March 31st, 2011
“Humans are prone to herd because it is always warmer and safer in the middle of the herd. Indeed, our brains are wired to make us social animals. We feel the pain of social exclusion in the same parts of the brain where we feel real physical pain.” –James Montier
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” –Charles Mackay in Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds
Wow. Worms everywhere. A sea of worms. A huge can of them.
What have I gotten myself into?
Before I get into the main topic of what was to be this final chapter of this series (but isn’t), I want to make a few comments about what has transpired with the first two parts.
My description of social mood turning negative, and what kinds of things are likely to happen (and, historically have happened) obviously really struck a nerve. Though we’ve had a certain amount of acrimony on this blog from time to time from a certain few people, these posts really amped things up.
This has happened, I think, because this topic really hits home–and because we’re in a time of declining social mood, which is affecting you, too. There’s nothing theoretical about it. It would be difficult to not notice the negativity, chaos, anger, fear, and uncertainty in the air. Some are living right in the middle of it.
In the space of a very short time we have had a shooting of a Congresswoman and a Federal judge (and several others) in Arizona; union protests in Wisconsin (and several neighboring states); the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear problems; the Egyptian situation, the Libyan situation, similar problems in other Middle Eastern countries, a gruesome killing of a family (including small children) by terrorists in the Gaza Strip; just to name a few.
We also have economic/debt problems all over the world, rising prices, unemployment, record gold and silver prices…and all the various examples of political acrimony, most of it rather ugly and contentious. In fact, I could go on and on reporting various grim news items (but won’t).
I found the different types of responses my description of social mood elicited quite interesting.
Some of you are in denial. It’s not happening. The Age of Aquarius is coming. More and more people are becoming enlightened. We’re on the verge of a New World. It’s going to be fantastic. All our needs will be met and everyone will get along. Utopia is nigh.
Several of you wanted to nitpicking the details, as if doing that would mean all of this isn’t happening. Well, there may be several “wrong” details in the socionomic hypothesis, especially when you look at the most minor details. Does that invalidate the main point I was making, though? My main point went zooming over the heads of some of you.
There are several logical fallacies people use when faced with something they don’t like but don’t have data or information to refute it.
One is the Ad homimem attack. Ad hominem means “against the man” or “against the person.” In this fallacy an argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant and generally negative charge (whether true or not) about the person making the argument. Ad hominem attacks are fallacious because the character, circumstances, or actions of a person rarely have any bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made. (However, “You don’t know anything about this subject” is not an Ad hominem attack, if true.)
Another fallacy is “setting up straw men and knocking them down.” In the Straw Man fallacy the actual argument is ignored and instead the person argues against a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version. Distorting and then attacking the distorted version of a position, however, does nothing to refute the actual argument.
Dozens of responses utilized this form of attack. Many people shot from the hip without knowing what they were talking about. Instead of framing their post by asking a question, or saying, “What you’re saying contradicts something I’ve always thought was true…” the person made assumptions about or otherwise twisted what I am saying, and then argued, in effect, against their own assumptions.
And, some of you just called names. I was accused, for instance, of hating Muslims because I mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood and their desire to reestablish a Muslim caliphate (something that isn’t disputable—they say so themselves, and so do the Iranians, and I’ve seen many videos of them saying it and have read transcripts of speeches where they have said it and have seen passages in books where they say it).
Quite frankly, I haven’t been accused of so many things since…well, let’s just say it involved an ex-wife. I’m negative. I’m saying the world is coming to an end. I’m saying we should all give up. I hate Muslims.
But I didn’t say any of these things. These are assumptions made about or conclusions drawn from other things I did say. They are reflections of the ideas of the accuser, not of anything I said.
As I said in my answers to several posts, I am against groups, whether religious, political, or otherwise, who want to control or force others to live in a way THEY think is best or proper, or who are otherwise causing suffering to others. I don’t think an elite group should tell you what you can eat, say, buy, or do (unless what you’re doing involves stealing what others have rightly earned or physically injuring others).
