There is incessant and increasing attack on our intellect. We are fed simple ideas based on convenient samples and bombarded with regurgitation of weak ideas extended by other popular gurus.
As Galbraith wrote first in introducing The Conventional Wisdom by John Kenneth Galbraith, ideas that are convenient, popular and acceptable have become unquestioned truths. Times may change, new fads replace old fads – but our acceptance of what is convenient, familiar and popular as sacrosanct remains the same.
We now have instant communication, huge follower-ship, everywhere connectivity. Yet these remain the channels for spreading the same type of unquestioned ideas that suffer from cognitive biases and analytical errors.
Here are some nuggets from Galbraith’s essay, see how relevant these remain to what we see in social media:
- On attacking ideas: Anyone who attacks such [weak, incorrect] ideas must seem to be trifle self-confident and even aggressive. The man who makes his entry by leaning against an infirm door gets an unjustified reputation for violence. Something is to be attributed to be poor state of the door.
- Acceptable==Truth: Audiences of all kinds most applaud what is merely acceptable. In Social Comment, the test of audience approval, far more than the test of truth, comes to influence comment. (The more an idea gets blogged about, Retweeted …)
- Tribe Think: Ideas come to be organized around what the community as a whole or particular audiences find acceptable. (Voting in Quora)
- Self-Esteem: We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self esteem. The individual knows he is not alone in his thoughts – that he has not been left behind and alone.
- Power of Titles and Positions: Before assuming office, he ordinarily commands no attention. But on taking up his position, he is immediately assumed to be gifted with deep insights. Think of how we treat the ideas of those have the title “author, speaker” in their Bio. What would otherwise have been labeled as commonplace advice suddenly gets anointed as “inspiring advice” or “deep insight”.
It is time to call out that the Gurus have no robes!