Cognitive Weight and Morality

We often fall into the trap of viewing “doing the right thing” as some type of dichotomy between good and bad.

Maybe this formulation for morality is too fixed and absolute. So we get confused when the notion of right and wrong doesn’t remain constant across different cultures or eras.

What if “morality” was replaced by the idea of “optimal cognitive weight?” Whether an action is “good” or not depends on the type of mental balance it gives us. Too light on the brain = we might be missing a key insight. Too heavy on the brain = we’re either not ready for it yet, or it’s overkill.

Morality becomes something that evolves, changes, and depends on circumstances and existing norms.

Example: We get a sense that being attached at the hip to a smartphone is bad for you, but I think it’s easier to see it as being excessively heavy on our brains. It doesn’t integrate readily into our natural world yet. We have to divert attention away from our world to enter the world contained within the phone. This lack of integration carries a high cognitive load, which is why texting while driving/biking/walking is a stupid idea.

Until we are able to reduce this cognitive weight through better design or technology, smartphones might be a net “negative” on our lives. For now, at least. The same may be true for social media and other emergent technologies.

Of course, I’m not sure how this would apply to murder.


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