Delusion Tradeoff

Written by  on August 18, 2015

Tweaked by this article, I was reminded of these two concepts:

is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern where none actually exists.
the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

Both are common in simulation, though perhaps not as common as pre-emptive registration. But what this article evoked in me was the idea of a fine line between delusions. Nobody actually has control over “their life”. Yes, if you assume free will, you can assert that there are small things we have control over (when to eat, whether to watch TV or read a book, etc.). And successive iterations of those small controls can carry one into entirely different regions of the possible. But that control is very fragile. For example, saving up for a comfortable retirement can be done. But it depends on a lifetime of discipline. And, most importantly, it depends on a lifetime relatively free of tragedy like medical bills, the drug addiction of a family member, fire, flood, earthquake, etc.

My argument is that this sort of control, of the very fine-grained mechanisms, is not relevant to the belief in conspiracy theories talked about in this article. Rather, the type of control sought by these people is delusional … the illusion of control. And, if that’s the case, then what we’re faced with is a choice between two types of delusion:

  • The false belief that you have control over your life, or
  • The false belief that others (individuals or cabals) have control over things (e.g. your life).

As usual, when faced with such a choice, the best bet is to choose a little of both. The least delusional position is to bounce between the two delusions, picking and choosing the parts that are, while still false, more true than any other combination.