I don’t care what group it is, if they advocate or carry out such actions, I’m against it. To twist that into the accusation that I hate a certain group is a long-standing tactic of demogogues. This an Ad hominem attack in its worst form—an intellectually lazy tactic used by people who have no real facts or counter-argument.
Some of you have a bad case of what I call NAD (New Ager’s Disease). You have disowned the negative aspects of being human—you’re negative about negativity. This causes negativity to become a shadow, and like all shadows, you express it by being negative yourself, though you don’t see it. Everyone else does, though. Human beings are both positive AND negative, no matter who they are. If you think you’re never negative, or that negativity can be gotten rid of, you’re deluded.
In fact, I never said that anyone should be negative about what is happening. I said you should be REALISTIC about it. But if you have an issue with negativity, you will hear this as being negative, without realizing that this is an interpretation you’re making, not one I made.
Believe me, I’m very familiar with the whole idea of “As a man thinketh”. However, your thinking can only influence how you feel, how you behave, which people and situations you attract or become attracted to, and what meanings you assign to what happens. Material facts are not changed by your thinking, unless that thinking is accompanied by action, and unless you have the ability to alter the physical reality through that action–which, sometimes, you don’t, especially when it involves billions of other people.
You can’t control the world with your mind. You can’t make the facts in this situation more negative through your thinking. You can, however, make those four things above (which are your responses to the material facts) “negative”. You can create negative feelings or behaviors in yourself, you can attract or become attracted to “negative’ people and situations, and you can assign negative meanings to what happens. And, your negativity could influence a few other people to be more negative.
But the whole going on of the giant matrix of cause and effect you live in is so huge that your influence on it is negligible.
Certainly optimism feels better than pessimism. Being “optimistic” while denying the facts is just plain stupid, though. And, of course, one can be optimistic and also prepare for what one hopes won’t happen. I don’t have fire insurance because I’m pessimistic. I’m just weighing the pros and cons of insurance versus the slight chance of a fire.
We ARE entering a time of severe negative social mood. We’re already in it. Throughout history, whether you like it or not, social mood periodically becomes negative. And, such times have included some rather grim events. It seems only prudent to be aware of what is happening and take reasonable steps to be prepared, just in case.
Several people claimed that because “we create our own reality,” my pointing out a “negative” situation just creates more of it. Let’s be clear, though. You only create your RESPONSE to reality. Most of your actual reality is thrust upon you. You have no say in the weather, the movements of the earth, what the sun does, the laws of nature, and almost no say about what happens in the economy, or what most of the other 7 billion people in the world do.
I hate to break it to you, but you have control over four things, and that’s it: 1) What you feel, 2) how you behave, 3) which people and situations you attract or become attracted to, and 4) what meaning you assign to what happens.
What’s more, you only have a choice about these four things IF you’re aware enough to see HOW YOU CREATE THEM, as you do it.
And far less than 1% of people have this kind of awareness.
Looking on the bright side is always more resourceful, but ignoring the realities we face is just plain idiotic. Doing so is like ignoring a speeding car bearing down on you. Look on the bright side–and get out of the street.
Some people said that I was making predictions, and how could I be SO SURE? Others said, in effect, “This is a ‘prophecy.’ Prophecies are like streetcars. I new one comes along every 15 minutes. All such things are incorrect, so you must be incorrect, too.” Often this was followed by that person’s own favorite prophecies. (Prophecies, by the way are magical predictions not based on any sort of rational data. I am doing my best to use rational data about repeating patterns so as to be prepared for something I think is very likely to happen—and which is, in fact, already unfolding right before your eyes.)
I am not making prophecies. I am alerting you to a repeating pattern some very smart people have noticed. It is supported by a LOT of data. When we notice a pattern, we CAN use it to make some predictions.
I gave the example of the patterns of summer, fall, winter, spring. We know this pattern repeats and that certain things are more likely to happen in each season. We can’t predict exactly where you’ll go for vacation, or if you’ll have a vacation at all, but we do know it will be warmer, there will be more sunny days, people will wear lighter clothing and spend more time outdoors, and that more people will take vacations than in the winter. These are not “prophecies,” though they are reasonable assumptions based on a lot of past data about summer.
