One thing that I have indeed discussed from a trans-paradigmatic perspective quite a bit, but probably not enough on the top level where most people’s brains live, is why you can’t give in to people functioning as if they can control an aerosolized respiratory virus. The people arguing for control, after a couple of waves have passed, that still remain, won’t be able to give it up. And if they’re humored in any way, it just makes them feel agitated — and want to do more to feed the fears in their heads through constraints of others. If one Corsi box, doesn’t have a big enough effect, then surely two would be better. If one mask doesn’t matter, then add another! Hand sanitizer every time you enter a new room! And before long, you’ve got everyone in positive pressure air suits. For them, it’s a completely logical outcome for where they’re at. New input? Apply some appropriate modification of the algorithm to whatever’s on the system boundary.
In particular, for the epidemiology/public health crowd, how this works is driven by beliefs and algorithmic processes emerging out of the Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme. This is for the rigid hierarchy/rule-following class, and its excesses have been well illustrated down through history. And always end up in terrible tortures for purity from its adherents. As well as anyone else in the neighborhood.
These interventions take the shape of a what I call a memetic cascade. Such a cascade is usually fractal in nature, where those propagating the nonsense start out at a large scale, then progressively move to smaller and smaller scales, both temporal and spatial. When you’re attempting to get control over a system you simply can’t physically control, no measure becomes too extreme. If it’s spatial scales we’re after for our cascade, we may start out banning large gatherings. But when something far more powerful (and tribal) shows up, like a National Baseball League championship game, then the global isolation policy falls apart. If the Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme folks are in charge, this then moves into ‘everyone has to wear masks’ to ‘everyone has to wear N95 masks’ to ‘everyone must spray hand sanitizer on their hands AND wear the mask’ to ‘no food will be sold because we don’t want folks to remove their masks’ (which is now a creep into the temporal space.) And on and on. People who have OCD, and especially OCPD rapidly come into their own, because they’re the only ones that have been thinking creatively about how to do this — following their passion — on smaller and smaller scales. There’s no better example of this, which interestingly dates pre-pandemic, as Sheldon Cooper, on the TV series ‘The Big Bang Theory’. It was funny pre-pandemic, to watch Sheldon run the cast around his pathologies, that borderlined on abuse. It’s less funny now when the Sheldons of the world have been in charge, and are using every moralism in the book to avoid giving up their belief system.
Any of the v-Memes taken to the extreme end up in severe pathologies, of course. That’s how you get whole societies doing things like sacrificing people on a daily basis to make the sun come up. And they all have their priestly caste to help out, programmed with whatever the appropriate informatics are for the society. In our world, they’re the legalistic hierarchies that make our institutional structures. We’ve gotten a ringside seat on how they fail, and refuse to apologize. Why would they? They still believe they’re right. Reversing any of this would involve reversing their entire worldview, on ALL scales. It would literally break their brains. Once you’re programmed to see the world a certain way, the line of thinking is not going to change by the outside world suggesting a different organizational postulate. Or (my favorite one) appealing to their professional training. All y’all are giving FAR too much credit to what people ostensibly learn in school.
The most extreme cases of this type of pathology have been on display in Los Angeles, with the reign of terror and error of Barbara Ferrer, LA County Director of Public Health. Despite overwhelming evidence that none of the nonsense works, and even having an adjacent control for population dynamics in Orange County, she continues to double down every chance where she is not driven down into her own personal Survival v-Meme. Masking everyone outside and inside? No problems. People completely resist, and that won’t work? Masking everyone inside? No problem. Until we finally arrive at masking 2 year olds, because they’re the only people without a strong enough political advocacy group that can affect the LA Board of Supervisors to stop the BS.
There’s simply not much that can be done with such people, of course. But folks on the outside need to realize they are attempting to penetrate a closed information system that the various proponents occupy. And that closed information system has extremely hardened boundaries. Once that happens, the only thing you really can do is get rid of them, or at a minimum, never let them have authority over others again. Their brains work on beliefs, and the processing of any inputs through the algorithm in their brains, no matter what the scale of the information, is going to go through a very rigid belief system. When you add in the hardening of self-inflicted trauma through all this (death is around every corner!) any data-driven change, or measured probabilistic risk has no circuits in their head with which they can process. Think of the system boundary around their decision making apparatus as a membrane with only an affinity for what they already know. Call it confirmation bias if you must, but it’s really more profound than that. Any really new information would be considered a memetic virus itself, and these folks have been inoculated against reason. It would disrupt the homeostasis of their entire system. And information systems, like all systems, work to maintain their own homeostasis.
And once the crazies are in charge, they aren’t going to easily let go. Their extreme behavior enables those outside their inner sanctum, over time, to mythologize and sacralize the craziness. Do a study sometimes of the Catholic holy orders if you need reinforcement from this idea, or other various Hindu orders. They’re in every culture, so get off whatever racial/ethnic high horse you might be on. People are people, with the same biological brain, and once a population gets to be a certain size that can support a certain non-productive percentage, these things just pop up. They are emergent. And inevitably, the society also locks these people up in monasteries. See a pattern here?
And we’re in The Matrix. Which mean severe dismantling and handicapping of Public Health and the epidemiological communities have to be pursued. Because those in those organizations couldn’t literally give a damn if all this is making the rest of us crazy. The circumstance has finally allowed them to finally establish some level of personal homeostasis. They knew they were right all along.
PS — I’ve been having some interesting thoughts about how the habituation circuit in people’s heads that display this type of behavior somehow is broken. It’s like whatever they’re afraid of is stuck in some kind of positive feedback loop, and is continually refreshed as a threat in their mind, instead of having them lose interest as time marches on. That would imply it would further ingratiate into their sense of self, and make it basically impossible to break. It would likely be explained through some of the recent work using psychedelics to treat trauma. Basically, the various psychedelics induce momentary extreme neuroplasticity that allows them to reformulate their thinking.
I don’t think it’s one-size-fits-all, though, and know that this positive feedback loop is an issue with psychopaths. They simply can’t stop carving up whoever’s hanging on the meat hook (a la ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘) regardless of how much the person hanging is screaming. In fact, it provides even more stimulus, instead of what one might expect would be a standard revulsion reaction. I just don’t know enough about the actual neurobiology to give a blow-by-blow. But the surface level pathology is easy enough to witness.
2 thoughts on “COVID Measures and Information Fractal Cascades”
I’ve had several conversations with my friend about his experiences with people who have mental illness. One thing that has come up several times is how they get an idea stuck in their heads and it builds and builds into something not even resembling reality instead of losing interest through habituation as you say. I wonder if people like Barbara Ferrer have something more pathological going on than just memetic cascade.
BTW love your blog. As a fellow mechanical engineer who resides in the performance based v-meme, the format of your posts really resonates with me.
Glad you like them! Yes, Ferrer likely has something more deeply pathological going on. Considering her position, she has to be wildly dissociated from reality, as she gets bombarded with the impact of her decisions constantly. Yet she still persists.