Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Fractured Reflection on Astonishment.


The Astonishment Bias. 

This is what I would call it, anyway. It is the tendency of human beings in a media saturated world to find interesting things interesting. The TED talk makes us go, wow, that's really neat, and the very neatness of it all is what constitutes its value. Or the news story or blog post or whatever, focuses on the next zany thing that some company or laboratory is doing. The authors of Freakanomics and Guns, Germs and Steel get to go on super powered book tours because they put such seemingly disparate concepts together, no matter how tenuously. 

Listen carefully whenever someone says that they saw a talk or movie or article that "made me think." I bet that they will never follow that shit up with what the fuck it was it made them think about. Because what they really mean to say is "That article's neatness engrossed and entertained me in a way that I spuriously associate as encouraging within me a need for reflection and further research though I am in no way going to reflect or do further research."

Most of us do not remember the details of these talks, or these books, but we retain that feeling of awe that hit us when we first came across them and on this ground we venerate them. Once we look past that feeling and get down to criticism, we discover that, actually, this shit is not that dope and in fact could benefit from a bit more due diligence. 

So, in a way, I am an advocate of regular ass shit. I am all about those things that seem fucking obvious when someone puts them into words. I am about that shit that half of the people who already thought it through simply say "duh" when they hear it again. Because that is the shit that will change the world. The simple stuff will change the world because it will demythologize it, it will show us that, really, the power to put ideas into action belongs to everyone. Oh, wait a minute, saving the world is complicated and difficult? I can't solve the problem of poverty and disease by buying things that make me feel good about myself and Bono? Um. Duh. There's no such thing as objectivity in social discourses? Duh. Racism is a problem despite the race of the President? Fucking duh. 

Hegel, whose great revelations, once you can finally discern them, are not terribly complicated, once said that the "familiar and well known" is itself a cover for our garbled confusion about things. So yeah, we have to get over the veneer of common conception. But you don't have to go far beyond it. On just the other side is a relatively boring revelation that could change everybody's worlds for the better. 

I was just kidding about Hegel, by the way. No one can discern what he is saying, you big dummy.

1 comment:

Popcorn said...

Damn good post...duh.