No one is sure about the specifics of what will happen, but I (and others) are very sure about what kinds of things will happen. And, if you look around, you can see that they’re happening already. To say “how can you be so certain?” is setting up a straw man.
All along I have said that what will happen is governed by probabilities, not certainties. I will say, though, that social mood is going to become VERY negative (you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet). I base this on the extreme degree of positive mood we just came out of, which was of historic preportions. That things will become very negative IS a certainty. Exactly how that will manifest is another story.
A few other people said, “It’s all One Energy, so all this concern is bullshit”.
True, it is all “one energy.” Many of you use this to deny the existence of the relative world, though. You are caught in the relative world as long as you’re alive. As a result, you are vulnerable in many ways, regardless of any transcendent reality.
Hunger, conflict, violence, disease, a 500 mile per hour wall of seawater, lack of money to pay the rent, unemployment, etc. are real physical experiences. You might not care about any of this if you’re in a transcendent state of mind, but they are still real and you and others are subject to them.
Don’t disown the relative world. There are consequences for doing that, and you won’t like them.
Physical realities cannot be easily altered, especially when they happen on a grand scale. There is nothing you can do to alter the fact–just to pick one example–that during the recent extraordinary period of extreme positive social mood (which ended about 2000), people, countries, and corporations were so positive about EVERYTHING, including that good times would never end, that they spent tomorrow’s money–ie, they spent money they didn’t have, based on the idea that they could always make more and pay it back later.
This, unfortunately, became unsustainable, the consequences of which we are still to fully pay. When a family goes into debt to buy things before they’ve earned the money, that debt can be sustained only until the interest payments become too large to pay and still buy food, shelter, etc.
At that point bankruptcy happens.
In the case of the collective debts of the world, bankruptcy is here. The authorities are holding it off with a dam made of carboard and straw, and it won’t hold forever. You might not be aware of the evidence, but that doesn’t change the facts. This world-wide bankruptcy was caused by the thinking of human beings (you included) who were so supremely confident that they thought they could keep spending tomorrow’s money forever.
Now, the money is spent and there is no way to forestall the consequences, any more than you could spend your entire paycheck two weeks before payday without suffering two weeks of no money. The only solution in such a case is to live on a lot less until the borrowed money (and the interest) is repaid. No amount of positive thinking can alter these facts. Positive thinking might allow you to come up with solutions, or take resourceful actions, but it won’t dissolve the problem. The problem is a FACT.
Either the borrower pays the money back, living on less during that process, or the borrower stops paying, in which case the lender must live on less. In this case, most people and entities fall into both categories. Any way you slice it, the world will have to live at a lower standard of living for some time. And this is only one consequence of the change in social mood from positive to negative. There will be many others.
Pointing out this rather obvious fact isn’t negative, it’s just an observation of objective reality. And no amount of positive thinking will change this reality (though it might help you take resourceful steps to prepare). The idea that the observer changes what is observed (something evoked by one of you as a supposed argument against what I have said) applies to the quantum level of reality (however not in a way New Agers claim), and to your EXPERIENCE of actual physical reality.
On the relative level (where we live, last time I checked), however, the observer does NOT affect physical reality–UNLESS he or she takes some sort of action to change that reality, which in some cases is not possible, as when a car has already been driven off a cliff. Actions that are possible are indeed preceded by thought, but the thought alone doesn’t change anything in the physical world.
Even when actions are taken, past actions have consequences and may get in the way. Often those consequences, once set in motion, are extremely difficult–often impossible–to change (as with the car and the cliff). In the case of today’s world, many of the consequences set in motion are all but inevitable—not necessarily in the specific details, but certainly in the overall shape of what is to come. And, in fact, those who are in charge are busily doing the very things that will make these consequences worse (something that has happened throughout history in times of negative social mood, by the way—and can be PREDICTED).
Positive thinking can certainly come up with the best possible way to deal with this reality, and I’m totally for “what’s the most effective thing to do” sorts of thinking, but actions have consequences, and the financial consequences of the past several decades cannot be sidestepped by any sort of attitude adjustment, any more than positive thinking could have prevented the Japanese earthquake or kept a car that has careened off a cliff from eventually hitting bottom. Physical realities have consequences.
