Quora – Why do we even have a role model in our lives, and why can’t we survive without having them?

Quora – Why do we even have a role model in our lives, and why can’t we survive without having them?


So many levels at which one can answer this question, and at each level there are similar themes that recur.

It seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that life is complex beyond our ability to understand in detail and contains fundamental uncertainties at every level; thus making all of our understandings less than perfect (in a strange twist it seems that in most contexts the more certain we are that we are right, the less likely we are to actually be so in reality {as distinct from our subconsciously generated model that is our experiential reality}).

It seems that the processes of biological and cultural evolution have instilled in each of us sets of “Bayesian priors” that allow our neural networks to make what sense that we do of what we are, and give us some sorts of guides as to what sets of actions are both survivable and interesting.
There are billions of people who have lived before us, and some of those will have traveled some reasonable approximation to some analog of the path that we are interested in. At least until we reach the stage that they reached (and probably after that in many cases), the lessons that those individuals learned (at multiple levels, both conscious and subconscious) can be of great assistance to us.

And the more deeply one explores the many levels of structure and uncertainty that make us what we are, the biochemistry, the cosmology, the many realms of mathematics and logic that allow us to build useful models of the complexity that is us, and the world in which we exist; the more one realises just how complex we are, and how much we tend to over simplify complexity down to simple binaries. And one also learns the sorts of contexts that such simplifications are actually both useful and necessary, as well as those where they are dangerous and limiting; and the necessary uncertainties in making such assessments.

Role models are essential in every aspect of that journey, physical, intellectual, spiritual. Building a sufficient understanding of evolution and complexity and games theory that one can see the over-riding importance of cooperation in the emergence and survival of complexity like ourselves is an essential part of that journey, and one must also appreciate that naive cooperation is dangerous to all. If cooperation and complexity are to survive then we all need to be alert for, and be prepared to act against, strategies that cheat on, and put at risk, the cooperative structures that actually allow for freedom’s highest expression.

So yes, role models are an essential part of that journey, and they must not be allowed to eclipse either one’s individual creativity nor the need for individual responsibility (all levels). It is never good enough to say you were following a role model, if at some level you know something to be inappropriate in any specific context. That level of personal responsibility is demanded of us all, always, and we must all be imperfect at it (reality really does seem to be that complex). So we need to cut each other a bit of slack, but not so much as to allow anyone to get away with actually cheating (and that can be a very difficult and uncertain call to make in many circumstances). The journey is interesting, but not necessarily (or even probably) easy, ever.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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