As a bystander, it is interesting to watch the debate of the broken nose swaying in two different directions as it provides a great insight into one of the most ignored and yet most critical aspects of human life in the age of social media, i.e., the emergence and prospering of the phenomenon of lying.
We, the modern Homo Metropolis have not recognized the greatest transformation that our species have gone through in less than a millennium (without the biology catching up) and one that is changing our intraspecies interaction spectrum astronomically.
In simpler terms, we are now meeting or getting to hear of thousands of times more people than we ever did in our short and not so colorful history.
It sounds like a benign change, but it is surely one of the biggest changes that our brain has simply not evolved for.
If we go back by about a thousand years, most human beings on this planet rarely travelled for more than 50 kilometers and even rarely met strangers; and hence, encountering a lie or a liar was so rare that our brain had no real need to be prepared for such an event.
It sounds crazy in modern times where lies and misinformation are pouring from every direction, but the truth is, lie is brand new addition to the life of a human brain and hence we are flabbergasted today because we have no evolutionary solution available to deal with lies.
Living in a small territory with a few people, laying was almost impractical as there were no information gaps that would survive over time.
One may lie that the male partner of a female was enjoying coitus behind a tree with a different female or a given flower had the power to entice a male, but such lies would not work for long or successfully enough to give any advantage (as the female would not get pregnant over time and one can get the flower and conduct an empirical test leading to probably an unpleasant discovery).
Lies became possible only when humanity changed its scale by building the monstrosity called a metropolis.
Only in a city, lies can last and yield profitable results because city is a place where strangers meet.
In a city it is possible to have unsurmountable information gaps thanks to the way a human “society” is structured in a city, so a lie can survive and prosper.
If we take the curious case of the broken nose vs. the plea for work that is raging across the social media now, it provides a classic testcase of power of a lie in a city.
For most of us, there is absolutely no way to know who is lying and who is not and yet most of us have made up our minds about the matter. If we look inside our brains, this benign looking phenomenon points at a chink that we are not aware of, and that is our need to believe.
As a cooperating species that has lasted long enough to built civilizations, we are actually designed to believe by the biological evolution that we have undergone.
Our ability to believe is not actually a weakness that may science-lovers like to believe. It is actually our superpower.
By believing, we could grow the grand tree of knowledge and trust each other to build large systems.
If evolution had opted for a design solution where a human brain was forced to keep looking out for lies, we would have reached nowhere. So, our brain’s gullible-ness for lies is a smart evolutionary strategy that has worked till now.
Unfortunately, our plug-and-play port of believing is now a chink that may lead us to chaos thanks to Ms. Broken-nose or Mr. Slipper-hit.
As we have now changed the scale on vertical of inter-connectivity, lies have acquired unprecedented power, and that power is going to be put to use by those who have something to gain from using a lie.
As we can see, we have now institutionalized lies that we respectably refer to as marketing. We have also started having social acceptance for lies and hence liars do not suffer any social cost for a lie as long as they gain power or wealth from lying.
As lies will proliferate in the modern superficially inter-connected world that we are building, we have a challenge at hand that we may or may not pass, but the biology surely will.
If need be, and if we are lucky/unlucky, our brains will evolve ability to deal with the epidemic of lies that is here and growing, if not, we will have a very painful swan song to sing that will be garbled by lies.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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