To know more is our craving and strong obsession.
Since we don’t even know what’s going to happen 5 minutes from now, it’s hard to live with this contradiction.
The lack of knowledge is such a heavy burden on us but how do we deal with this inability? Does it really work to plan everything from A to Z?
We even seeked the salvation in a pack of cards, tea leaves, coffee grounds, or fortune-teller charlatans. Our eyes and ears glued on screens with the hope of learning something new.
Do we know how to handle this situation or do we just act out of primal instincts?
#FACT: We can’t and don’t have to know everything
It’s entirely pointless to know everything even if our urges tell the exact opposite. I won’t bullshit like motivational videos as “Human potential is limitless, you can do anything!”.
Limitless become limited if you are a human by definition. You have to sleep, be scared, wonder about the future, seek love because you are an incapable as a result of being a human. That’s why it’s a pipe dream to take everything under control.
However, that doesn’t mean we should stand idle with hands tied.
We can accept our inadequacy but still work on improving so far as one can. It’s such a short life to explore everything but there’s enough to know what we actually need.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
So if we are wise enough to ask the right questions, we can go in the right direction by not wasting our time. Life must be lived in the now but the future inevitably influences our present moment.
The human mind tends to wander all the time, that’s why our worries and expectations easily affect our current decisions. No amount of worry can change the future just like our guilt can’t change the past. So we need a healthy way for future prediction to get rid of worries and enjoy the present moment.
How do we think about the future?
What’s our future prediction based on?
We can say it mainly consists of our prior knowledge, experiences, and expectations from life.
The future is personal, and it’s certainly a timeframe that revolves around our existence because if we don’t exist, who cares what’s going to happen? It may be 5 minutes, one year, or a decade farther from now; but it’s often a future that we are in.
We inescapably act in the range of our knowledge because our future prediction is limited by our current knowledge. It’s nearly impossible to prefer something that we don’t know. Maybe that’s why we are born like curiosity machines coupled with the intense urge to know more.
Aristotle said, “All men by nature desire to know. And indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sites. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer site to almost anything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.”
It’s logical, just look at the creation of human beings.
We come to the planet earth with lots of deficiencies, weaknesses, and incapabilities. Even if I take your clothes and throw you out in the streets, you start having problems in an hour. To survive in such a cruel and complicated world, we had to develop fast.
It makes sense that we are wired to know more in this context.
Since the range of knowledge is limitless; one can want to ask, wonder, know, try, live, experience in the pursuit to find a meaning behind everything.
But we face a serious problem right here.
Every blessing is also a curse.
The urge to know more does not have to result in acquired knowledge because learning requires organized thinking.
It’s not natural for us to learn, that’s why we have to learn how to learn. We can’t even read if it’s not taught by others. To make sure it’s a blessing, the learning process should be under our control.
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Our curiosity will only take us to the truth when it’s controlled wisely, otherwise, we only drown in falsehood for a lifetime. We don’t want the truth most of the time, and our blessing turns into a curse in this way.
Let’s remember how Aldous Huxley described the situation very well by saying “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”
“I swear, gentlemen, that to be too conscious is an illness, a real thorough-going illness.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
What’s the inevitable result of our endless curiosity?
Is there a point that we will ever say “enough”? No, because we have an insatiable appetite in this regard.
The fire inside us keeps flaring up. The more we know, the more fragile we become. That’s why the people who don’t know anything are always more comfortable and carefree.
A common expression used to describe this situation is “ignorance is bliss”.
Our increase in knowledge paves the way of predicting future outcomes, and that eventually blazes the trail of being a control freak. We forget the spontaneity of life because we desperately want to rule it.
The power we attained through knowledge clouds our minds and turns us into arrogant individuals.
Humans always chase power because we deeply know how powerless we are. It’s a gap that will never be filled until we accept our inadequacy. Some will go after lust, some will build muscles, some will build an army, and some will chase more knowledge to forget this fact.
It takes balls of steel that the ultimate power is not within our reach and striving to be the god of our own existence is such a pity.
Everybody wants to rule the world
This is why we are so passionate about to know, be capable of, and change everything as much as we can.
Who gives a damn about serendipity in the middle of this madness?
For instance, just take a look at how we cautiously calculate every little detail in our daily lives.
To get out of the monotony, we decide to take a break and go on a vacation but we can’t even help ourselves killing the beauty of its spontaneity and just let it go. From the hotel room to what kind of car we will rent, which places we will visit, or what kind of meals we will eat, we spend hours on every single detail.
