Human cleverness arises from distributing knowledge between minds, making people think they know more than they do
The hive mind, with its seamless interdependence and expertise-sharing, once helped humans hunt mammoths and now sends them into space. But in politics it causes problems. Using a toilet without understanding it is harmless, but changing the health-care system without understanding it is not. Yet people often have strong opinions about issues they understand little about. And on social media, surrounded by like-minded friends and followers, opinions are reinforced and become more extreme. It is hard to reason with someone under the illusion that their beliefs are thought through, and simply presenting facts is unlikely to change beliefs when those beliefs are rooted in the values and groupthink of a community.
Why are people so reluctant to change their minds? This well-researched and well-presented cartoon delves into that very important question. It also helps elucidate the relationship between emotion and reason when our belief system is challenged.
Why bad ideas refuse to die
“They may have been disproved by science or dismissed as ridiculous, but some foolish beliefs endure. In theory they should wither away – but it’s not that simple”
“Many ideas have been brilliantly upgraded or repurposed for the modern age, and their revival seems newly compelling. Some ideas from the past, on the other hand, are just dead wrong and really should have been left to rot. When they reappear, what is rediscovered is a shambling corpse. These are zombie ideas. You can try to kill them, but they just won’t die. And their existence is a big problem for our normal assumptions about how the marketplace of ideas operates.
“The phrase “marketplace of ideas” was originally used as a way of defending free speech. Just as traders and customers are free to buy and sell wares in the market, so freedom of speech ensures that people are free to exchange ideas, test them out, and see which ones rise to the top. Just as good consumer products succeed and bad ones fail, so in the marketplace of ideas the truth will win out, and error and dishonesty will disappear.”
Personal beliefs versus scientific innovation: getting past a flat Earth mentality
“Almost by definition, the most important and innovative scientific findings often go against people’s existing beliefs. If research that conforms to personal beliefs is favored, then any research that is based on new ideas runs the risk of being passed over. It takes a leap to imagine a round Earth when everyone’s always believed it to be flat.”
“A psychology professor argues that the brain’s greatest attribute is knowing what other people are thinking. And that a Queen song, played backwards, can improve your mind-reading skills.”
On the same topic, here’s a compilation of songs along with lyrics played forward and then backwards with the alleged secret messages.
If you watch the video, try not to watch the words on the video when listening backwards and decide what you think the “secret” message is. It seems only to be “clear” when you see the words on the screen and are otherwise unintelligible.
“At TEDGlobal 2010, author Matt Ridley shows how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It’s not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is.”
“This ‘curse of knowledge’ means is that it is dangerous, and often profoundly incorrect to think about student learning based on what appears best to faculty members, as opposed to what has been verified with students. However, the former approach tends to dominate discussions on how to improve physics education. There are great debates in faculty meetings as to what order to present material, or different approaches for introducing quantum mechanics or other topics, all based on how the faculty now think about the subject. Evaluations of teaching are often based upon how a senior faculty member perceives the organization, complexity, and pace of a junior faculty member’s lecture. In the pages of APS News, this same expert-centered approach to assessing educational experiences has played out recently in the debate over the use of interactive simulations vs. hands-on labs.”
“The ‘curse of knowledge’ leads writers to assume their readers know everything they know.
“Why is so much writing so bad? Why is it so hard to understand a government form, or an academic article or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?”
Why do we indirect language and innuendo?
What does the language we use tell us about our social relationships?
How does the language we use reflect ideas of personal and shared knowledge?
In this new RSA Animate, renowned experimental psychologist Steven Pinker shows us how the mind turns the finite building blocks of language into infinite meanings.