Thursday, July 09, 2015

Bundles of Ignorance

We know there is too much going on around the world to wrap our heads around. Many people I know have chosen to stop listening to the news because it just gets them down. Instead they focus on those they care about, get on with something useful and try be helpful. Challenging our views is also tiring. It is one thing to be able to think about what we do. It is another thing to think about how we think about what we do. But we also need to do. At some point most of us accept whatever bundles of ignorance happens to be ours and get on with it.

The world is changing rapidly. We really live in a vastly different place from the one where our cultures were marinated. It wasn't long ago at all when the world was mostly rural, borderless, and everyone around us was quite similar. Now more than half the world's population live in cities. Our bundles of ignorance have to change.

I am a big fan of free speech and social media as a way of airing our ignorance. I don't think anger is that useful in responding to things we disagree with. People don't seem to change their mind when they are on the defensive. Making mistakes in public is a good way of progressing if people are helpful in the way they support us in changing our views. Banter and feedback work best when people know you are on their side. Ideally, there is only one side.

Hans Rosling is one of my favourite presenters. In the TED clip below, they talk about how to challenge our ignorance about the world with some basic rules of thumb. In a democratic world, we want people's views to be implemented by those in charge. We want to empower people. But... in truth, this gets uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. There are lots of crazy views out there. Often the really crazy views are held by small groups. More often than we'd like, they are held by lots of people. Even most people. Modern systems put checks and balances in place to give people a voice but have certain things you don't get to vote on. While it is okay for most of us to create bubbles and get on with it, there are some very complicated things we really need someone to think about deeply and go beyond basic rules of thumb. There are some things where we all benefit if the decision maker goes beyond personal bias, outdated facts and media bias, and makes unpopular decisions.

You can't not be ignorant. You can try be less ignorant. Pick a better bundle.

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