Change one thing in the world

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

[ 4/July/22 ]

I would have everyone taught this set of ideas at the earliest age possible, and repeatedly with greater detail and nuance:

1/ That the world in which we exist seems, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, to be far more complex and fundamentally uncertain than any conception we might possibly have of it, and thus all understanding are wrong, and some are less wrong and more useful than others in any particular context.

2/ That all human beings are more complex than any human being may fully appreciate, and as such demand both respect and value; even when they are acting in ways that demand we restrain them, for survival’s sake.

3/ That evolution has given us brains strongly biased to prefer simple certainty over complex uncertainty, and that the more stressed we are, and the less we know, the more certain we are likely to be about any particular conclusion we come to.

4/ That as human beings we are both individuals and members of social groups, and both levels of structure have boundaries that must be respected if we are to survive. We have both sets of natures, necessarily. The more we understand about the natures and complexities and subtleties of those boundaries, the greater the degrees of freedom we can have to safely approach them; but the less we appreciate about the boundaries the greater the sets of constraints that must be present on our behaviour (for our own survival and the survival of our groups).

5/ That every human being requires both freedom and responsibility, and the more freedom one claims, the greater the responsibility one needs to demonstrate. The fundamental uncertainties present mean that everyone will make mistakes, they are an essential part of learning anything truly new, but in order to learn, we must be open to the possibility that something is actually a mistake, not simply take it on any level of “Faith”. And there are always dangers at that boundary – anything truly novel, truly unknown, holds both dangers and opportunities. Thus there is always a tension between security and liberty. Too great a focus on security removes all liberty (and thus paradoxically ends in destruction). Too great a focus on liberty leads to the destruction of some required sets of constraints for the existence of that level of complexity – again, paradoxically, resulting in destruction. There must exist an eternal tension between the ability of liberty to search the unknown for solutions to known threats and the desire to limit the risks present in the unknown. There does not appear to be any limit to the dimensions possible of such boundaries, and thus there seems to be potential for eternal exploration, and an eternal need for responsibility.

6/ That all systems that have stood the test of time (of surviving over hundreds of generations), if not literally true, must be some sort of useful approximation to something at some level that actually works; and need to be treated and respected as such and not simply dismissed as “Wrong”.

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) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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