17 June 2005

Serious Thinking

"When engineers build a suspension bridge, first they draw a thin cable across a body of water. Then they use that cable to hoist a larger one. Then they use both cables to pull a third, and eventually create a thick cable of intertwined wires that you can drive a truck across."

"Throughout history, only a small number of people have done the serious thinking for everybody."

From the always-thoughtful How To Save The World, by Dave Pollard.

"So here's the situation as I see it:

-- Very few people are doing much serious thinking.

-- Those people who are, tend to be cliquish, partly because so few are interested in what they are thinking about, partly because it's so difficult for the rest of us, uninformed and unpracticed, to keep up. As a result, their ideas and their implications are largely closeted.

-- The media, which could help bridge the chasm between these people and those who could learn from these ideas and put them to effective use, are disinterested in doing so, partly because they don't think their audience is interested, partly because they don't think their audience is capable of understanding, and partly because their background is substantially in non-scientific disciplines and they are a little miffed at the idea that scientists are doing most of the important thinking.

-- The rich and powerful, who could actually employ the results of this important thinking, are convinced that preserving their wealth and influence has little to do with imagination and innovation, and so are disinclined to pay much attention to it, and many of them are also anti-intellectual by nature (just look at what they read in their 'spare' time) and hence incurious and skeptical of what little seriously novel thought they are exposed to.

-- The political elite is threatened by new ideas and also shares the anti-intellectualism of the rich and powerful, so unless the message can be captured in a sound bite they are likewise uninterested in exposing themselves or their citizenry to new ideas.

-- Modern conservatives are overwhelmingly populist, and hence like things simple and unchanging. They don't do any serious thinking themselves and certainly don't want anyone in their families exposed to such dangerous stuff.

-- Many modern progressives distrust technology (for perfectly understandable reasons) and by association distrust science, which they see as technology's handmaiden. They don't see the need for or practical value of serious intellectual discussion, don't see it as actionable, and hence don't see it as important. 'The people have the answers, if only we would listen'".

"The consequence of all this is that serious thinking is considered a pastime, an exercise of dubious value primarily for students in university. Beyond that, serious intellectual effort is only respected when it is tactical, applied in the context of a specific short-term task, towards achieving a known, practical goal. In a world of immense scarcity, in which time is the scarcest commodity of all, this vicious cycle of anti-intellectualism is perfectly understandable. It explains why Michael Jackson's trial hogs all the news headlines, and the lion's share of social discourse, while global warming and Darfur are substantially ignored. And when we are inclined to think about things we don't want or like to think about, we find we are seriously out of practice (present company [ex]cepted, of course.)"

"There was a time when people were motivated to invest in serious thinking and thoughtful social discourse. That was a time when people made more time for serious thinking and discussion, when people did most things for themselves, and when great ideas were respected and talked about. But today we are entrained with learned helplessness, convinced that understanding and sharing and coming up with great ideas and thinking seriously about them is a largely useless activity. And why would we want to invest a lot of precious time to study and understand something merely interesting?"

"The legacy media seem determined to abrogate their responsibility to inform and engage the public on matters that are important, especially when they are complicated and make the public uncomfortable. So it falls on our shoulders, as the alternative media, to be the advocates for the truth, and to assume that responsibility. I believe it is essential that we bloggers tone down the jargon and the 'in' conversations, and the rhetoric and partisanship, and ratchet up the information and thought leadership and conversation and debate in our online journals, to reach a much wider and under-served audience, and hence to fill that void."

If you doubt whether The Jenius is on this wavelength or not, read the slogan beneath this blog's title, go through the Archives and then drop Me a Comment.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

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