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Getting Real

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 2 months ago

Margert Mead 1901-1978

If one cannot state a matter clearly enough so that even an intelligent twelve-year-old can understand it, one should remain within the cloistered walls of the university and laboratory until one gets a better grasp of one's subject matter.


Albert Einstein March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955

"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."

Stop the Bullshit

Fight Communication Pollution

Bullshit or "truthiness" as Colbert calls it, can poison discourse. Whether it's in education or professional association or politics, the result is the same. Colbert and John Stewart help us recognize bullshit by laughing at it. Penn and Teller do the same, but with a more aggresive tone.


Creative bullshit

It doesn't hurt anyone. Every once in while actually leads to a couple of good ideas. On a presonal level it is essential. Everyone needs a story that makes sense of the experience of their lives. The only thing we all know for absolute certain is that we are going to die. You need a good story to make sense of that fact.


Day to day, each of us has to make hundreds of decisions. Many of them are based on judgements about what is going to happen tmw, or next month or next year. You have to have a story to be able to make any decision.


You don't have to be able to describe the story, but you have to have a way of recognizing patterns and being able to sort of predict the future.


Lots of the human nervous system seems to be devoted to pattern recognition. Every child is a pattern recognition machine. The creative part of everyone on the planet sees new patterns that better describe an ever changing reality. A hundred times a day, every person decides what is bullshit and what makes sense.


As they become adults, they gradually learn that the patterns they see may or may not correspond to what is in the world external to themeselves. The more it corresponds, the safer they feel and the better decisions they can make. Growing up might be thought of as a continuing process of testing bullshit against reality and changing their story to better fit the evidence.


Dysfunctional bullshit

But, when the words, pictures and patterns are mistaken for an exact replica of all the elements of the real world, people can make stupid decisions and be much more easily manipulated.


Naturally, people who want people to do things that might be stupid, use bullshit without any regard for the environment. Some of the news media, companies that make bad products and politicians are usually the worst offenders. Since they have lots of money, the usually hire the best talent to create the most effective ways to communicate their bullshit.


Their particular intents don't matter. The effect is the same. Bullshit pollutes the public communication ecology. It makes us collectively stupider, by repeating and repeating bullshit - words, pictures and stories - that don;'t describe the world, but are put out there to serve some other interest.


And it's not really any one's fault

it's just how you play the game to win. The idea that people in power are somehow particularly evil or particularly stupid or particularly venal is just more bullshit. And the idea that they way to change the way it works is by electing the RIGHT people is probably the most pernicious bullshit of all.


Powerful people are pretty much like everyone else, except that for some reason getting and protecting power is important to them. Fair enough.

It's a hard, full time job and someone's got to do it.


Pretty much like any other group of people, there is a mixture of good,bad and ugly. Smart, stupid and get along. Not really very different from the rest of this. Of course, the story they tell themselves is that they are very, very important. Certainly judging by the amount of coverage they get in the media, they believe they are VERY important.

But that's probably bullshit.


When people at the centers of power see that bullshit doesn't work, they will move very,very quickly to whatever does. When Google figured out a way to give advertisers real information about what ad works, and what doesn't it cut out a lot of bullshit pretty quickly.


Eric Schmidt says that in a couple of years, Google will have an automated petty good truth indicator for political and government statements, the rules will change very quickly. The rules of the game will change, and new more creative bullshit will have to be invented.


In the meantime, the good news is that when the bullshit stops, life becomes much easier to manage, hard problems can be solved and it's much more fun for everyone on the planet.



The Facts of Life courtesy of me and Ernest Cline - ernestcline.com

The War on Drugs courtesy of Penn and Teller

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