Guest Post: Situational Awareness And Shared Awareness

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Situational Awareness and Shared Awareness

Our circumstances are precarious because our situational and shared awareness are both dangerously low.

It's important to grasp the distinction between situational awareness and shared awareness. Situational awareness is observing and understanding the implications of what's going on around you. Street criminals rely on their victim's low situational awareness: for instance, when three young men approach you late at night and one circles around you, they are not preparing to ask you for the time.

Cyber criminals rely on our poor situational awareness of vulnerabilities in our systems and practices.

In general, people with low situational awareness are sitting ducks.

Fellow author/blogger Chris Sullins recently made this observation in an email:

I dropped by the neighbors yesterday for the first time in quite awhile and they had all their family visiting. Other than the head couple who answered the door and talked with me, no one else even looked up from their laptops in the living room. The control of situational awareness via the internet is more than TV ever had on the world.

Meanwhile, TV as a controller of situational awareness is no slouch: TV Viewing Continues to Edge Up (NY Times)

Historians may someday note with wonder that by the end of 2010, at least six cable television shows were about auctioneers and pawnbrokers. And all were considered successes by their respective channels.

Americans watched more television than ever in 2010, according to the Nielsen Company. Total viewing of broadcast networks and basic cable channels rose about 1 percent for the year, to an average of 34 hours per person per week.

The History Channel was helped by "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers," trash-into-treasure reality shows that spawned imitators on other channels.

TLC now has "Pawn Queens," Discovery now has "Auction Kings," Spike now has "Auction Hunters," and A&E now has "Storage Wars."

What is the collective effect of TV, iPods, cell phones, Blackberries and the Web/Internet on our situational awareness? There is a great irony here, of course; much of what passes over the airwaves and Internet backbone is loosely regarded as "information" or "news," yet the act of absorbing this flood collectively distracts us and ends up lowering our situational awareness.

Situational awareness includes our financial circumstances
. One of our good friends works in an industry undergoing contraction/ruthless efficiencies (workers compensation). The threat isn't globalization, it's employers closing down and the number of employees being covered by Workers Comp dropping. The system's blood supply (money paid for policies) is being sharply reduced.

The department where our friend works is in danger of being closed down, and jobs in the industry are scarce. Yet she just went to Macy's to buy one of her daughters a $200 coat, and recently declared that she was taking her two teens to Spain this year "even if we can't afford it."

This is a household with no real savings (maybe $1,000 per teen in a "college fund" and the parent's 401K) and no assets (a 12-year old auto). Our friend earns almost double the average household income in the U.S. ($49,777 per year, according to the Census Bureau).

Her situational awareness of the precariousness of her income and lifestyle appears to be near-zero. She is a sitting duck, financially. Is it denial, or a profound lack of situational awareness? Perhaps both, with a large serving of distraction.

We as a nation appear to have near-zero situational awareness. Our friend is a household analog to the entire nation: ignoring the precariousness of our situation, blind to the negative consequences, basking in whatever state is opposite to paranoia (complacency? Denial?)

If as former Intel chief Andy Grove famously declared, only the paranoid survive, then our friend and the U.S. alike are sitting ducks.

There is a higher level of collective awareness, what Clay Shirky terms shared awareness: the ability of each member of a group to not only understand the situation at hand but also understand that everyone else does, too. (Shirky's essay in Foreign Affairs discusses the political consequences of this: The Political Power of Social Media.)

Shirky's main point is that social media (twitter, Facebook, texting, email, weblogs, etc.) has the potential to increase shared awareness: the understanding that our situational awareness is shared by others, who are also aware they are not alone in their situational awareness.

Political change flows from shared awareness. If one million people have acute situational awareness but remain isolated in their insight, then nothing happens on a political scale. When those same one million people become aware that a million others share their situational awareness and the understanding that the other million people are also aware of each other being on board, then a political movement is possible.

