Here’s a Radical Proposition:
What if we did what we know?
In other words, shouldn’t we apply what we call knowledge?. Shouldn’t we act and behave in accordance with what we have learned about ourselves and how our world works?
The world in which we live is a world of differences. Of course it’s also important to recognize similarities — that’s the basis for our human capabilities to create and manipulate symbols for language and thinking. When we ignorantly or intentionally disregard differences, we don’t behave in accordance with what we know. Troubles inevitably follow.
Therefore this human capability to critically differentiate, or discern, between this andthat provides a foundation for our individual, and collective, humanness.
I advocate teaching and applying an informed world view deliberately derived from what we currently understand about ourselves and our world … without deference to dogmas, traditions, or what passes for culturally-dependent “common sense.” With over 150 video clips and dozens of demonstrations, exercises, and explanations, I hope you’ll find something of value to learn, practice, and teach. Steve Stockdale
A Fundamental Premise
What we perceive as ‘the world’ is not ‘the world out there’ — what we perceive is merely an abstraction of ‘the world out there,’ mediated through each individual’s nervous system.
- Alfred Korzybski (Science and Sanity, 1933): (referring to a simple push-toy bladed fan) “Now I rotate the blades. And you see a disc, where there is no disc. Don’t call that illusion. It’s abstraction …” Watch the demonstration.
- Neurobiologist Christof Koch (The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach, 2005): “Conscious perception is, in a sense, a con job of the brain. It suggests there’s a stable world out there and there’s a very simple relationship between what’s out there in the world and what’s inside our head but in fact it’s a very complicated relationship. It’s actively constructed by our brain.” Watch Koch’s demonstrations.
- Jeff Hawkins, founder of Palm Computing (On Intelligence, 2004 with Sandra Blakeslee) and founder of the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience: “Your perception of the world is really a fabrication of your model of the world. You don’t really see light or sound. You perceive it because your model says this is how the world is, and those patterns invoke the model. It’s hard to believe, but it really is true.” Watch Hawkins discuss “currency of the brain.”
- V.S. Ramachandran, MD,, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute (A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, 2005): “Our brains are essentially modelmaking machines. We need to construct useful, virtual reality simulations of the world that we can act on.” Watch Ramachandran in “Secrets of the Mind.”
- Nobel Laureate Francis Crick (Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, 1995): “What you see is not what is really there; it is what your brain believes is there… Seeing is an active, constructive process. Your brain makes the best interpretation it can according to its previous experiences and the limited and ambiguous information provided by your eyes.”
The consequences of this straightforward scientific understanding ought to extend to the language(s) we use to learn, understand, and teach … about everything. That’s what ThisIsNotThat is about.
Fundamental Aspects of an Informed World View
1. A View About Ourselves
To varying degrees, we each have common human capabilities and limitations. We have imperfect sensing capabilities. We have nervous systems that can mislead and misinform us. We have physiological and neurological limitations. In this respect we are all “in the same boat,” but yet we are each uniquely-individual human beings with different-sized and types of paddles, so to speak. If we don’t acknowledge these differences in our capabilities and limitations, we will misunderstand our perceptions of the world around us. Videos and more.
2. A View About the World
We are a part of the natural world. We can observe that world, and ourselves, from the perspective of a problem-solving, or scientific, attitude. We can observe, create theories or assumptions, test those theories, then based on results, apply, modify, or discard them. We get into trouble when we ignore this process and rely on unchallenged or untested assumptions, beliefs, or feelings. An important aspect of a scientific approach is predictability. How well does what you know, or what you learn through questioning and testing, prepare you for the future? Videos and more.
3. A View About Perspective
Each person carries a background of unique-to-them experiences. Each comes from unique family, societal, religious, and political cultures. Each will interpret events or situations differently. Each has different sensing abilities. Perspectives change over time, depend on context, but remain personally unique. Can you really see from another’s perspective, or walk in another’s shoes? Can you recognize and acknowledge how your perspective may be different from another’s? Videos and more.
4. A View About Behavioral Consequences
We react to the events, people, and situations we encounter. We can deliberately evaluate our experiences before we react. We have the cognitive means to respond to events conditionally—not automatically, like Pavlov’s dog. However, we often allow certain words, labels, symbols, etc., to determine our reactions, rather than responding to the real-world referents the labels stand for. Sometimes we fail to delay our actions, judgments, and responses. We jump to conclusions, overlook details, and don’t critically differentiate this experience from similar experiences. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be fooled, managed, and manipulated when we don’t vigilantly guard against mistaking the word as the thing, or when we fail to discern that the map is not the territory. Videos and more.
5. A View About Language
Every everyday language results from choices made by humans—some deliberate, some accidental, some arbitrary. No language can be considered inherent, or inerrant. Language constitutes one critical aspect of human behavior, perhaps the defining feature for humans. Our languages ought to adapt to reflect the latest state of what we know about ourselves in our world. Videos and more.
6. A View About Learning and Doing What We Know
We can learn from our own experiences, from others’ experiences, from books and media. We can learn from virtually any kind of experience or source. Language provides the means through which most of our learning occurs. The quality of our knowledge—how and what we learn—is dependent on the quality of our language behaviors and our evaluative judgments that guide our behaviors. But simply learning or knowing makes no difference unless that knowledge is reflected in our behaviors. Do we do what we know? Are our motivations and expectations consistent with our knowledge and experience, as well as appropriate to each new situation? Videos and more.
7. Putting It Together
How can we integrate, construct, and articulate a deliberate, informed world view that’s predicated on this fundamental premise of differences? What basic understandings can we use as a foundation for learning and teaching the skills necessary to critically differentiate and discern in a world of differences? A necessarily incomplete summary of “differences that make a difference.” Videos and more.