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Rarely Certain recommends: helpful updates on UFOs/UAP and the choice between active or passive information consumption
Some recent things that may have made me a bit less uninformed and wrong about things
Note: still working on a piece that’s harder to write than expected. But also reading a lot, some of which seems worth sharing.
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But where are the saucers?
I was quite excited when the 'whistleblower' David Grusch came forward to say that UFOs/UAP really are alien craft.
As a teenager I read scores of UFO books, but over time became more sceptical. Mainly because seeing is believing and I never saw anything inexplicable. My father returned from walking the dog, when I was 17, calling me out to see a ‘triangle shape’ darting around the sky, but it had disappeared when I looked. According to our local paper police had received a lot of reports of the same thing that night, so at least he wasn’t imagining it.
Those early times of enthusiasm about alien visitations obviously speak to a core desire for such things to be real and not just stories.
Grusch arrived on the scene just when I needed him.
But I'm aware that my onetime status as a believer and an enduring fondness for a good UFO/UAP story represents a cognitive vulnerability.
In fact, becoming hyper-aware of what I want to be true has been the single the most useful 'sensemaking' tool I have. Whenever I'm excited or pleased to hear about some piece of evidence supporting the thing I already thought, that's a red flag and a signal that I'm feeling rather than thinking.
Still, it's hard not to get sucked into other people's passion - especially when we're never more than a WhatsApp message away from it, let alone the daily welter of articles and comment sections or public social media chatter.
So, along comes Grusch and almost everyone is agreed. Here is a figure whose credibility changes everything.
What's been interesting about his reports, though, is how the right in particular seized on them as proof positive that governments aren't telling citizens what they know about UFOs/UAP.
Even though he's just a guy who is saying some things about some things that he says he's been told about, rather than someone who is actually revealing any new evidence.
In passing, this shows the power of credentials. Grusch's credentials seem impeccable and I was certainly caught up in the excitement because of them.
He's a godsend not just to those who really want there to be aliens around but for anyone whose default setting is extreme suspicion. So, even those who seem ambivalent about extraterrestrial visitors have leapt onto the idea that it's some kind of distraction operation, designed to provide cover for some other nefarious development.
Apart from the fact that I've learned to notice when extraordinary claims are not accompanied by extraordinary evidence, I too have been among those suspicious that he's part of some kind of psy-op. I mean, why else would the US security apparatus be OK with anyone from within their ranks saying that there's a secret program to reverse engineer flying saucers? And that humans have been killed and injured by 'malevolent' aliens in the process.
The fact that this whole story feels like it doesn't make sense should be a huge clue. And a strong suggestion that maybe high profile media, such as the New York Times and the Guardian - both of which did much to amplify Grusch's story - has been irresponsibly credulous about it.
A great example of this credulity was not checking the process by which Grusch was given permission to go public with his claims. Since so much of his credibility hinges on this, it matters a lot.
But, apparently, no. He got permission from the security apparatus. That proves that there's something big going on.
Fortunately there has since been some actual journalism done on this, which probably hasn't been turning up in most people's news feeds. This has surfaced some ... interesting details about Grusch and how he came to end up testifying in public to a US congressional sub-committee.
Read's account of what most of the media missed.
Fishing gets you fed, but it's better to go hunting
Everyone thinks they've got the right approach to information-seeking and evidence-weighing.
Except me. I recognise that it's really hard. <Insert saintly halo emoji>
Mostly I use quite vague heuristics to arrive at a position on quite important things, such as whether to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or how to cast my vote in Britain's referendum on whether to leave the European Union. You know, small matters like my health and the entire future of my birth country. 1
If I have any kind of process, it's described here and it's not especially elegant or pretty - See you over by the sweet spot - betwixt conjectural bluster and doctrinaire conformity (now released from behind the paywall).
I find certitude in others naive and suffocating and almost always founded on superficial understandings involving the filtering out of confounding information. Or complete unawareness of information that doesn't quite belong in the box that everyone is rootling in for their evidence.
You'll constantly hear people saying that they have weighed 'the evidence' for something, as if the amount of evidence for things must always be the determining factor of a proposition's truth or value. It was John Vervaeke's theory of 'relevance realisation' that first made me despair of being a particularly skilled sifter of evidence. 2
Since we all keep falling out over which evidence counts best in supporting any particular proposition, our ability to even think about how we think seems lacking. Because I'll never be a guru of reliable information processing I spend most of my time wondering why rather than what. And also noticing what's often missing from an argument.
An illustration of this might be that, let's say driverless cars are proven to be much safer and efficient than having us all driving around as we do now, clogging up the roads and dying in non-trivial numbers. And let's say there is never any delay between you wanting one and it turning up. No user friction at all.
If you think that's all the evidence you need to declare that we should replace the entire car parc with autonomous vehicles, then you aren't thinking beyond a simplistic solution to a technical problem.
In this example I wonder what it would mean for us as humans to no longer ever have to plan a personal journey, find a parking space, wave someone out of a junction, get mad at other road users and all the countless things us drivers do.
This kind of wondering is unfashionable in a technocratic and 'factist' culture and I'll be writing more about our worship of 'facts' as the basis on which to make all decisions, in due course.
But, back to the raw data that we definitely do need to have any coherent ideas about things. It's often helpful to think about your approach to finding it, especially since so much information is served to you mostly because certain interests want to push it into your head, rather than because it is good information.thinks more than most of us about how to find it and here's his approach.
Completely off-topic but I love this
Actually, not so off-topic because it's about approaching things from different angles.
Swedish music students doing a beautiful acoustic rendition of the Tangerine Dream classic 'Love On A Real Train'. Berlin School sequencing for clarinet? Yeah, why not.
I see these kids and think the world is inevitably going to be fine.
If you’re wondering, I got vaccinated four times and voted Remain.
Here's ChatGPT's synopsis of Vervaeke's work in the area of relevance realisation.
Relevance realization is the process by which the human mind identifies and focuses on what is relevant or meaningful in a given context. It involves the following key ideas:
Dynamic Sensitivity: Vervaeke emphasizes that the mind is dynamically sensitive to relevance. This means that it doesn't just passively receive information but actively seeks and processes data that is contextually relevant. The mind is constantly adapting to changing circumstances to extract meaning and significance.
Adaptive Engagement: The theory suggests that relevance realization is an adaptive process. It helps individuals engage with the world effectively by allowing them to filter and prioritize information. This adaptability is crucial for problem-solving, learning, and decision-making.
Multiple Forms of Relevance: Vervaeke recognizes that relevance can take various forms, including logical relevance, emotional relevance, and existential relevance. These different forms of relevance are interconnected and contribute to a holistic understanding of meaning.
Connection to Consciousness: Relevance realization is closely tied to the concept of consciousness. According to Vervaeke, consciousness emerges from the brain's capacity to engage in relevance realization. It involves the ability to integrate and process information in a way that gives rise to subjective experience.
Meaning-Making: The theory also links relevance realization to the human capacity for making meaning. It suggests that our ability to extract and create meaning from the world around us is a fundamental aspect of cognition.
John Vervaeke's work on relevance realization draws from various fields, including cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy, and it offers a unique perspective on how the human mind processes information and perceives meaning in a dynamic and adaptive manner. His lectures and discussions on this topic are available online for those who wish to explore it further.