David Thurman

In an age where the entire knowledge-base of the human race is at the tips of our fingers, there is no excuse for people to spread ideas based on their misunderstandings. We seem to be pushing the notion that everyone should have an opinion and everyone’s opinion matters. While this seems nice in theory, this concept is deeply flawed in the fact that not every opinion is backed by understanding. An informed opinion is the only opinion that has reason and comprehension behind it. As writer Harlan Ellison put it, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” Instead of telling everyone their opinion matters, perhaps we should instead tell them to ask themselves whether they deserve to have an opinion on the matter.

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1 Response to David Thurman

  1. shinichi says:

    Society is built on abstraction

    by David Thurman

    https://blog.usejournal.com/society-is-built-on-abstraction-85ddbb454875

    Abstraction can be thought of as hiding away lower, more intricate, layers of a system as that system gets more complicated. Although the intricate layers of a system are not actually “hidden”, they become either assumed or overlooked as we learn higher level concepts within that system.

    Throughout any given day, we encounter thousands of machines and technologies. The inner workings and principles behind these machines are hidden from view. For instance, most people do not know how a plane’s design allows it to be aerodynamic while maintaining a certain altitude. The underlying principles behind how this machine was designed are hidden away. Despite this, most people still trust that a plane will fly us from destination A to B safely. We have had the inner workings of the plane abstracted away to the point that, unless we so desire, we do not deem it necessary to understand how it really works.

    There is an expectation of people to comprehend the abstracted layers of a machine if their career revolves around those workings. For instance, in the same plane situation, while you are not expected to know how the plane flies, you would surely expect the pilot to know the abstracted layers. You would hope a pilot could explain to you how a plane takes off, sustains its altitude, and eventually comes to a landing with ease.

    This method of abstracting certain principles and layers of understanding, unless they pertain to your career, is not a flaw in our way of society. In actuality, it is one of the incredible ways in which our society has grown and flourished so rapidly. For instance, if every person was forced to understand how a computer processor interprets binary code in order to comprehend a command before ever touching a computer, I would imagine computers would be far less popular. This level of abstraction allows for us as humans to build upon what our ancestors discovered. You should not have to reinvent the wheel in order to build yourself a wagon. You can take the wheel that your ancestors created and adapt it or improve it to fit your needs.

    There is a glaring issue that does arise with this level of abstraction however. When someone who has only educated themselves on this abstracted layer of knowledge begins to make assertions without knowing the inner workings, the spread of ignorance can arise. For example, let’s consider the Earth’s shape. Based on our ancestors discoveries and observations, we know that the Earth is a round planet. While some might be curious how our ancestors discovered this, people are by no means required to do the research and educate themselves on how this revelation came about. People can go about their days without ever knowing how it is known that the Earth is round. Perhaps they are taught some of the history in school (and possible they even know someone by the name Pythagoras has some correlation), but for the most part, they are unaware of the true workings. How our race knows the shape of the Earth has been abstracted.

    The problem comes about when someone who doesn’t quite comprehend or agree with the abstraction begins to make their own conclusions without taking the time to learn the inner workings. Continuing on our previous example, suppose someone doesn’t quite see how the Earth could be round. After all, when they look out into the horizon, why can’t they see some sort of dropoff? This leaves the person one of three options: Firstly, they can assume that the scientists and discoveries of the past were correct even if they themselves don’t understand how. Secondly, they could do research into how we know the Earth is round and educate themselves on the matter. Then they can decide whether they agree with the conclusion or not. Lastly, they can conclude that the past discoveries were wrong since they don’t comprehend how they could be right. Not only do they not accept the discovery, they do not educate themselves on the matter either.

    Obviously, the third option seems like the worst of the three. Although it is not recommended by most, that way of making conclusions without doing research is, in itself, not the problem. The issues comes about when someone, who has disagreed with an abstraction and not done the research into it, decides to make their own conclusions and spread their opinions. In our example, this person does not agree with the Earth being round. Instead of doing research into why we know it is, they decide that it must be flat instead based on their personal observations. Then they start spreading their opinion into society as if it were fact.

    I would like to clarify that I am not proposing people blindly accept this abstracted layer of knowledge. If things do not make logical sense, it is encouraged to question them and evaluate them. If the theory of evolution doesn’t make sense to someone, and they are so inclined, they should pursue how evolution came to be and why it is accepted. What I am proposing is that instead of spreading their own opinions, they should first do the research in to how we came to the conclusion that evolution (or whatever abstraction) is the truth. If they want to spread their opinion on the matter, they should do research into how Darwinism came about, what it implies, and how it has been tested.

    Some people might argue that they don’t have time to deep dive into every topic they don’t completely understand. That is a completely rational conclusion, and I don’t think anyone would argue against it. The issue derives from people who disagree with the abstraction, decide they want to have a voice on the matter, and spread their ideas without first learning the inner workings. This can easily lead to the spread of ignorance and regression for society.

    Besides the growing popularity that our Earth is flat, another great example of this issue in present day pertains to vaccines. We have people with no education on healthcare telling others why vaccines are bad for them. This spread of misunderstanding can, in many cases such as this, be harmful to our race.

    The medium in which society is able to communicate with one another dictates how easily information can spread despite whether it is true or false. In a day where the ability to spread your opinion to millions around the world can be done using a device in your pocket, the potential harm people can cause is incomprehensible. When this power is used to spread misunderstanding and ignorance, your result can be a society that brings back a once eradicated disease.

    In an age where the entire knowledge-base of the human race is at the tips of our fingers, there is no excuse for people to spread ideas based on their misunderstandings. We seem to be pushing the notion that everyone should have an opinion and everyone’s opinion matters. While this seems nice in theory, this concept is deeply flawed in the fact that not every opinion is backed by understanding. An informed opinion is the only opinion that has reason and comprehension behind it. As writer Harlan Ellison put it, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” Instead of telling everyone their opinion matters, perhaps we should instead tell them to ask themselves whether they deserve to have an opinion on the matter.

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