Saturday, May 23, 2020

Maybe we are improving

I wonder about the effects of higher levels of communication on humans in general.  There seems to be a moment when people get a doctorate or other high credential.  They suddenly grasp how much they don't know even though they are expert.  Then, they realize how much everyone else doesn't know.  As they age, they realize that their knowledge, once cutting edge and up-to-date, has itself aged.  That is much of the message of the book Factfulness by Rosling.  

I wonder if much of humankind is going through some passage or change that might be similar to what seems typical of what the average teenager in the US seems to go through.  I am thinking along the lines of Mark Twain's passage in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer":

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

It seems that much of what goes on relates to this growing realization that a person has limited knowledge and limited energy for thinking, just like if he enters a library or watches instructive videos on YouTube, there is a limit to what he can absorb before getting bored, distracted or fatigued.  

Part of our experience is like the search for a good book or movie.  If we simply take what is on offer or choose more or less randomly, we are not likely to find new experience that extends us or grows us.  Even when we choose carefully, along with sampling and using patience, we don't often add to our insight nicely.  There will be plenty of rejections, realization that the latest material is a repeat of what is already understood, or simple propaganda or a commercial to buy.

Spreading literacy, increased availability of resources and greater experience and sophistication in rejecting deadends and attending to sources that pay off might be happening, I think.

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