Here, Piggy Piggy Piggy
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Here, Piggy Piggy Piggy • Posted: May 08, 2011 09:21:37Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

We live in strange times. Before writing was invented, humans relied on word of mouth, orally delivered stories, to fix and share knowledge. Given people's propensity for elaboration, especially elaboration that enhances one's own importance, it must have been highly unusual to find someone whose stories were anywhere near true, in the sense of reliably useful. But after we invented writing, and then the printing press, stories were less changeable, more fixed, at least in the sense that there was now one stable version that could be held onto during verification and referred back to if needed.

True, many assumed that if something was printed it must be true, which of course wasn't and isn't true. But it also became possible for people to work collaboratively on the project of verification, and on rewriting the story if the original proved not quite right. Thus, science was born and continues today. We have all benefited. But now we have Talk Radio, Advocacy Journalism, Citizen Journalism, the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter.

Where has that gotten us? In many ways, it's brought us full circle right back to where we were before writing and the printing press came along. Each of us are now stuck with trying desperately to navigate a fog of uncertainty, trying to decide what's true and useful and what isn't within all the stories, advice, prompts, and ads that bombard us from all those new and largely unreliable sources.

Is there a cure for what ails us? The answer isn't clear. We need a point of reference. We need collaboration. We need verification. We need to learn to think clearly about what's reasonable, plausible, verifiable, and what isn't. Assuming something is true by virtue of its source isn't any different than assuming something must be true just because it's been published. We need to develop our intellectual skills to something beyond gullible blind faith. Without sharp discernment, we set ourselves up for exploitation and enslavement. Whatever freedoms we think we have, we won't have them much longer.

That said, there is a strange accommodation that many of us have made in the face of today's many-sided necessity to think clearly. It's an accommodation that obviously recognizes a need for certainty, but which circumvents any risk that might come with actually attempting to think more clearly. The accommodation I'm referring to is: to blindly follow the rules. In other words, people assume that whomever wrote the rules must know what they are talking about, or at least must have thought things through enough to reliably expect the consequences of following them will be better than not following them.

But of course, given people's propensity for story elaboration that enhances their own importance, why should we expect rules written by others to benefit anyone except those others who have written them? It's an accommodation that, when you think about it, makes no sense at all. And yet, just look around you. How many of your neighbors, how many of us, are blindly, gullibly just following rules written by others?

Wouldn't it be better if we joined in the process of rule writing? Wouldn't our rules yield better outcomes if we actually thought clearly about what would be a better outcome? Wouldn't the process of writing rules work more smoothly and efficiently if all who participated thought more clearly about everything, including about what we think we know vs. what we don't actually know with any certainty?

And finally, wouldn't the resultant world we'd all have to live in seem a little less chock-full of foggy steamy odiferous B.S.?

Saturday, March 19th, 2011