07 April 2014

You trust yourself WAY too much

Think about all the stuff you know, on all the millions of topics there are to know stuff about - numbers, names, relationships, science, history, skills, where you left your keys...
Now think about how many times in your life you have been mistaken about something you had been pretty sure of.

Of all the stuff you "know" right now, a fair percentage of it is wrong.

For some strange reason, nobody seems to notice this, and everyone goes on being sure about all manner of things - frequently including things that there is no possible way they could know for sure.

We (humans) have figured out a fair bit about our own minds.
Our awareness, perception, and recall are all very, very bad; yet we almost all almost always remain confident that our own perception accurately portrays the world outside our heads, that our memories accurately reflect what actually happened.

But you don't have to take my word for it.

The following 3 documentaries are really fun. They are interactive - if you have any doubt about your own limitations, if you don't doubt your self as much as you should - these videos should cure you of that, and grant you some humility.
And they do it in a totally entertaining way.

Watch 'em!!!

(Embedding isn't working, blogger won't upload, and Nat Geo won't allow it on youtube, so you will have to click on the links to watch)

  National Geographic: Test Your Brain Episode 1 - Pay Attention

  National Geographic: Test Your Brain Episode 2 - Perception

  National Geographic: Test Your Brain Episode 3 - Memory

No, I'm serious, click, watch.

Its free!
They are each 45 minutes long, but what you learn from it will make your life better forever.
They will help you make smarter decisions.

And aside from all that, it's filled with tricky games and puzzles, magic tricks (which they then explain) and tests, and if you don't enjoy it, I offer you a rock solid no-questions-asked, double-your-money-back-guarantee.

If you make it to the 5 minute mark without getting sucked in, well... I just don't know what's wrong with you.

 You may not have an entire 2 and a half hours right now, but do come back and watch the other two as soon as you have a chance to give it your undivided attention.

 And when you finish, take some time to reflect on what it all implies.

Its fun and interesting, but it is really one of the most profound realizations a human can have, to fully internalize this information, to accept how this affects us literally every day, to acknowledge what it implies about everything we think we know.

 As all the games and puzzles in the 3 videos showed you - you, reading these words right now - are not an exception.

 It isn't just some interesting psychological study, weird guys in labs coats doing stuff to dogs and rats which is ethically questionable, or surveys with tricky worded questions taken by college kids.

 This stuff affects you every second of every day, every piece of information you take in is processed by the same brain that failed all the tests in these documentaries.
 Which means you should always be aware that what you remember is not necessarily what actually happened, you should know there was always something going on that you missed, know that every single experience is subject to misperception, and you should question the stuff you are confident about just as much as you question those who disagree with you.

 This is not to say you can never know anything with confidence. It just means that personal experience should not outweigh better evidence. Maybe you saw something that looked like a ghost once, but given how imperfect our awareness, perception, and memory is, the more objective evidence against it should outweigh your personal experience.

Get over your ego.

You aren't always right.

 Even things you are 100% certain about, sometimes turn out to be wrong.

 Maybe you should be 100% certain less often.

This isn't an insult to you personally, it is just the nature of the human brain. We weren't optimized for our modern world, nor, for that matter, for understanding the world and getting to underlying truth's. We were optimized for survival on the savanna, and sometimes superstition leads to better chances at survival than careful objective analysis. Our world today is a million times more complex than eat or be eaten though, so it is in our own best interests to learn what our brain's limitations are, so that we can learn to compensate for them.

So, who do we trust, if we can't even trust our own senses? Not somebody else, that's for sure. Somebody else makes all the exact same mistakes as we make, but with the added disadvantage that they haven't seen those videos, they haven't been to the You Are Not So Smart blog or heard the podcast


and so their misinformed opinions don't even have the chance to compensate for the human mind's natural errors, because they aren't aware of them.

Enter Science!

Science is not guys in lab coats with fancy degrees and expensive equipment.
Science is just a method for checking if a particular idea is right or not, as objectively as possible.
Its a way to compensate for all the limitations of the brain that those documentaries I linked to just taught us about.
No one person can make a scientific proclamation and have it actually be science - it is crowd sourced, anyone can check, even up to and including you, whether the things it suggests actually pan out under testing and double testing. That's what makes it more reliable than personal experience, or even the collected opinions of thousands of people.

But I won't go into that in too much detail, because I already have, quite extensively, here:



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