One of the fundamental skills that any aspiring computer programmer, software developer, business analyst, or mathematician must acquire is the ability to work with nested functions. And while this concept can become intuitive with time and repetition, it is not something that most humans are familiar with. In fact, a gambler might venture to wager good money on the proposition that most humans are not familiar with a function, much less a nested function, which is essentially a function within a function.
This isn’t a math tutorial, and there are plenty of great resources for learning about functions and nested functions on Google and elsewhere, so I’ll take the liberty of assuming that if you’re reading this you already have some understanding of the concept or you have the wearwithall to stop reading for a moment and do some Googling to familiarize yourself with these concepts before reading on.
Now where was I? Oh, right. Nested functions.
Today it occurred to me that all of us humans are essentially walking, talking function makers. Only the functions we create are impressions, images, patterns, thoughts, ideas, stories, models, frameworks, paradigms, etc. I’ll refer to them as narratives from here on out.
We humans are, in fact, narrative makers.
But not just that. Lately, it has become apparent to me that we humans go about creating nested functions – nested narratives if you will – from a very young age. These nested narratives are transmitted to us by family, friends, and media. They are what most sociologists would refer to as “culture.”
But I prefer to stick with the term narrative because I feel that it is more intuitive; more accurate in some sense. And the reason I feel this way is because it appears to me that there are some narratives that are micro in nature, what some refer to as our “stream of consciousness” (e.g. the ideas that pop in and out of our heads pretty much all the time day in and day out) and there other more fundamental narratives – nested narratives – that are more fundamental and macro in nature. Their foundations were laid down years, perhaps decades, ago and have become part of the very machinery that shapes our aforementioned stream of consciousness.
In this sense, every individual human is constrained by their nested narratives, and this strikes me as a powerful revelation because it would explain well-established psychological concepts such as the Dunning-Kruger Effect and the Backfire Effect. It would also help explain seemingly impossible cohorts such as flat-Earthers, and moreover, seems to shed light why people subscribe to any and all conspiracy theories and quackery in the first place.
While I’ll readily admit that I don’t have formal scientific credentials or a psychology degree, my personal travels have led me to the conclusion that the human consciousness – if it exists at all – is essentially a narrative maker.
Or in laymen’s terms, our mind continually makes shit up, day and night, day in and day out.
But this conclusion is fairly simplistic, in that it only accounts for the aforementioned stream of consciousness. The idea of nested narratives would appear to have more explanatory and predictive power, in that it would explain why all of us hear what we want to hear and fail to accept facts even in the face of mountains of evidence. It would also predict that individuals that have achieved a certain level of numeracy are better equiped to exercise powers of skepticism towards both their own surface-level narratives (e.g. stream of consciousness) as well as gain insight into and freedom from more deeply woven nested narratives that constrain their thinking and broader worldview.
I need more time to read books, read scientific papers, and seek out the collective opinion of individuals that are likely more intelligent and well-read than me, because as a skeptic and adherent to the cognitive-behavioral and evolutionary models of psychology, I’m fully aware of the fact that this idea of mine could either be old news or complete bunk.
But it seemed worth sharing, and who am I to blow against the winds of my own nested narratives?