It’s such an incongruous struggle.
We imprison ourselves like Jim Carry’s character in the Truman show.
Yeah, maybe we might have the perfect timing and set up for a shiny Instagram post but will it offer a solution?
What’s the first reaction when we tell someone we have a surprise gift for them? “Tell me, tell me, tell me please!”. What’s the purpose of living a life that you know everything in detail? Isn’t this against the definition of life itself?
It’s often said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”. Don’t we already know this? We do but why do we try to square the circle then?
It’s out of desperation.
Most people have 10-15 days of annual leaves, so they make sure those days will make it up for the whole exhaustion built up in a year.
We don’t want to know everything
Do we want to know everything?
Of course no, because it’s not always pleasing to know something.
Most of the time, we prefer to hear what we like to hear rather than the reality itself because the truth can be ugly and insulting to us.
Would you be willing to accept many of the beliefs you hold aren’t true and that the way you lived your life, the actions you took, even the way you view and define yourself is total bullshit?
The human brain is so good at creating fiction and keep living it as reality. Sweet illusions are pleasing while the exposure of the truth often contains the pain factor.
This is the root of the most basic animalistic behavior. What’s it? Runaway from the pain, get closer to the pleasure.
That’s why we just want the truth to fit in our current reality.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Plato describes 3 people imprisoned in a cave all of their lives. They are forced to facing a blank wall because it’s impossible to turn back due to their chained hands and feet.
They have no idea what’s going on outside. With the help of the fire inside and the leaking light of the sun, these people see the shadow of the passing objects projected on the wall, and they give a name to each of them. Even the echos they hear from the wall sounds real to them.
One of the prisoners get rid of the chains and have a chance to taste the outside world. He sees real people, birds, and trees right after leaving the cave and gets amazed by witnessing the reality.
Immediately he returns to the cave to share the truth with his friends. “Guys! These images you see on the wall are just shadows, they are not the reality. I saw vivid colors, 3d shapes, and real sounds on the outside of this cave. There’s a whole different world outside here.”
His friends respond, “Are you kidding with us? Don’t you think we know what we see here? Do you think you are smarter than us? Are we such poor people can’t grasp reality through seeing by our eyes?”
They don’t break free and leave their cave. Why? Because this is what they know in their current reality. The cave, echo sounds, shadows, silhouettes are their comfort zone.
It’s such a dangerous and unnecessary act to change the whole reality paradigm while we’re already surviving with the current circumstances.
That’s why humans are so resistant to change. What guarantees our survival after all?
Right at this point, a new question arises inevitably…
Can we trust our minds?
Aristotle defined man as being a rational animal.
According to this definition, rationality is what separates humans from all other animals; it is what makes them unique.
As long as we don’t use our rationality through reasoning and critical thinking, that makes us even worse than an animal. Of course, it’s worse to be ungrateful to what you’ve been given than to never have it in the first place.
What’s being rational then?
It’s about being capable of seeing what is true and eventually discovering what to do about it. Our beliefs only become truth in agreement with evidence, so we can healthily map onto the structure of the world.
What prevents us from being rational then?
It’s our animal brain. We are programmed to run away from pain and chase pleasure because that was the only way to survive back then. However, it’s not possible to make healthy and rational judgments when you are possessed by your emotions.
The natural tendency of human-beings is always picking the easy, safe, and pleasurable path. That’s why it’s so easy to manipulate masses.
You don’t have to do much for a shitty society, just give them useless but delightful choices. They will make themselves dumb and surely numb their rational mind in the jungle of delusional joys.
Just produce lots of junk food, stupid TV shows, video games, mind-numbing substances, and watch how everybody happily consumes them.
Look at the society we are in if you want some proof. It seems like we have limitless options and we are all free individuals, right? Everybody believes they are free but willingly chained themselves to vain addictions.
This is the human mind, which desperately and eagerly wants to achieve everything with minimum energy.
Our results come from actions, and our beliefs determine our actions, so everything starts with a belief. Then how do people form beliefs? How is it possible to change them? We need to understand how we think in order to understand these questions.
The mind is fallible
Why has our brain evolved in a way to discard true information when it doesn’t fit our views?
If I would tell you that I saw a pink monkey flying in the sky, it’s healthy for you to reject this information. That happens because you absolutely don’t have a reason to believe in this statement. However, when the new piece of evidence is exactly what you want to believe, you are much more likely to confirm it as your reality.
This is called desirability bias as one of the most popular bugs of the human brain. We are much more likely to accept positive news rather than negative ones.
