Last night at the club there was this short guy pickpocketing people on the dancefloor. It was dark, loud and people were drunk. So many didn’t notice. I was sober. I did notice and interrupted him, questioning what he was doing. He returned the wallets and I said, “What you were doing here is negative social creativity. You know what directions your life could take, if you turned that around into positive social creativity?” He looked at me in a blank way and responded: “I’m short, man. Look at me!”
I sensed that my words didn’t register with him at all, so I gave up lecturing him and handed the guy to the bouncers, which I would have done anyway regardless of his reaction.
Time and time again I’m amazed and in awe by people religiously dedicated to one extreme side of an argument/belief/idea/conviction. It’s toxic! It’s the old way. The more complex the environment gets, the less effective extremist views become, IF you want the whole planet with all of its population to survive and not only your tribe to make it. Cyclical progress is such an important understanding, that I’ll write an ebook on the topic and put it out for free in 2014.
See, it’s not about ignorance. The future is about, as said before, multi-disciplinary expertise. Or in other words, it’s about understanding extremes well enough, so that the balanced middle can be defined, too. Only a balanced middleground in any topic will provide solutions that are sustainable. This is true on a personal, developmental level and on a collective, global one as well.
Look for example at these two books:
I really enjoyed reading both of them and each provides a valid set of arguments for its thesis, still they are completely contradictory. “The Shallows” tells you the Internet dumbs you down and “Smarter Than You Think” comes to the opposite conclusion saying, the Internet/computers make you smarter than you initially realize.
The crucial, crucial thing to get in this century is, that both are right, they are just too narrow. It’s selective focus in a complex world. You don’t want to take a side anymore, you want to understand both claims and acknowledge each validity, in order to precisely define the boundaries of a thematic middleground, that’ll offer a foundation for longterm solutions.
Vaclav Smil, a shining example of multidsciplinary expertise, worded this perfectly:
I saw how the university life goes, both in Europe and then in the US. I was at Penn State, and I was just aghast, because everyone was what I call drillers of deeper wells. These academics sit at the bottom of a deep well and they look up and see a sliver of the sky. They know everything about that little sliver of sky and nothing else. I scan all my horizons.
That’s the gist of my rant. We have to start scanning all our horizons. The luxury of sitting at the bottom of a deep well and only seeing a limited part of the sky is over. Leave that to the last two centuries.
When you start to connect the dots, that’s when interesting things start to happen. When seemingly independent branches of science start to show overlaps, because you become better at understanding each one, that’s where the answers to tomorrow’s questions are. When biology, anthropology, chemistry and archaeology have a foursome, they make cute little babies called genetics and evolution. And the advent of them is extremely important for continued survival.
Don’t be that pickpocketer, that’s only aware of one extreme end, although he already has the skillset to go into the other direction as well. You have to bombard your mind with opposing ideas to create awareness. You simply can’t walk around and be thinking, what you’re doing is the only option there is. Regret will hit you hard, when you’re old this way.
So, start reading opposing opinions, in order to define the sustainable balance in between those views.
Then go on and read a lot of diverse things from a huge variety of topics. Life is short. You’ll need to be seeing clearly.