You can pretend that this isn’t true, or call me names, or evoke some counter-theory if you want to, but if I were you, I would prepare myself, JUST IN CASE. If I’m wrong, what have you lost? If you’re wrong, watch out below.
So, in Part 3 (which this was supposed to be), I’m going to talk about what you might do to prepare. Hopefully, I should post that within the next week.
By the way, for those who want more information about social mood, here’s something you might find interesting (and, by the way, I signed up for this myself just a few days ago):
The 2011 Socionomics Summit on April 16 in Atlanta will feature a dozen speakers, including five scientists whose work has captured the attention of the media.
- Indiana University professors Johan Bollen and Huina Mao: “Measurements of public mood states predict the DJIA.” Their analysis of social mood exhibited in Twitter feeds predicted changes in the closing values of the DJIA at an accuracy of 86.7%. [This leads us here at the Socionomics Institute to ask whether mood changes might register sooner in social media than even in the financial markets.]
- Successful hedge fund manager Scott Reamer: “Socionomics as an Investment Philosophy: the ‘Unified Field Theory’ of Economics, Physics, and Sociology.” Why the socionomic hypothesis is critical to dealing with life’s inherent uncertainties — in markets, in academia and in life.
- Scholar and best-selling author of Mood Matters, John Casti: “Anticipation of Extreme Events in Human Society.” The social mood of a population is a leading indicator of collective social events of all types, ranging from trends in popular culture to the rise and collapse of world powers.
- Georgia Institute of Technology Professor Eric Gilbert: “Widespread Worry and the Stock Market.” How the mood of a large social community, even one that discusses ordinary daily life, can anticipate changes in a seemingly unrelated system.
- Professor of psychology, Kenneth Olson, Ph.D.: “Why does social mood alternate between positive and negative extremes?” Social mood has far-reaching impacts, and the study of social mood has both practical and theoretical implications.
- Research Fellow of the Socionomics Institute, Matt Lampert: “Blazing the Trail Ahead: The Next Wave of Socionomics Research.” Many of the most paradigm-shifting scientific breakthroughs have come from new explanatory theories. People such as Copernicus, Darwin and Watson & Crick developed revolutionary hypotheses for natural phenomena. Once they formulated their theoretical insights, scientific inquiry took over to test them. Robert Prechter and his colleagues have spent more than a decade articulating the socionomic perspective on social mood and social events. In this concise talk, Matt Lampert will discuss the research underway to rigorously test these hypotheses in the next phase of the theory’s development. He will scan the horizons of the next wave of socionomic analysis, report on the latest developments in the field and describe how you can get involved to move the research forward.
- EWI’s Asian-Pacific Financial Forecast Editor Mark Galasiewski: “Emerging Markets and Violence.” Since the financial crisis began, emerging markets have experienced the most dramatic effects of the negative mood trend: The escalation of the war in Afghanistan, the terrorist attacks on Mumbai and the Arab revolts of 2011. Mark, who correctly predicted violence ahead of each of these events, explains the order behind the apparent chaos.
- Co-editor of The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast Pete Kendall: “Sinatra Swings With the Waves.” Frank Sinatra’s popularity waxed and waned with the larger trends in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. From Sinatra’s smashing debut at the Paramount Theater in 1942 to his Chairman of the Board phase at the end of Cycle III and the great Sinatra nostalgia wave in the 1990s, we’ll look at how the bull market, as well as the major corrections along the way, influenced this musical hero’s star power.
- The man who discovered socionomics, Robert Prechter, will open and close the summit.
Attend the 2011 Socionomics Summit
As an attendee, you will hear, ask questions of, and mingle with a dozen of the foremost academics, writers and researchers who contribute to the science of socionomics.
You can join these academics and other speakers at the summit for just $199 — an amount which will cover, literally, only the Institute’s costs. We have made it as easy as possible to attend — including an exceptional price, convenient travel access (Atlanta) and a venue close to the airport.