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Further Uncertainty

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

I was listening to a Youtube video the other night, while working on something else, making a mock up for my programmers of some changes I want (photo above).

I had just finished posting my article on a web page for publication in this Sunday's magazine, Uncertain About Uncertainty. I had more to say on the subject, things written that did not get included in the article. That and the fact that I needed a second article for Sunday had me considering writing another article on the same theme.

The video, which I do not recommend, might have been better if I had been paying it full attention. It featured a eminent Google scientist supposedly speaking on "Will Computers Ever Think Like Human Beings?", but he never got to the point. I know from other listening that the answer is no, not even close.

Still, my ears perked up at minute 33 when the good doctor started talking about uncertainty. He made reference to an article Truth, Lies and Uncertainty (Scientific American, September 2019).

The article explores how our we and our brain construct our reality. Some of its chapter headings convey the difficulty of arriving at truth and the relevance of that difficulty to the current political, world situation:

Truth-
The Search for Truth in Physics
Is the Mathematical World Real?
The Neuroscience of Reality
How Professional Truth Seekers Search for Answers

Lies-
Deception in the Animal Kingdom
How Misinformation Spreads—and Why We Trust It
The Contagion of Corruption
How to Defraud Democracy

Uncertainty-
When Assessing Novel Risks, Facts Are Not Enough
How To Get Better at Embracing Unknowns
The Search for Social Identity Leads to "Us" versus "Them"
Misinformation Has Created a New World Disorder

The Google doc in the video, without mentioning what this has to do with Artificial Intelligence, goes on to give us another overview of the article:

- We reject things that make us uncertain.
- We hang onto things that make us feel like we know what we are doing.
- We are not convinced by facts.
- Facts contrary to our opinions reinforce our rejection of those facts.
- We don't like to admit that we were wrong.
- Common scientists dismiss experimental results, outlying data, that do not fit in with their theory.
- Nobel Prizes are won by people who are willing to give up cherished theories in the face of the outlying data.

(I hope those scientists didn't spend a lot of money to discover that we don't like to admit we are wrong.)

"Don't confuse me with the facts."
They say that sales is not a rational process. But then, really, what is? Convincing someone is not about presenting facts. It is about overcoming the resistance to those facts. As a doctor I understand that my patients already know most of the lifestyle advice that I have to offer. Whatever success I have in counseling patients derives from my clever packaging of the facts, slipping them by the patient's defenses. Dad said of some people, "You've got to make them think that they thought of it."

Imagine you were God. You know everything. What you would want most of all would be to be surprised.

If you knew everything, the most delicious thing would be a surprise. God created the world because She was bored.

If you are God-averse, substitute Mind. Mind, consciousness is a bonafide, scientific concept... and we all have it. In fact most of us, averse as we are to uncertainty, go about, more or less as if we do know everything. That is the point of the Scientific American article.

Believing that we know it all, sticking to our guns, being unable to consider new information that lies outside our accepted interpretation is why we are so divided as a society. It is also what prevents us from coming to new understanding that would solve our problems.

We need to move from an Us and Them mentality to a more inclusive definition of who we are. And, despite what is being taught at American universities, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you, American society has been doing just for the six decades that I've been on the planet.

Black, white, brown, yellow, red... labeling things "racist" divides society. Saving the environment and creating a more just economy is not served by identity politics. Politics has always been about creating alliances.

Know-it-alls are boring. You can cultivate being surprised by embracing uncertainty.

As the man in the video said, Nobel Prizes are won by people who are willing to think outside the box, who are open to being surprised.

**************

Dr David a victim of the Hippie movement, is still trying to change the world. He and his merry band believe that with their new expanded Lokkal it just might happen. (On your screens soon.)

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