“They should teach critical thinking in schools”

A trusted institution tries to save a lone fact tumbling through infospace

Phew. Online life is hard right now, isn’t it? Watching your friends seemingly actively go out there onto the World Wide Web to seek out new rabbit-holes to throw themselves into.

I mean, you can attempt to do what you think might be the right thing and get involved. You can try to explain why you think (say) the Covid vaccine isn’t “still in trials”, you can show what you think is evidence of your assertion, but sooner or later it’ll come down to “I chose to trust these sources, and you chose to trust those sources”. And there is seemingly no way back.

The whole spectrum of ideas, from the mainstream to the fringe, is now out there and accessible to everybody in the world – and also the means to expand and populate that spectrum with new ideas is available to everyone in the world.

And it’s all given equal weight, from people who think the world is ending because of CO2 in the atmosphere, to people who think the world is ending because of critical race theory.

Nothing’s objectively wrong anymore, nothing’s objectively right. And with morality switched off, as we free-fall through infospace, where there’s no up, no down, no sideways, how can any of us learn anything? How can anyone even learn how to to learn?

When I talk with my friends about this problem, sooner or later someone says, “they should teach critical thinking in schools”. I nearly agree. But, let’s face it, “they” will never teach critical thinking in schools. And if “they” did – how empowering would a course constructed by “them” really be?

A system that runs on compliance is unlikely to place the tools to dismantle it in our hands.

My question is: So now what?

We obviously have tremendous anger about our failing systems of distribution, and learning, and justice, and just about everything – and also we have tremendous energy and motivation to understand how we got here and how to get out. This is how these online vortices of bullshit are opening up and sucking people in.

It’s funny, people often point to Keynes’ (tongue-in-cheek) suggestion that the government could always stimulate the economy by paying people to dig holes and fill them in again as an absurd way for civilisation to proceed.

And yet that’s what we seem to want to do.

So. Now what?

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