Today I want to talk about how this past year has set in motion the next hundred years of human imagination. Yes, I think it’s that important.
Mental elasticity is an incredible thing. We humans learn quickly and have a seemingly endless capacity to adapt to impossible things once we’ve wrapped our minds around it. Sadly though, forgetting doesn’t come as naturally to us as learning. Once we’ve seen the impossible happen, we never forget. Instead of storing miracles and crisis in the front of our minds like new knowledge, to be reinterpreted as new and possibly ephemeral, it goes right to our limbic back brain.
The limbic system is set in the deep structure of the brain where it regulates autonomic or endocrine function in response to emotional stimuli. It’s part of our survival response encoding. Which is why trauma is so crucial to evolutionary pressure. Those that survived, generally did because they took an impossible situation seriously. It becomes a part of our reactive unconscious survival instinct. And boy is this going to have consequences for American millennials.
The last year has had its share of impossible things occur. And we’ve gone about our business adapting to things that couldn’t possibly happen before. Early doomers were dismissed on the pandemic, political Cassandras ignored until an insurrection occurred, and now a new kind of financial mania which Stalwart Joe at Bloomberg calls an “upcrash”. He explains the impossible inversion using 1987’s Black Monday 22% drop.
Once people became aware that such a severe crash in so short a time was even possible, the likelihood that it could happen again was never dismissed. The consequences aren’t as big, but in a sense, what we’ve seen in GameStop could be thought of as a Reverse 1987. Upcrash. A gain so fast and rapid, that it might previously have been thought to be impossible.
Why do I include a seemingly jokey memetic internet troll in a list of traumas? Because a positive memory is just as jarring to our limbic memory as a bad thing. We overweight good experiences just as heavily as bad. Once the impossible becomes real our bodies retain the memory.
We’ve now got sense memory for global pandemics, political instability and positive market manias in America. Things we haven’t had for three generations (or more in the case of political instability). And the consequences, most of which remain unknowable, for these visceral impossibilities won’t leave our bodies till we are dead. We are stuck with the paranoia and exuberance of this last year till our grandchildren are in charge.
So we’ve just tossed several intense traumatic evolutionary events onto American millennials that not a single institution can do shit about. And I’ve honestly never been more excited for what our chaotic future might bring.