Our human cognitive systems are a flawed hodge-podge of evolutionary hacks. Among our many failures of reasoning, we tend to believe what we want to believe (irrespective of the facts), and we tend to be bad about taking future consequences into account (we focus on short-term factors). Put these two failures together, and we people, both individually and collectively, have an astonishing capacity to ignore “warning signs”.
Individually everybody does this to a certain degree. Collectively we see it in politics all the time. Both “Left” and “Right” are guilty, though study after study has shown that the Right / political conservatives are especially good at seeing the world through their ideological filters, ignoring the facts and warnings, hence for example their wide-spread refusal to accept the reality of climate change.
We’ve seen two particularly clear and strong examples of ignoring the warnings in NZ politics in the last two weeks. The MSD ignored multiple warnings about vulnerabilities in their computer security. And of course the Department of Labour ignored multiple warnings about mine safety.
There are plenty of other cases ongoing. The National government is determined to ignore warnings on the damaging effects of its economic “austerity” programme, “standards” in schools, the risks of off-shore drilling, the dangers of climate change, the unsustainability of superannuation, and so on and so on. In fact Key seems to make it a point of “pride” to ignore warnings from professionals and scientists (such a tough guy eh).
The legions of the dangerously deluded keep Key popular, so that proves that everything is fine, right? We can ignore all the warning signs, we can carry on with destructive economic, social and environmental policies. We can carry on with short-term, ideological thinking. Everything will be just fine and dandy. Right up until the point where it isn’t.