Information Asymmetry

“Information asymmetry” is a term that I learned from Ndugu Omowale Afrika. It refers to a situation where between two more more people, one party possesses greater information and understanding of some topic than another. Consider, for instance, what a trained scholar of 19th Century African American history knows about such a topic, compared to an individual who has never bothered to investigate it, whose knowledge is limited to popular discourse pertaining to the subject or popular depictions of this subject in film and television. We can imagine the same kind of asymmetry occurring between individuals who possess a depth of scientific knowledge, compared to others with a paucity of such knowlege.

Sadly, often those who possess limited knowledge of things assume that they know far more than they actually do, resulting in their coming to illogical and misinformed conclusions while being resistant to any modification of their premises. Thus, when they are presented with information that contradicts what they know or demonstrates the limitations of their understanding, they often disregard this new information largely because it does not confirm their beliefs, but possibly also because it is beyond their comprehension.

It should be stated that a certain knowledge base is needed to both meaningfully understand anything. Further, a fairly robust knowledge base is needed to possess a critically informed view of a thing. I can, for instance, understand how evolutionary biology works after having learned something of the subject. This would be a basic level of understanding. However, for me to competently critique a particularly theory of evolutionary biology requires a far higher degree of knowledge than what could be considered basic. This would require an advanced level of understanding. I have often seen individuals who demonstrate a nonexistent or a rudimentary level of understanding of various subjects attempting to offer criticisms of fairly well-established bodies of knowledge. The result is, for the informed viewer, rather nonsensical.

As a matter of course, I try to minimize my engagements with people on topics where information asymmetry is evident. I will share information, but will not debate these individuals. It is not a good use of time, and as we all know, our time on this planet is finite. Use yours to grow and better yourself, as well as to improve the world around you, rather than to drag those for whom their ignorance is a kind of refuge and armor towards some kind of enlightened understanding.

The lamp of ignorance misleads in the night

Too many African/Black people have a love affair with pseudo-consciousness. Perhaps false ideas and contrived identities have an emotional resonance that more valid and historically grounded notions lack. Perhaps the false ideas are more immediately intelligible, requiring no real work to understand and internalize. Or could it be that such ideas make little demand of their adherents, enabling them to continue in the world as they always have? Perhaps reality is too complex, too complicated, and nonsense becomes a filtration device, rejecting information that is incongruent with one’s preferred mythology. After all, one of the advantages of ideology is that it provides a system of thinking, a way of seeing the world. Whether such a system is grounded in logic and facts is inconsequential to its functioning.

Whatever it is, whatever its causes, I am reminded of three African proverbs. A Yorùbá proverb states, “Ọgbọ́n ní ńpẹ́ kó tó ran ẹni; wèrè kì í gbèé ran èèyàn; wèrè Ìbàdàn ló ran ará Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́,” which translates as, “Only wisdom takes a long time to rub off on others; imbecility does not take long to affect others; it is the imbecility plaguing Ibadan people that rubbed off on the people of Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́.” This means that folly is a contagion, easily transmitted. Enlightenment, by contrast, is much more difficult to establish among the people.

I am also reminded of a Swahili proverb which states, “Jinga likikwerevuka akili hakuna tena,” which translates as, “When a fool is believed to be intelligent then there is no more intelligence.” Consider the unfortunate lack of discernment among those taken in by false ideas. For them, the intelligence of someone who has a great deal of valuable expertise and knowledge and someone who is ignorant (or deceptive) are equal.

I close with an Ewe proverb which, like these others, reflects the times in which we live. It states, “Nu manyamanya fe akadi tra ame za,” which translates as, “The lamp of ignorance misleads in the night.” While some of us are making deep investments in falsehood, we will find that misinformation is insufficient to both transform our lives individually or our condition collectively. In fact, such ignorance, as misinformation induces, makes us more useful subjects of misdirection, division, and control by powerful interests. As Thomas Sankara said, “The enemies of a people are those who keep them in ignorance.”

On the African origins of African Diasporans (including Africans/Blacks in the United States)

To whom it may concern (including those who are in denial of this): Our food, language, music, dance, historical narratives from the antebellum period, combat arts, spiritual traditions, healing modalities, DNA, and so on are clearly African derived. These are not matters of opinion, but reflect the empirical reality.