For example when you put the label “Smoking kills”, it doesn’t have much effect on smokers because warnings have a very limited impact on human behavior. Since it’s so hard to change a deeply wired human behavior, we might try another way for better results. What’s it?
Whenever you seek a behavioral change, you must highlight the positivity rather than threatening with negativity.
Look, it doesn’t work. We don’t believe bad things will happen to us. Other people can get cancer, die, or go to hell but we always perceive the chance is lower for us. So no matter how logical it seems to use fear as a motivating factor, our brain is not evolved in a logical way.
When you induce fear, the two common animal responses are freeze or flee. We are like animals in this sense. Whenever a negative emotion steps into our system, we do our best to eliminate its effect.
If bad information can easily be avoided, then we choose to avoid it. We find it more motivating to act when we see what we gain in return. Positivity is what we seek when we take the information and it’s the thrill of a gain induces action.
In the smoking case, when you highlight the positive progress by saying “food will taste better”, “you’ll be better at all sports”, “your mental cognitive will increase, and you will think more positively”, it’s absolutely a better shot to take.
Social biases also distort our thinking which is often used by the advertisement industry because we are social creatures who can’t ignore what other people are doing.
For example, the British government sent letters to citizens “Nine out of ten people pay their tax on time” and it resulted in a 16% increase in tax payments which is a 5.6 billion pounds profit.
A similar example is often seen as “The experts approved this toothpaste, it’s the best one!” in ads which is a type of authority bias.
Let’s say that we triumphed over these temptation traps and somehow programmed ourselves to be a learning machine. We have become voracious learners who are passionate about reading and research but are we done then?
The pleasure we get from learning triggers the same region in the brain as having sex and eating. So the brain sees information as vital as these survival needs.
The more we learn, the more tendency we develop to get caught by epistemic arrogance. This is the stage where we assume that we reached the sky in terms of acquiring sufficient knowledge in that area. That’s why we’re always more inclined to exaggerate what we know and underestimate what we don’t know.
Let’s remember what Socrates said again “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”. Do you understand this statement better now? The moment where we let go of our skepticism in the process of building knowledge, we are destined to make mistakes.
So it’s not a good idea to trust the mind in a default state, contrarily we must strict attention to what’s generated by it because it often lies.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of how our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” ― Edward Bernays, Propaganda
Have you ever thought about how bacon become a part of Americans’ breakfast ritual?
Most people assume it has always been part of it but believe it or not, bacon’s association with the American breakfast is barely a century old. Back then, the majority of Americans preferred more modest, often meatless breakfasts that include ripe fruit, some grains, and usually a cup of coffee.
The nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays, was a master of manipulation techniques. He was known as a person who could make people buy an idea or stuff.
In the 1920s, the Beech-Nut Packing Company was having issues with selling pork products, so they approached Mr. Bernays to increase consumer demand for bacon. Bernays got in touch with his agency’s internal doctor about whether heavier breakfast choices would be more beneficial for the public. The doctor confirmed this suspicion and prepared a survey for his 5000 colleagues to confirm this information.
After their confirmation, this “super idea” of “Bacon and Eggs” was published in major newspapers and magazines of the time to great success. The profits of the company sharply rose thanks to Bernay’s genius idea with the help of his medical professionals as well.
How many Americans do you think ever heard about Edward Bernays? Not much, but they include processed meat in their breakfast even though it is a group 1 carcinogen, the same group as asbestos and tobacco.
The people you don’t even know are ruling your life through mass manipulation when you don’t question.
Think about the technology of this era and how much information they gained through following our consumption patterns. The internet algorithm knows what you like and dislike, so it’s not shocking news when you are always bombarded with the new content that you love.
The songs, series, movies, basically everything is produced according to the data collected and evaluated. Artificial intelligence uses the data to predict what sells the best in which country, gender, and age category.
For example, Abba was an artificial music group formed by calculating the statistics of music consumption of the world and they achieved incredible success on a global scale.
Do you think Netflix series are chosen randomly? There’s no room for randomness in this world. Amazon produces and sells books, and they have the device “Kindle” where they can analyze their customer behavior.
If you are a writer, they contact you by promising “If you can write a book that talks about X, in the era of Y, including similar events to Z; it will sell this amount”. They even offer advance payment because of their assurance.
You don’t just try out new stuff, everything is made to order any more.
Companies know their customers more than themselves. They know how fallible the human mind is and they have all the data, so manipulation is just a piece of cake.
