Posted on April 9, 2021 by Don Shaughnessy
Sometimes we become caught up in binary choices and miss other options.
The movie “The Matrix” offers a serious binary choice. Take the red pill and have knowledge together with the conflicts and problems it creates, or take the blue pill and have blissful ignorance. It has been a problematic question so long as humans have been around.
The first instance is in the bible. Eating from “The Tree of Knowledge” was forbidden. I suppose the tree had red apples. In any case, the idea was Garden of Eden, blissful life, plenty, absent problems, or take knowledge and a more do-it-yourself approach to life. As opposed to the Matrix, God did not offer reasons, just the prohibition from eating the fruit. Morpheus, at least, explained what each choice meant.
The key point was if you choose either pill, you cannot change your mind. As we often notice, you cannot easily unlearn things.
It is safe to say that most of us have come to realize the world is not made up of binary choices. There is far too much content for each of us to fully grasp and make rational choices on everything. We can discover quite a lot about ourselves if we look at which choices we have made and why we made them. Most of those choices are rational given our personal principles and experience. Within those limits, we choose what works. We might change our mind given more information, but for now we choose.
The conflicts among us arise from different assumptions, different lessons from our experience, and different ideas about principles. We can see this quite clearly today if we examine progressivism and compare it to classical liberalism.
Classical liberalism requires notice of the nature of humans. Selfish yet helpful. Greedy yet altruistic. Status seeking yet wanting the best for others. Personal responsibility and discipline have value. Deserving is a thing. Essentially, the red pill. People create the outcomes. Thomas Sowell calls it the confined view. people will behave as people always have.
Progressives on the other hand believe society creates the outcomes. Their beleif is that properly organized society would overcome the defects of the confined view. In the unconfined view of civilization, socialism probably would work. Essentially the blue pill. The trick is how to switch from confined to unconfined in a time short enough to work. “Can you overcome the confined view attributes?” It seems to require reversing the red pill effects and it is a given you cannot do that. Is it necessary to eliminate those people? Do not the leaders of the movement share the problematic characteristic of the confined view people? Who leads when complete, and why do we need them?
Most of us like blissful ignorance and we like the idea of personal growth through knowledge. As the result we hold progressive views on some subjects like helping the helpless, more equal outcomes, and societal safety nets. Simultaneously, we hold libertarian views on others. Self-determination, unlimited potential wins and loss, leave me alone and I will leave you alone. You and I may each hold vastly different opinions on certain subjects and still be friends.
We have taken the purple pill.
A little knowledge here, a little ignorance there. The ability to change from one to other, even rotate between them. The obvious question becomes, “Could a purple pill work?” or do we just end up with a series of costly and fruitless compromises.
So far it seems the purple pill approach merely inspires the power hungry and the autocrats. The idea of resource creation is unaddressed.
The current version of society is about conflict around ideas that each have some merit. There is no debate that might clarify what is truth in our current and complicated world. The conflict will remain and the application of power is all that will be present. Advances towards the blue pill agenda will eventually all be torn down by the red pill crowd. And the cycle will repeat. If we look at the history of the last century we can see the swings.
Karl Popper demands that a scientific idea must contain a question that could falsify it. Essentially if you can’t experiment and observe results, as science there is no point to it. Social organizing ideas don’t have that test. They should.
Maybe the swinging from one ideology to the other provides a test of sorts. We can already see the beginnings of failure in a command society. Good ideas become battered by their inefficiency. Incomplete ideas are always a problem when the idea must fit complex structures.
The experiments underway are beyond expensive. The CERN project can be counted in tens of billions of dollars. Its cost is not even a small share of the roundoff on the tests we are currently conducting. A trillion dollars was a concept unknown to humanity as recently as 50 years ago.
In science, ideas follow a path. Conjecture proposes a possibility and creates questions that would support or deny its validity. Experiments are designed and conducted. They prove or disprove some aspect of the idea. We are still doing experiments that prove or disprove certain aspects of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. So far the answers confirm its validity and people act on those. Someday, something may say it’s right but only within certain assumptions. Newton’s theory of gravity is like that. It works fine if the space isn’t too big, the acceleration is limited, and time is short. The same with Euclidian geometry. It works fine on a planet, not so well in the universe as a whole.
When you don’t know enough, you begin with small tests and grow from there. We can make progress on societal issues if we define our testable idea and begin testing to see what parts are valid.
Shouting at each other does nothing to reach tested truth. We should design a better experimental paradigm.
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Category: Our Societal Issues, RantsTags: constrained view., Don Shaughnessy, meaning, socialism, