You don’t know shit and I’ll prove it to you.
Have a little think about these questions.
- What’s your net worth?
- How much money does the taxman appropriate from your paycheck?
- What’s the current balance of your retirement fund?
- What businesses does your superfund invest in?
All over your finances, fair enough. Try these.
- How about the name of your local member of parliament?
- What’s the policy on the aforementioned income tax held by the party your local member represents, do you even know the party?
- Can you list the top three things that your tax dollar helps pay for?
- Who’s the Minister responsible for spending the biggest chunk of taxpayers dollar?
Struggling a bit now? I bet.
Here are some more knowledge questions on a different tack.
- What music does your brother/son/nephew/kid next door listen to?
- Does he even listen to music?
- If you mentioned Paul McCartney to him would he even blink?
And toward more detail, how about these…
- Can you say with certainty that the koala is going extinct?
- Do you know if clearing 20,000 ha of forest is a good thing to do or even if 20,000 ha is a big area?
- Can the planet support the needs and wants of 7.5 billion human beings?
Phew, that’s intense. My apologies.
You don’t know your shit do you? No, neither do I.
The thing is that nobody does.
It’s a given that we are all mostly ignorant about many of the most important things in our lives from the big to the small. And clearly this doesn’t matter a jot.
Ignorance has not stopped progress, the economy, wealth creation or Sir Paul’s 17th solo album (no, I didn’t know that either). At least not yet.
Human beings are remarkable in that we cannot know our shit, partly because there is just so much of it, and yet we can still be successful and even satisfied. We have enough innate savvy and bullshit detection ability to survive the many situations where knowledge would actually help us a lot and lack of knowledge is a hindrance. This skill in decision making by instinct rather than evaluation is so well honed that we not only survive but we prosper on it. As Steven Pinker will show you at length in any of his books, all the metrics of societal wellbeing show progress and lots of it.
Perhaps we are survivors extraordinaire because somehow we learn just enough.
Snakes are bad, koalas are good. Paycheck goes into my account, no need to know what the taxman took so long as I get a rebate at tax time. The kid next door adores Anne-Marie, so what, I did the same with Debbie.
Knowing that the minister for health in the NSW state government is responsible for a $17.3 billion budget hardly helps me choose the best school for my son. I can get more relevant ‘information’ through the opinions on a local Facebook group of concerned parents like me.
We learn and know enough of the things that we perceive as relevant. The rest we can trust to what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman calls ‘thinking fast’ because it actually doesn’t matter. There is no perceptible gain to taking our time over it.
You don’t know your shit. And you got over it already.
Who needs answers to questions when instinct guides you in a heartbeat.
An ‘ah ha moment’ for me
This is a critical realisation for me. People don’t need information to answer questions. They have instinct for that.
So as a purveyor of evidence that I would like people to absorb, understand, and use to help them be more objective, I have a big problem. People don’t need what I have to offer and, therefore, they don’t want it.
At times evidence is a surreptitious influence that gently permeates the psyche to change a mind or two over time. This would be how Rome was built. Information is sometimes stored for use as ammunition in an argument, although simple slander is more potent and easier to use now we live in Trolland.
But in general, evidence is not needed for general awareness and going about one’s business. No matter that the 15 year old can sing along to ‘Let it be’ without knowing Paul McCartney wrote it half a century ago. All that matters is it’s still a good song.
The ‘ah ha’ bit is this truth…
Shit does not matter except when it does.