Comments are highly important in online shopping. If you read even one negative comment for a restaurant or a hotel, they are done because we have lots of alternatives, why would we risk it?
That comment might be written by a psychopath or a maniac who was taking a crazy dump in the toilet. Perhaps he had constipation issues, so he wanted to feel relieved by spreading negative energy. However, a negative comment can define the reputation of institutions or individuals. What a crazy world we live in.
Do you think our minds are capable of dealing with this manipulation madness?
Maybe what we assume as free will is just a collection of chemical reactions that are smartly calculated by masterminds beforehand. Take it easy, it’s not that big of a deal. Free will is a real deal.
You don’t believe me? Go and punch a wall. Nobody force you to do anything unless you accept it. However, we are definitely under the influence of external forces more than ever happened in history.
What should we do?
Learn accurate thinking
All achievements are the result of accurate thinking. It doesn’t happen by chance to arrive at a certain destination.
Our mind is like a piece of land where we harvest thoughts as bounty. It’s in our hands to cultivate it into a beautiful and productive garden through diligent, consistent, and planned work.
On the other hand, negligence opens the doors of weeds sprouting from seed. The world is already a mess, it’s full of dirt and chaos. The moment we get loose, lead our actions solely by emotions, we inevitably become a shifter.
If we harvest accurate thoughts regularly, we get a chance to reach a worthy destination at the end. There is no other way.
Accurate thinking is a moral obligation in this sense because it’s the pillar of self-discipline. If you can’t take control of your thoughts, you can’t do any good for others as well.
You either sit on the driver seat and take charge of your mind, or there will be others who do the work for you. And of course, they won’t do it for your interest.
To be an accurate thinker, you must take two important steps:
- Separate facts from opinions.
- Separate facts into two categories: important and unimportant.
Only poor thinkers let their minds be filled with an overabundance of useless opinions.
You can’t accept an opinion as a fact unless it’s supported by evidence. In the same regard, you should not offer fallacious arguments.
The masses are ruled by newspapers, gossip, and rumor are unreliable sources. That’s why they blow away like dust in the wind because they lack definiteness in their life.
The reliable method for accurate thinking
Since we proved that the human mind is fallible, it’s pretty clear why you must take up comprehensively in detail every bit of information you encounter. People can intentionally or carelessly distort the facts.
The complete checklist:
- How reliable is the source of the claim?
- Does the source make similar claims?
- Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
- Does this fit with the way the world works?
- Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
- Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
- Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
- Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
- Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
- Are personal beliefs driving the claim?
– From Baloney Detection Kit By Michael Shermer
It’s mindblowing how uncautious people are when it comes to accepting statements as facts. We have to rely upon our own judgment and be cautious no matter who is trying to influence us.
Society, geography, and education are strong influencers as social stimuli, so our thinking is mostly influenced by these. Most people choose their religion, ally themselves politically, even select what they are going to wear or eat because of the influences of those nearest them: friends, relatives, and acquaintances.
That is dangerous because if you are not careful about your influencer, you end up having a randomly generated character which is typically an average Joe.
However, you can always take action to control and select your influencer, such as reading this blog.
- Get rid of your expectations and presumptions.
Especially when it comes to asking a question, make sure you don’t have any bias. If the question includes some assumptions, it means you are not willing to learn the truth. You are just making your way for distortion.
For example, do not ask “Which protein powder should I take to grow my muscles?”, the better question would be “What do you know about the effect of protein powders in muscle growth?”. Do you see it?
The first one already assumes that protein powders are useful and necessary. How do you know that? Reading bodybuilding magazines, or seeing some athletes advertise their products?
The habit of believing on the basis of little or no evidence is the biggest mistake a human can do. The mind of an accurate thinker will always be full of question marks.
“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”
Most people would rather die than dealing with question marks because it requires more thinking. However, to get out of the labyrinth we are in, thinking is the only way and a lot of thinking, planning, and self-examination are the biggest supporters of an accurate thinker.
Habits rule our lives as Aristotle boldly claimed “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Then our habits need to be picked wisely to inspirit our thinking ability such as reading, contemplating, writing, working on projects, etc. If your mind is always busy working, then it will stay sharp.
You won’t have clouds around your thoughts, and you will be able to distinguish facts from bullshit through accurate reasoning.
Just think and constantly get involved in tasks that will require thinking, you will get ahead of 95% of the population.
Relax, take your time to think, active the source of your inner power, and you will attract all the good in the world.
And finally feel the peace of taking control of your life.