Ambigamy

Insights for the deeply romantic and deeply skeptical

Comforting Counsel for an Error-prone Era

Comforting Counsel for an Error-prone Era

These days, humanity seems more error prone than usual. But if we're going to give ourselves a good talking to about it, let's not be impulsive. Let's think long term.

We say "nobody's perfect" as though we could be perfect but boneheadedly fall short. Boneheaded or not we couldn't be perfect. Life evolves, our actions changing the rules as we go. What worked yesterday may or may not work today. Life may be a test, but not like the SAT. The solutions to today's questions aren't already in an answer book somewhere. We must do today what worked tomorrow but since tomorrow isn't here to advise us today, there's always guesswork involved.

We were never perfect. We didn't fall from grace; we rose from slime. Like the victim of a deadly disease the cure for which isn't yet available but could be any day now, humanity is within a hair's breadth of the intelligence to fix the mistakes it makes. These are white-knuckle exciting times.

Everybody makes mistakes, lots of them, especially when the consequences are indirect. Like a dog scolded only sometimes for soiling the carpet and only when its master gets home hours later, we aren't quick to learn from our big picture mistakes. Politically, spiritually, philosophically we can believe very mistaken things for very long times.

Politically we've squared off as conservatives vs. progressives, people who don't want change vs. people who do. The question however isn't whether to change but what, our behaviors or our expectations. When temperatures rise for example, we change clothes to stay cool or we don't change clothes and expect to get hotter. Either way there's change. With global temperatures rising and politics and the economy in uncharted hot water, we're forced to choose which behaviors and expectations to change. There's guesswork involved.

And out of respect for tomorrow which isn't here today to defend itself, the self-certain should lighten up enough to collaborate on the guesswork.

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Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.

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