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iDIA Computing Newsletter

September 2021

What's Wrong with Those People?

Have you ever looked around and asked yourself, "What's wrong with those people?" They're wrong. Look at those people, spouting nonsense that we know to be false. They're so dumb and stupid, right?

Of course, they may be looking at us and thinking the same thing. How silly is that!

Hmmm... Surely we don't yet know everything.

"Well, I know the important stuff!"

How do I know it's important?

"I wouldn't have learned it if it weren't important."

Hmmm... I might not know everything. Could there be something important that I haven't yet learned?

If I have more to learn, then surely some of that I "already know" is incomplete. I might know only part of the story. Or it might be right only in some situations.

Learning comes from Questioning

Learning comes from questioning the completeness and accuracy of what we know.

It may be that some event forces this questioning on us. Maybe we're doing the best we know how to do, but the results we are getting are crushing us. If it gets painful enough, we may go beyond blaming the world and come to question ourselves.

We also can seek out questioning. We can make a habit of questioning ourselves. We can trade our misplaced sense of certainty for a growing confidence that continues to grow as we learn more. Certainly that continually tested confidence is more trustworthy.

We can explore the unknown. That's how we started out. Have you ever watched a baby discover that their hand is connected to them, and that they can make it move? They spend hours exploring how to control the movement. They do this for days, weeks, months, getting a little better bit by bit over time.

Did you stop exploring? Perhaps it's better to ask what things did you stop exploring. We quickly reach the limits of how much we can do at one time. Some potential avenues of exploration may never get our attention again.

Has our Learning Plateaued?

Are we focused on learning more or on resting on the plateau we've reached?

Carol Dweck has studied human motivation and developed a model that contrasts a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. The former believes that our capabilities are static, and the latter believes that improvement is possible. If we're stuck where we are, we have little motivation to try harder and therefore more motivation in defending the capabilities we have. If we're not stuck, we're clearly better off trying to improve our capabilities than trying to spin our current capabilities as sufficient. Rather than be stuck, we try to improve.

Virginia Satir described two models of viewing the world. The first is the hierarchical model, which views some people as inherently better than others, who are expected to be submissive. These "better" people get to tell others what is the right way to behave. Part of what those with power define as the "right way" includes maintaining the status quo. This becomes so internalized that people will generally choose the familiar, even if it's uncomfortable, rather than exploring new behaviors.

Contrasted with that is the seed or growth model--the recognition within ourselves that we have the ability to change and grow. We can leave behind what is discomforting in the status quo. We can venture into the unknown, even if it's disconcerting at first.

Question yourself. How do you see your world?

xkcd cartoon:
I try not to make fun of people for admitting they don't know things.
Because for each thing "everyone knows" by the time they're adults, every day there are, on average, 10,000 people in the US hearing about it for the first time.
Fraction who have heard of it at birth = 0%
Fraction who have heard of it by 30 ~= 100%
US birth rate ~= 4,000,000 per year
Number hearing about it for the first time ~= 10,000 per day

If I make fun of people, I train them not to tell me when they have those moments.  And I miss out on the fun.
Person #1, about to have a messy fun time: "Diet coke and mentos thing"? What's that?
Person #2, in a delightfully pro-knowledge mood: Oh man! come on, we're going to the grocery store.
Person #1: Why?
Person #2: You're one of today's lucky 10,000.

Credit to Randall Munroe
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License

What about those Wrong People?

What about those wrong people? They aren't going to disappear. We might as well face the fact that they're going to be in our world. We'll just have to live with the ignorance they spread.

Could there be hope for them? Could we help them learn what we've learned?

We could start with seeing them as "people who are wrong" rather than "wrong people."

They haven't yet learned what we know. There's magic in that word "yet." After all, we didn't always know what we know now.

Can we entice them to continue exploring and learning? What would be enticing to them? I don't know, yet. That's something for me to learn.


P.S. Does this resonate with you? I'd love to explore these ideas with you. Set up a Zoom Call if you'd like to explore it also.

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Or you can also simply reply to this email (or send an email to newsletter@idiacomputing.com) to continue the conversation. There's a person, not a bot, on this end. I'd really love to hear from you.