developed 2Selfs Theory, a comprehensive, business-friendly, generalized theory of the mind that models the sometimes cooperation but often competition between our explicit problem-solving abilities (using our “thinking self”) and our previously mysterious involuntary activities (driven by our “automatic self”) and provides systematic, reliable processes to align our elusive automatic actions with our explicit intentions and needed success priorities. Dr. Borgerson has repeatedly verified the effectiveness of the pragmatic 2Selfs Theory by applying it in many venues including through transformation coaching to reconstruct counterproductive behavior habits of business leaders and to change obsolete or dysfunctional company cultures, where the transformation processes worked immediately and repeatedly as the theory predicted.