The value of thinking

For as long as we have been a species, we have been teaching our young. We've been preparing them for what may lie ahead and passing on lessons from wins and failures we have experienced ourselves.

This can be seen in the caves of Dordogne, in the military training started so young in the Greek Empire, in the tales our forebears told children about the stars, seasons, plants and animals.

We taught our young how to be valuable to growing industries as the Industrial Revolution transformed society. We taught our children to read and write as the value of those skills became ever more apparent.

But, in the past 25 years, the world has experienced a shuddering shift as the internet age has taken hold. It is a shift of industry, opportunities, connectivity and employment.

Perhaps most importantly, it has demanded a shift in thinking. And that is a shift we are yet to take seriously.

Information is now more available than ever. At the same time, the trust we can put in the veracity of new information is weaker than ever.

It takes no more than a smartphone and an internet connection to have a platform which can be projected into bedrooms, boardrooms and minds all around the world.

There is no point bemoaning this development. Development seldom responds to regret - it simply marches on and leaves those regretful folk behind. But there is a point in asking whether we and, more importantly, our children are prepared for this shift in society.

Are we teaching them the skills they need to sift the facts from the assumptions? Are they able to tell bias from objectivity? Are they even willing to try? If not, who is going to teach them the utter necessity of valuing accurate information over someone else's manipulation?

It is a broad topic and one needing to be widely discussed before it can be assumed any simple answers exist. And in the course of that necessary discussion, we must examine the value of extrapolation.

To extrapolate - the process of stretching out what it is we know into what we can best guess will be the most likely conclusion - is a process of thinking seemingly out of vogue in many current conversations.

In fact, when a commentator on a given issue attempts to express extrapolated thought, they are often derided.

How can it be that we have allowed ourselves - the most enlightened creatures this planet has seen - to eschew something as profoundly essential as deep thought?

We can see this in the United States at the moment. One ''side'' is claiming the country is full and immigration should be curtailed.

What is the likely long-term outcome of such an idea? Will it hold that the roles demanding the best, brightest and most resilient will be filled ''in house'', despite centuries of evidence showing that, to a significant extent, immigrants have been at the forefront of grabbing the great American torch and thrusting it further forwards?

At the same time, some on the other ''side'' are suggesting the much-maligned southern border should be essentially thrown open. But what is the likely long-term outcome from that policy? How many people will be considered too many if there is a stampede of immigrants? Who will check them all? What mechanism will ensure they can be vetted before crossing the border?

It isn't that extrapolating leads to answers. It's that it leads to questions. And that is what we must all be continuing to strive for: asking more questions.

Because never before has our species been as at threat from false information as it is today. It is our brains, our ability to think, that has got us here. It is our ability to think which must keep us moving forwards.

Comments

We have seen in New Zealand and the UK in recent times that there are all sorts of negative economic consequences to greatly increasing levels of immigration with no planning. It is common sense that no borders will lead to anarchy.

The economic consequences in NZ were housing shortages. The capitalist model favoured by National was responsible, not the somewhat acquisitive Asian buyers.

Britain is in the European community, which may have something to do with immigration numbers. The burden of Empire is taking over other countries and their people, who are then British.

Regarding the editorial of 24 April 2019, WELL SAID! The image is that of this tiny independent newspaper (ODT) standing up against the BIG DATA BEHEMOTHS of the news industry of the world — A voice in the wilderness and there isn’t much time left for thinking if we heed the warning of David Attenborough — 10 more years of ignoring the dangers of climate change and societies will began to be disrupted. Somehow we need to rise above the tide of false information, fake news and the manipulation by vested interests who are disrupting what remains of our liberal democracies. A Time for Thinking.

A good example of this is illustrated in the TED Talk by Carole Cadwalladr — https://www.ted.com/talks/carole_cadwalladr_facebook_s_role_in_brexit_an...

 

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