Post No.: 0363
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly then I guess you’ll recognise by now that I will always be promoting the furry value of education! With a lot more understanding and education, we can become less stressed, worried, assumptive and/or angry in life.
For instance, one might assume that someone who won’t serve a person who doesn’t understand the local language is being racist, which might be true, but it might alternatively be the case that they don’t want to serve a person who might not fully understand what they’re signing up for in case something goes wrong and the customer claims that he/she was being exploited because he/she indeed didn’t fully understand what he/she was signing up for. When we acquire the capacity to understand alternative hypotheses like this, we don’t have to jump to conclusions, which tend to err on the side of fear or outrage. We don’t have to automatically get defensive. We don’t have to create or widen divisions through misunderstandings. We’ll look for less ambiguous evidence to support what we presume, for recognising the ambiguity of what we’re looking at, as well as the fact that what we’re making are nothing more than presumptions.
At the root of all anger is fear, and at the root of all fear is a lack of sufficient knowledge and preparation, hence learning more about why things are the way they are helps one to stay calmer and helps one to make better and more informed arguments and decisions. This knowledge must of course be high quality in the sense of being correct and thorough though – erroneous or incomplete knowledge can have the opposite effect of increasing fear (e.g. old wives’ tales or stereotypes). Post No.: 0344 was one post out of many so far that explained why a little bit of knowledge can sometimes be more dangerous than admitting to knowing nothing about something at all.
Knowledge is power and knowledge is priceless. Well it can certainly save us money or prevent us from being fooled. For example, the more you understand how casinos try to make people gamble, such as by concealing all natural light so that people lose track of time, promoting the feeling of ‘nearly winning’ all of the time, and understanding that the odds are always stacked against the player when playing against the house, the less you’ll want to be a fool and gamble. Knowledge fundamentally liberates too – it can liberate one from all insecurities because more is understood and approachable and less is considered unassailable or frustrating. Familiarity makes things less scary, and so the more we learn about things and thus make them more familiar to us, the less the world is scary. Even life and death itself can be understood and properly contextualised through knowledge and understanding.
So the more one feels one understands life itself, the more one becomes relaxed and comfortable about it. To get there though requires asking a lot of challenging and complex questions. And before those questions result in satisfactory answers, it can be a time for huge personal epistemological upheaval. But the education and effort will be worth the investment. Ultimately, the more knowledge we gain, the greater the quality of life. Ignorance is generally not bliss in my own opinion (or maybe it is for the ignorant but not to those around them(!)) A lot of knowledge is useful not because it’ll guarantee a desired result if you know it but because it’ll increase the probability that you will succeed in what you want if you do. Woof!
Education reduces fear and anxiety because then you’ll understand things as they are and not how you think they are – our imaginations are often worse than the reality. You can identify and put a proper label on things, which may help you to put them into perspective or to mentally organise and compartmentalise them in a tidy and resolved way in your mind. You may find out that you’re not alone with your problems. A problem will no longer seem as mysterious or unknown and possible solutions may be gleaned. Common sense sometimes fails us because it’s merely common rather than advanced (something being ‘commonly’ believed or done is not a reliable way to determine the truth or optimisation of something). Knowledge is an intellectual defence against any potential attack. Fear can hold us prisoner but knowledge can set us free from the feeling of vulnerability. For most tricks, once you’ve learnt about them, you won’t fall for the same tricks again (it’s like the Wizard of Oz seemed all-powerful, until we learned that he was actually just a guy with a loudspeaker!)
Understand that everything that currently exists – from genes to cultural memes – at least exists for the reason of being fit enough in their current environment or market to exist, no matter how weird, idiotic, morally wrong or inferior you personally think they are. So it’s not to say that they’re necessarily morally right or the best options available but popular cultural memes (as in anything that can be transmitted and replicated from one person/group to another, such as an idea, behaviour, phrase, trend, etc.) evolved into existence and then persist because of the process of memetic cultural selection (which is equivalent to genetic natural selection), otherwise they logically wouldn’t have existed or persisted, or be flourishing if they currently are.
Sometimes it’s incredibly useful, if you want to understand why things are the way they are, to imagine the opposite – perform thought experiments of a world where the opposite is or was the case (e.g. the consequences if a law, rule or tax didn’t exist). Maybe it would’ve been even more stupid for someone to not have done something even though you thought what he/she did was stupid?
As another example, it’s a fun and healthy pastime to analyse movies or video games according to real-life logic or physics (e.g. ‘how did that thing move so fast? Maybe it’s because of this physical principle or future technology?’) or to assess the characters and their abilities as if they were real (including clearly fantastical creatures – ahem). Yet we do often forget that it’s just a fictional story with fictional characters and the story and directorial choices were made to far more importantly serve the narrative and pace of the story than reality in every detail. So imagine the opposite (e.g. if the thing took 10 minutes to move, like it would in reality, then would we have been mentally bumped out of the pulsating action of the moment? If the bomb didn’t flash and beep then would the audience have known it was a bomb without exposition?) Stories and their characters are more about affecting us emotionally or philosophically than completely literally representing facts or realism; hence even films that are based on true stories pretty much invariably use some artistic license to make them more affecting and hopefully entertaining.
Another method is to play some game theory scenarios. For example, to understand why getting rid of all nuclear weapons in the world is now difficult. Whether one will be happy about everything or want to change something is a separate matter but everything in the world makes perfect sense once you’re properly and comprehensively educated enough about it. One will recognise that there are proper casual reasons for everything once one is better educated about them. There’s no need to instantly jump onto some conspiracy theory (or really conspiracy hypothesis). Viewing the universe under the lens of game theory and other modelling/simulation methods, individual and social psychology, maths and physics, and more, can go a long way in helping one to understand human behaviours and how and why the universe, world and life works and is the way it exactly currently is.
Sometimes we just have to ask the right questions and look in the right places. For example, the investigation of ghosts not just in old Victorian houses but also in the psychology and minds of the people who believe and don’t believe in them.
A key sign of understanding something is the predictive power of our models (simulations). For instance, the path of planetary orbits, the weather or the behaviour of human crowds. Another key sign of understanding something well enough is whether you can replicate it (e.g. if you can fully understand how a four-stroke engine works then you could build one from scratch if given the appropriate materials and tools); albeit this isn’t always the case (e.g. even if we could build a robot that thinks and behaves like a human in every single way, we still might not understand how consciousness arises from physical matter – a panpsychist will however postulate that all matter is therefore conscious). If you can put things into suitable and correct analogies, or give nice examples or metaphors, then it’s also a potential sign that you actually understand something too.
All things considered, when one better understands the world and how it works from an empirical analysis and logical perspective then one can better understand why everything is exactly the way it is. One could even, in principle, accurately model human behaviour and the world as it is today with purely mathematical models. One theoretically just needs to have complete understanding and empathy with everyone and everything. Everyone and everything has a reason for being – as in a past cause(s) for every effect. (Both physicists and philosophers currently debate whether there’s also a preordained future fate too, although again not by divine design but due to a logical conclusion of a deterministic universe/multiverse?) This doesn’t mean we must passively accept the way things are but we can understand why they are the way they are.
Woof! Cultivate the love to explore, learn, grow and be fascinated by everything. Have an aptitude for learning, the courage to start things and make some leaps along the way, the enthusiasm to embrace the challenges, mistakes and failures, and the self-discipline and resilience to persist despite these mistakes and failures. With these qualities you can live more confidently, in less fear, and maximise your potential to do whatever you wish to do!