binary thinking
Society

Thinking in Binary When Life is One Big Decimal Point

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Whether it is a vegan telling you to stop consuming dairy or a climate change activist telling you to stop owning a car, we’ve all been on the blunt end of an extreme ideologist’s verbal assault. And, while their intentions may be in the right place, the abrupt and demonising nature of said lectures usually mean the opposite to desired affect is achieved: instead of raising awareness and opening constructive debate of a topic it starts a fractious argument.

This is not to say that any single person’s opinion is invalid, simply that the competitive nature of modern society, when paired with the binary thinking process utilised by many, leads to a situation which is seen as a competition by all involved in the debate. And, instead of focusing on a solution for the greater good, people become too entrenched in ‘their’ opinion, which leads to treating it like a football team. It is the final part of the previous sentence which I personally feel is the sticking point of many arguments – treating opinions as if they are football teams.

The Football Team Effect

In general, human beings are extremely impressionable animals. We’ve all been in a situation where we are seeking for approval from a large group of people who share one particular ideology and, as a result, we go against some of our other personal beliefs. Many people call this the hive mentality – a phenomenon where a single common ground unite’s a large group of people which then banish/demonise those who do not share said common ground – I prefer the term the football team effect.

My reasoning is simply due to witnessing the countless arguments which occur in the UK through religious affiliation with a football team. These arguments are void of any logic and will never be resolved without some form of aggression or police intervention. The sad reality is that this ‘my team is better than yours’ mentality has boiled over from the cooking pot of the Barclay’s Premiership and spilled into the world’s political broth, of which we have all taken a sip.

It is this opinionated shortsightedness which has resulted in a situation where, to return to the football analogy, we have people, in the UK, who are earning minimum wage, and barely able to afford their rent, arguing the case for a footballer, who currently earns £100,000 (per week!), to get a pay rise. Not only is this even a topic of debate, it has the potential to become a heated one even though it does not directly affect any single person involved’s life. Why? Because the binary nature of human thinking, combined with the football team mentality, has made this trivial debate into a matter of pride: “I must win this debate and convince Fred that my team’s player is better than his”.

The Binary Thought Process

In a world which is becoming exponentially more complex, it seems absurd to mention that humans tend to rationalise in as simplistic method as possible. Global warming? Stop driving a car. Animal cruelty? Stop consuming animals. You see where I am going with this.

In an ideal world this extreme black-and-white, binary, thinking is correct: if everyone stopped driving it would aid global warming but what about the amount of increasing air traffic and, more absurdly, proposed commercial space flight? If we all stopped consuming animal products it would help aid animal cruelty prevention but what about the work animals forced to carry excessive loads of cement in third world countries, and what about the animals which have had their habitat wiped out by human constructions?

As you can see, there is no one-fix-all solution to most of life’s multifaceted issues and, as with most things, the solution is a happy-medium which resides somewhere in one of life’s many grey areas.

Seven n a Half Billion Shades of Grey

As humans the very last person we ever look at, when seeking to place fault, is ourselves. Even if we never publicly acknowledge the blame which is due at our door, we do tend to make the realisation in our head’s. And it is this sub-conscious self-preservation technique which I believe is partly to blame for the binary thinking which leads to the ‘football team effect’.

When we are in a group of people who share one particular belief it is easy to find a solution to an issue which blame’s someone who does not share our collective belief. What is much harder is the act of internally assessing our group’s actions and how we are also to blame for a given scenario. This is where I believe the happy-medium and the ‘grey-area-solution’ exists.

While I am not a religious man in the slightest I feel the quote ‘he who is without sin cast the first stone’ emphasises the point that I am trying to make regarding the football team effect. A group of people to unite in demonising one person, who has gone against their beliefs, and it is not until they are ordered to assess their own actions that they are reminded of their imperfections.

There are roughly seven and a half billion people currently populating this planet. Every single one of us with our own unique perspective on everything from the colour of the sky to global political systems. These individual perspectives make the massive grey area which is life and the sooner we all begin seeking to change our own personal imperfections, instead of pointing out those we notice in others, the better. Let’s leave the binary thinking to the machines and start exploring the infinite decimal points between.