On the Consequences of Silent/silenced Men

For example, one recent study found connections between stress and prostate cancer. They report:” Researchers at Loma Linda University Health contend that the disproportionate amount of chronic stress African Americans face is partly responsible for the alarmingly high incidence and mortality rates from prostate cancer observed in African American men.”

Of course, we also know that stress, as a long-term experience can greatly erode one’s quality-of-life, resulting in a shortened life-expectancy. A Pro-Publica article reports that: “Sherman James is a social epidemiologist who has spent the past four decades exploring why Black men have higher rates of diseases that lead to shorter lifespans than all other Americans.” The article continues, “His conclusion is that the constant stress of striving to succeed in the face of social inequality and structural racism can cause lasting physical damage.”

Furthermore, mental health challenges have particularly adverse impacts on Black men and boys. Citing a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, an article from Forbes states, “A 2021 JAMA study revealed that Black men had a larger increase in suicide attempts than any other racial group. It also found that suicide rates in Black male adolescents increased by 47% from 2013 to 2019. Black suicidologists say it’s partially due to racism.”

Returning to my initial point, I cannot fathom how a silent (or silenced) group can help themselves, help others, seek help, or meaningfully exist in community. I may be mistaken, but I believe that for Black men, such silence could be deadly. Suffering in silence is a sure fire way to expedite a decline in one’s mental and physical health. I think that rather than men, specifically Black men, being silent, we should be actively engaged with people that care about our health and well-being. Being silent, particularly given the many challenges that we face could be fatal, as, like the African American proverb says, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”

Black Male Suicide: A Silent Epidemic

Black Men Have the Shortest Lifespans of Any Americans. This Theory Helps Explain Why.

Cumulative stress in African American men may contribute to prostate cancer health disparity

Capoeira to Cultivate the Body, Mind, and Spirit

I taught Capoeira this morning. I gave each student a homework assignment based on things that they did during class. The homework assignments related to movement skills, coordination, or motor control.

I maintain that many of the things that we do within Capoeira actually impacts our lives outside of Capoeira. That is, the comportment (i.e., the embodiment) of the Capoeirista occasions changes in how our minds and bodies relate to movement. Capoeira teaches proprioception (i.e., bodily awareness) laying a basis for improving our coordination and control. The skills that Capoeira teaches are transferable to things both mental and physical. The assignments that I gave, while on the surface pertain to the use of the body, also, necessarily relate to the cultivation of the mind and spirit. I feel that such holistic cultivation is a uniquely powerful aspect of this art.

Blade as the apex of late 20th Century cinema

They are calling Blade ahead of its time. I never saw it like that. To me it was a quintessential reflection of the times in which it was created. It echoed themes from a lot of the science fiction/action cinema of the late 20th Century:
-A shadowy cabal seeks to control the destiny of humanity
-Martial arts a central to its visual spectacle
-Guns, guns, guns…and swords
-An ambiguous hero who reflects a loss of faith in moral purity
-A protagonist who epitomizes coolness, wittiness, and masculinity

Again, I think Blade actually aptly reflected its times. I think that this is why they are struggling so to reboot it. What cultural material can such a film draw upon today that would be equally compelling? Blade represented the culmination of a range of cultural themes which had been expressed in cinema since the 1970s. I believe that this is why it was so beloved, and also why, it cannot be easily duplicated–after all, even the sequels of Blade fell short of the magic of the first film. Though this image from the promotional material for the second film was pretty amazing.

Climate disasters as social entropy

Over time, the capacity of states to respond to climate disasters will diminish. The frequency and scale of those disasters will increase, eventually resulting in a situation that has already become normal in some parts of the US and the world, wherein people–living in the milieu of partial recoveries–struggle to carry on their lives in the midst of the detritus of environmental catastrophe. The long-term consequence of this, of course, will be a decrease in security, health, and well-being. These things are, I believe, inevitable. However, actions can be taken to reduce these vulnerabilities and to make local communities more resilient and self-reliant.

Fabrications of Consciousness

I saw Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One yesterday. In the film, AI is the antagonist. One of the primary threats discussed throughout is the ability for conflict and chaos to be created and sustained through the manipulation of information.

This is an apt film for the times in which we live where many people’s capacity to discern what is true and false, what is a fact or an opinion, what is credible or non-credible is virtually non-existent. Ideas have consequences and erroneous ideas can have grave ones. This is especially so as we hurtle towards a future where scientific and political literacy become ever more important in order to make sense of a rapidly changing world.