May 18, 2022

Binary thinking

Binary thinking
Meta Description
Ship It Post #
May 18, 2022
Meta Title
💭 Contemplations
Word Count
Meta Keywords
Binary thinking is useful. But it’s not the best way to understand the world.
It’s less energy intensive for the brain, to categorize things into one of two buckets. But reality rarely fits into any bucket neatly.
The foundation for binary thinking is the law of noncontradiction. Either A or not A. Both states cannot be true at the same time.
Computers work with binary switches: 0 or 1.
But there is an infinity of numbers between 0 and 1. Computers need multiple bits to express these values, like: 0.1 or 0.3333333…
Quantum computing deals in qubits. These are the basic units, but they are insufficient to describe the world.
The reason is, reality is so complex. Something can be true in one situation, but false in another. Truth is relative to the context.
Binary thinking often falls into the black-and-white fallacy. Either-or only works at basic levels, not complex ones. And what people think to be simple is usually not.
Good and evil is relative. This fact was denied by my church, while their relative point of reference was anchored to a set of holy texts written thousands of years ago. Or rather, their unreliable interpretation of those texts. Related:
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes”
In the latest Kurzgesagt video, they explain how our position in the universe is meaningless without relative points to orient ourselves against.
The earth is rotating around the sun in a wobbly orbit due to the moon’s gravitational pool. Then our solar system is orbiting around the Milky Way’s center. So the path that our planet takes through the galaxy is very different to an observation point outside of our galaxy. We’re used to thinking of it as a regular elliptical orbit around the sun. And that’s only a recent discovery compared to the human history of assuming the Earth was the center of the cosmos.
Another example of binary thinking is biological sex: male or female. But these large buckets are not scientific. Humans don’t fit so neatly into them as we like to think.
This goes for any kind of identity label. People like to define themselves and others by a label, because it’s easier to make sense of ourselves. But every person is nuanced, and don’t perfectly fit any label. Any binary position is usually a spectrum, especially the more complex the position it tries to describe. In politics, it’s left or right, liberal or conservative. But each of those can be broken down further. These labels cause people to align themselves to a side, just like a sports team, even if they haven’t thought through the moral or philosophical implications of a given political take. It’s automatic, and makes them feel like they fit within a community, and that’s why they accept a label, and then view the other label as the enemy.
Same thing for religion. Someone identifying as a Christian would not give you enough info to know what they believe. There are so many varying doctrinal and personal beliefs in regard to Jesus. Everyone cherry picks their interpretation of the Bible, or else goes along with whatever their church teaches.
Binary thinking often leads to needless tribalism: us vs. them.