Inside An Eco Chamber Of Like-Minded Friends
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
We are now in the world of alternative facts, truthiness, fake news and a growing number of opinionists: A person fond of, or unduly attached to his own opinions, and fond of making them known. (Dictionary). Today it is hard to know what we know and don’t know. We fail to draw an accurate line between what is inside and outside our heads. And we fail because there is no sharp line. So we frequently don’t know what we don’t know. Stephen Sloman and Phillip Fernbach
This blog is the result of my recently reading The Knowledge Illusion, by Stephen Sloman and Phillip Fernbach. Although I have frequently written about what we don’t know, this book presents an interesting new look. The authors suggest that we never think alone. They say individual thinking is a myth; we rely on the expertise of others for almost all of our needs. We treat knowledge in the minds of others as our own.
People rarely appreciate their ignorance, because they lock themselves inside an eco chamber of like-minded friends and self-confirming newsfeeds where their beliefs are constantly reinforced and seldom challenged. Sloman and Fernbach
This presents a serious problem today. There once was a time when “truthiness” wouldn’t have made any sense as a joke. Today, everything about truth and knowledge is a joke. American politics is filled with opinionists. The same is true of the voting public. It is hard to make sense of political and public discourse. The problem today is determining the difference between opinion and fact. Treating opinion, knowledge, or fact in the minds of others as our own won’t work. And an unwillingness to challenge our own convictions also won’t work.
The world is becoming more complex, and people fail to realize how ignorant they are. Consequently, some who know next to nothing about meterology or biology nevertheless conduct fierce debates about climate change and genetically modified crops, while others hold extremely strong views about what should be done about Iraq or Ukraine without being able to locate them on the map. The Knowledge Illusion, 2017
f course, this brings me back to the theme of all of my writing: “Positive Uncertainty”. And one of my favorite quotes. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, its what you know for sure that ain’t so, Mark Twain. Be careful of facts you know for sure. Beware of your dogma. Beware of what others think. Try not to be an opinionist. Mentally step out of the “eco chamber”. Know where your opinions are coming from.
Whose knowledge to trust? An uncertainty will lead to investigating, questioning, and considering knowledge as a hypothesis. Both what you know and don’t know can get you in trouble, in spite of Mark Twain. Knowing is a complicated interconnection of personal experience, bias, opinion and the eco-chamber. Where do you look for your knowledge?
The utilization of knowledge is an art. Alfred North Whitehead