Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ken MacLeod on RAW

Ken MacLeod, the brilliant Scottish science fiction writer, posted about Robert Anton Wilson after Wilson died.

MacLeod wrote that when he first read ILLUMINATUS! 30 years ago, he couldn't put it down, and was surprised to find he couldn't get into it when he had tried to re-read it recently. (This has not been my experience; it always seems fresh to me.)

But what I mainly wanted to record here is MacLeod's observations about two of Wilson's concepts.

I've read bits and pieces of RAW's non-fiction, mainly the pamphlet Natural Law and the book Prometheus Rising. What stuck in my memory were two concepts: the reality tunnel, and the SNAFU principle. The 'reality tunnel' refers to the tendency to notice only what confirms our beliefs. The SNAFU principle points out that in a hierarchy, each person tends to tell their superior what the superior wants to hear, i.e. what confirms their beliefs. By the time information reaches the top of a hierarchy it may be degraded beyond recognition. These two ideas explain much that is otherwise incomprehensible. We tend to assume that, whatever else may be said about them, our leaders are better informed than we are. If RAW's insight is correct, they are likely to be far worse informed than the average citizen. (See? Suddenly, it all makes sense!)