Thursday, May 19, 2011

Data, Decision Making - Somatic Age?

This very interesting article appeared in the latest Mother Jones, "The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science". It is a great article showing how we fail to make rational decisions - or rather fail to absorb new facts in a way that results in our changing our minds about a particular view we may have, essentially arguing that there is more to decision making then rational fact-based arguments. And, that more information and data is not how you get people to change their minds or accept a particular issue as important or otherwise.

The article is easy to read and does a great job of explaining some pretty complex ideas. My favorite line in the article goes, " In other words, paradoxically, you don't lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance." The author is arguing that we need to think about how we frame our arguments and thinking first about how it can be presented in a way that is not threatening to the value framework of a particular individual - that we are not trying to destroy that persons framework of values but trying to expand it in some way. Collaboration rather then hierarchy I guess! Emotion rather then logic. Engaging the irrational.

What this all points to in this age of information and head based thinking is that we are sooo far off still from understanding how our emotions are so critically involved in our decision making, and that our biases are built into what we actually perceive (much like what they say about us trying to observe quantum particles - that they are essentially impacted by our very viewing of them). In many ways I think the age of information overload and free access to data is slowly pushing us (or maybe not so slowly) towards an age where we focus on our emotion and spiritual and energetic beings. I think of this as a somatic age.

In other words, my believe is that the outcome of the somatic age will be a great enlightenment that will result in our understanding and exploration of the spaces of our existence that do not fit within rational frameworks or conscious thought. Many neuroscientists are starting to discover the role of our subconscious and that it is far far more important in our decision making process then previously believed or accepted. I see this as a wonderful thing - the age in which we start to become embodied, the age in which we start to sense our selves somatically is upon us. This, after all is what separates us from machines and technology - our somatic ability to sense our world around us, to process complex emotions that are co-produced by those around us.

I think this is already why we are exploring collaboration and other methods of connecting that allow us to realize our collective value and strength. The revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East show the role of emotion. No fact was released, no leader emerged that suddenly "reasoned" the people into action. Their emotional selves, and their subconsciousness made a decision to act and this was picked up on collectively. And they perceived this somatically feeling driven to collect and could not ignore the overwhelming feelings of their existence.

Those of us who explore long range futures and use scenario planning methods need to acknowledge that the future is not just about technological or "social" change, but about a transformation in our somatic understanding of our world and that this is by far our weakest muscle or skill. We know how to deal with data - even if we don't do it in ways we thought we would. As we as humans get more and more inundated by technology and as technology takes over the roles of our rational data processing minds we will gravitate to exploring this other side of our selves the side that will increasingly distinguish us from machines and technology as a whole.