The stock market is an interesting example of this phenomenon. Small investors (so-called retail investors) have been exiting the U.S. stock market for 34 straight weeks, pulling almost $100 billion out of the market. They are voting with their feet based on their situational awareness that the game is rigged, and that the rigging alone greatly increases the risks of another meltdown.

Yet nothing happens to change the market manipulation and fraud because the small investors lack shared awareness.

The two political parties are already dead, zombies without agendas other than borrowing and squandering $2 trillion a year to prop up their fiefdoms, maintain the monopoly cartels which fund them and distribute bread and theatrics to keep their respective audiences idle and distracted in between "get out the vote" campaigns to whip up the Coliseum spectators' Monster Id.

Neither party has an agenda based on a situational awareness of the precariousness of the nation's finances, energy, electrical grid, food supply, etc. etc. etc. The political class (the "leadership") claims a situational awareness which is a simulacrum of the real thing, a PR front that they really do "get it" that borrowing $2 trillion a year ($1.75 trillion Federal, $250 billion more in off-balance sheet borrowing, muni and local government debt) has consequences down the road.

But their responses ("we're going to trim $40 billion from the $3.7 trillion Federal budget, you just watch!") reveal that their state of awareness is near-zero, their level of paranoia is also near-zero, and their level of distraction as they pursue their all-consuming need to retain power, at all costs and by any means necessary--is near-infinite.

As Karl Denninger and others have ceaselessly explained, a true situational awareness requires a much different set of responses: a Federal budget which is slashed by $1.5 trillion, not $15 billion, a mortgage/banking industry which is cleaned up and set on solid ground via bankrupties and hundreds of indictments, a policy of sound money as opposed to manipulation to further the pathological needs of the Power Elites to retain every ounce of wealth and power, and so on.

Some citizens have the situational awareness that the two political parties are intellectually and ethically bankrupt; they have nothing left to offer the citizenry except more of the same old failed policies which have brought us to the edge of the cliff.

In January 2011, the shared awareness of the two parties' zombie status is near-zero. That may change in the years ahead.

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Oh regional Indian's picture

Sit-com or sit-con people? Situational awareness overload. Daily show anyone?

Sit-con= Cognitive dissonance.

We've been divided, so we can be ruled.

Data overload, in-formation underload.

ORI

http://aadivaahan.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/stairwell-sigtar/

DavidPierre's picture

Best advice ever when...

 "I was just a soldier on my way to Montreal."

John Prine

Spanish Pipedream - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1N4HPj85vjw&feature=related

It's A Big Old Goofy World-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZACwVOJXpn0&feature=related

..................................................................

'Shit-Con' built on "Garbage in... Garbage out" principles.

CheapKUNGFU's picture

I get it:

'situational' - each person sits on their ass and does nothing...

'shared' - everyone sits on their ass and does nothing...

you forgot 'sheeple'

'sheeple' - they all go 'bah' at the big bad wolf while a sheep beside them gets EATEN...

 

 

weinerdog43's picture

I couldn't disagree more.

Karl and Max, despite their foibles have hit upon something that has the potential to actually strike some degree of fear amongst our so-called superiors...namely, the 'buy silver-help crush JP Morgan'.  If this truly does get populist support, a million or more people buying silver dollars WILL have an effect.  We won't be just the sheeple.  Tell your friends and co-workers.  Let's take some ownership.

Paul Bogdanich's picture

This is the main function of corporate media or other media or social constructs in authoritarian states is to keep the people from organizing.  In early America they did it by pitting free against indenture, poor white against black and everybody against the indians.  Their major fear was that an alliance would arise between the poor whites and the indians by the way.  Good to see that it all still works. 

Heroic Couplet's picture

Exactly. For every American who complains about illegal immigrants coming from Mexico, why aren't they down on the border, blocking the inflow? We have a brand new invention called a tent and a sleeping bag. Why aren't they put into use? The people in the US who object to illegal immigrants probably outnumber the illegal immigrants.

