We have this “story” and the story is what keeps us safe, and it is also what makes us crazy. Every once in a while, history asks us to examine the story, as is coming up in the next decade or so.
The story goes like this: We teach a 5 year old to go confidently out into the world and do what needs to be done, we arm him with two important lies. These are both very positive bookends of the same helpful story:
- You can do this! Look around you. Pay attention, and the world is your oyster!
- What you see is the world. We have built this world for you, and it makes sense. By adhering to this world, you will [be safe, fit in, whatever is the rule of the day].
This, or whatever cultural variation or adaptation of the world that you are raised in, is perfect. The child (you!) must first learn to adapt to a smaller world, and then as his capabilities increase, thusly does the world that he adapts to increase, in combination, until it reaches some kind of equilibrium.
To not propogate and follow this story is nutty. If the child knew the depths of his depravity, that a bomb could go off or an asteroid could hit us or the political or economic situation could pull the rug out from under him, he might be instantly paralyzed or discouraged, like an austitic child or something. It’s simply too much to accept. We must help the child adapt, hence the story. Plus, we have to keep the darn child from screaming in the aisles of the grocery story, so some degree of control is self serving.
But here’s the problem, and the fact that it varies with each culture, each child, each family, doesn’t make this problem go away. The problem is that this view of the world is based on two mistaken assumptions.
1. The child (or any person, human, me, you) CAN build a model of the world that is comprehensive enough to make sense in the greater view of things.
2. The […] CAN realize and understand the depth of his lack of understanding at any one point. AKA hubris.
For most of us – the above should be VERY disturbing. Single truth: We can never build a model, in our heads, that is representative or comprehensive enough to fairly represent our best interests. It is not physically possible. Not now. Not ever. We are just not that smart. Most of us (certainly myself included) simply cannot grasp such a thought. My view of the world is insufficient? No way.
It’s an “as if” situation. We are forever moving through our environment as if, but it ain’t as if, and we ain’t aware of the fact that it ain’t as if.
Daniel Kahneman, in “Thinking Fast and Slow” writes of WYSIATI, or What You See Is All There Is.
But the truth is WYSINATI – What you see is NOT all there is
From this one single misunderstanding, created with all good intention to teach 5 years to behave, come all forms of mischief. By perceiving that things should be peaches and cream, and that we have the tools to make it so, the seeds of later problems are planted.