DavidPierre's picture

1855: 

 Famed Harvard physician and social commentator Oliver Wendell Holmes observes that Indians are nothing more than a "half-filled outline of humanity" whose "extermination" is necessary. Holmes describes native peoples as "a sketch in red crayons of a rudimental manhood," adding that it is only natural for the white man to "hate" the Indian and to "hunt him down like the wild beasts of the forest, and so the red-crayon sketch is rubbed out, and the canvas is ready for a picture of manhood a little more like God's own image."

1856:

The village of Lawrence, Kansas, founded by anti-slavery settlers and a center of pro-democracy activity, is sacked by a posse of 750 under Sheriff Samuel Jones. In the interests of furthering freedom of expression, two printing offices are gutted, the presses destroyed, and the all the lead type thrown in a river.

Alex Zhyk's picture

I guess andlo saxon understanding of "privacy" does not help much there either?

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

The TV box IS the primary control system that promotes a zombie shared awareness. Zombie in the sense that Everyone Loves Raymond but not situational in that no one understands why Everyone Loves Raymond.

This is the desired outcome of the collective programming. Give everyone the illusion they are connected when in fact they are all isolated souls sharing the same party couch.  

Amish Hacker's picture

The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.

                                                                 Leonard Cohen

malikai's picture

Everybody knows the fight is over. Everybody knows the good guys lost.

      Leonard Cohen

merehuman's picture

So true CD. Sorry about our luck. I look at the bright side, i know its gonna get worse.

Its a small advantage. Allows one to prepare.

Yes a lot of us are gonna die. I will drink to that and hope its quick and glorious fighting the banks rather than the slow death we are having now.

StychoKiller's picture

The instructions are quite clear:  "Put your OWN oxygen mask on first BEFORE helping small children or other helpless people."  What can you do if the kid refuses to put on the mask because (s)he's too busy playing with a GameBoy?  Not looking forward to helping the survivors after a "controlled descent into terrain!"

Dr. Porkchop's picture

My suspicion is that a lot of people are getting situational awareness but are in denial. They don't want to know that it's going down the shitter. Even when there are bodies in the streets, they'll put the blinders on and step over them. Play along and hope that it all blows over soon enough, even if that means accepting totalitarian control, hell, they'd embrace it if it means holding onto their idiot box and their chicken nuggets.

andybev01's picture

I'll keep saying this until someone in power recognizes it as truth and locks me up.

Our world is rapidly becoming that of the movie 'Brazil'.

All one needs to do is view the restaurant scene and the scales shall fall from his eyes.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Play along and hope that it all blows over soon enough, even if that means accepting totalitarian control, hell, they'd embrace it if it means holding onto their idiot box and their chicken nuggets.

Overheard in the Fed's executive washroom while stealing the hand towels and those cute little scented bars of soap.

"I drink your milkshake and eat your chicken nuggets."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDVzmbtVZ6s

alexwest's picture

yep as nation we'are fucked... teaparty is joke,. Sarah Palin(s) and

Glenn Beck(s) of nation are same stupid jerks  being proped up by people

who  is in control... it's started w/ Bush Jr.. forget about 9/11

Americans must go  shopping

 

well...  from history  its known so complex system cant be cleansed

 by hand... too much  interconnections.. so it will be done by force..

Russia, Germany, GB  in 20 century all of those examples of big empires

showed system will collapse .. totaly disappeared as comminist Russia,

gradually as for royal GB, for hyperinflation / wars as inGermany..

 

god bless all my american fellows

alx

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Looks like a Google translation of a Chinese blogger rant. Can we reverse translate and re-post?

andybev01's picture

Is much better if you reads with thick RUSSIAN accent.

 

Outs loud is better!!

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Like this?  :>)

(Es mush betta ef yoz reads weth thik RUSkn aksnt.)

(Outs lood es betta!!)

gmrpeabody's picture

Ummmm..., no. Much too Germanic.

StychoKiller's picture

Guess I'm the only one around here that visits http://www.engrish.com regularly -- I understood the whole mangled-english post. :>D

irishgurl4's picture

The American people are like trout in a lake.  Someone throws a shiny lure into the lake and all the trout are attracted to the bright shiny lure.  Meanwhile, someone else has decided to drain the lake.  But not one fish notices 'cause they're all staring at the lure.

Shameful's picture

Most people will not become aware because it is painful.  It is painful and difficult to study and research and speak out.  It is easy to sit back and watch the programming.  It's the simple flee pain, run towards pleasure.  Even if the pleasure is toxic people will still run towards it because it is the escape of immediate pain.  Everyone does this to some extent.  I've ducked short term pain, that I know will make things more painful in the future, and done so on a conscious level.  Now if I'm overwhelmed by this response even while identifying it then how much stronger is it in those who are in total denial?

Flee pain, run towards pleasure.  It's the way of things in mammals, and it can be manipulated to advantage certain people/groups.

Henry Chinaski's picture

You have hit upon the meaning of life:  Avoid pain.  Seek pleasure.  Reproduce. 

And it is not just mammals.

Shameful's picture

Ah but most anything worth anything involves pain.  So to accomplish great things it is often necessary to endure great pain.

But to most that is the meaning of life.  I've met enough people who express only a desire to "Be happy" as their life's goal.  So filtering out reality and trying to live in a little bliss bubble is sufficient for many.  After all the universe is a hostile place and to look at it in it's naked form is disquieting.

hidingfromhelis's picture

I think that "To be happy" is a reasonable goal, as long as it is coupled with awareness.  If the goal of being happy centers around the goal of avoiding pain or discomfort, then it is either unrealistic or will only be accomplished through denial.  Pain is likely necessary for happiness, as where does the sense of accomplishment come from without having to work for the happiness?  With TV and other sources of endless stimulation, it seems that most think happiness is something that will come externally rather than through learning, experience, and accomplishment. 

No pain, no gain...No brain, no pain.

StychoKiller's picture

NO ONE can achieve true bliss while there is suffering in the World, so alleviate some suffering!

MrSteve's picture

If you are reproducing with something other than mammals, then the CAPTCHA isn't working hard enough.

StychoKiller's picture

Hey, thinking is hard work!  Ask any member of the Ignorati if ya don't believe it. :>D  The Titanic is taking on water and you have no repair equipment -- whatcha gonna do?

profoundlogic's picture

When the sheeple's deleveraging reaches a critical mass as to sever the zombie cartels' stranglehold on the wealth of this country, we'll have true shared awareness.

DonutBoy's picture

No better example of shared awareness than ZH, and it has clearly affected the Fed's POMO. 

ebworthen's picture

Exactly!

Great article.

I realized over the past decade, and especially since Fall 2008 that the only "vote" anyone would listen to from me was my money.

I moved everything out of mutual funds and the bank and into cash.  I started to put into precious metals and WILL NOT put any of that money back into equities for Wall Street to play with.

If you are responsible and have assets you are THE NUMBER ONE TARGET of both Washington and Wall Street. 

Unless you make enough to be "one of them" and have a cadre of lawyers and accountants you are SCREWED or will be by the predatory taxes, fees, insurance, pharmaceutical, health care, financial, and legal INDUSTRIES (not professions) that have gradually mutated into a middle class and democratic republic eating MONSTER.

Politics is the distraction.

 

RockyRacoon's picture

You just made me realize that the circuses part of the distraction is Washington DC.  The circus clowns get elected each year just to entertain us, throwing peanuts into the audience.  The real power is elsewhere.

StychoKiller's picture

Yo, Clowns don't work for free!  Figure out WHO is paying them...

wiskeyrunner's picture

All this drivel is meaningless, simply meaningless. I feel sorry for the readers who are brain washed buy this stuff, good or bad price is all that matters.

ebworthen's picture

"Yeah, it doesn't matter if you whore out your children to the pedophiles in the neighborhood; just how much you get per pop."

Great attitude wiskeyrunner.  What are you going to do when they take away everything you have from your morally and ethically detached trading? 

Will your rights and the rule of law mean anything to you when you are sitting on the curb with nothing because it was STOLEN by the very people and markets you worshipped?

bagpiper's picture

Drivel? The meaninglessness of your comment belies the level of education you've received in this life, you are, without a doubt, one of the few, the tired, the without conscience or consciousness, and lacking any personal understanding or having any situational awareness of your own...

You sir, are in short, educated beyond your innate intelligence. CH Smith is right on, and ZH is to be commended for including one of his writings. Your one liner not withstanding, what would you, your most knowledgable and enlightened say about the situation? That Americans are attentive, alert, aware of the macro level of storm approaching as YOUR system of fake money implodes on the altar of greed and Mammon? Is your philosophy one of infinite growth on a finite planet, a planet bereft of resources squandered by a population of self centered bacteria now seeing the walls of the petri dish approach? What? We can just keep going, and the only thing that matter is price?

 

Thats RICH...and dumb....really dumb...I pray you get your lesson before the lesson gets you...

 

 

 

bagpiper's picture

Drivel? The meaninglessness of your comment belies the level of education you've received in this life, you are, without a doubt, one of the few, the tired, the without conscience or consciousness, and lacking any personal understanding or having any situational awareness of your own...

You sir, are in short, educated beyond your innate intelligence. CH Smith is right on, and ZH is to be commended for including one of his writings. Your one liner not withstanding, what would you, your most knowledgable and enlightened say about the situation? That Americans are attentive, alert, aware of the macro level of storm approaching as YOUR system of fake money implodes on the altar of greed and Mammon? Is your philosophy one of infinite growth on a finite planet, a planet bereft of resources squandered by a population of self centered bacteria now seeing the walls of the petri dish approach? What? We can just keep going, and the only thing that matter is price?

 

Thats RICH...and dumb....really dumb...I pray you get your lesson before the lesson gets you...

 

 

 

StychoKiller's picture

When the last lake is completely polluted, the last tree cut down; then those that worship treasure (in this case, FRN's) will find that they cannot eat money (Fiat)!  Lots of folks with no values, no working moral compass, are steering the  Titanic at this point in time!

irishgurl4's picture

Also, I've noticed that the "shared awareness" that has arisen in the US is one of pitting the heads of the hydra against each other without realizing they are the same beast.  Left vs. right, red vs. blue, Democrat vs. Republican, Liberal vs. Conservative, etc.  It's maddening the arguments I hear from people.  Sadly, even my own father has fallen prey to the illusion.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

It's so much easier to blame those outside your sphere of influence than to look within your own. So the propaganda just helps that "shared awareness" along.

Dr. Porkchop's picture

The old partisan game, keeps everyone from discovering they all have shared interests and shared enemies. If the white, black and hispanic underclasses in the US ever gained shared awareness and managed to shake free from the shackles of partisan games, the elites would be running scared. I think that's what they feared in the 60s/70s from the antiwar crowd. Too many different groups were gaining situational and then shared awareness. It scared the fuck out of the rulers.

Diogenes's picture

People are pulling their money out of funds because they are broke. Not because they see thru the fakery.

 

When hyperinflation hits the people who lived it up and went broke, will be better off than the people who scraped and saved. In the one case, their debts will go to zero. In the other case, their savings will go to zero. Both end up broke.But the profligates had a good time first.

This is one reason inflation is more destructive to society than deflation.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

People are pulling their money out of funds because they are broke. Not because they see thru the fakery.

I fear you are correct to some extent. All the withdrawals my clients are making from their accounts (regardless of where the money is invested) is for economic reasons.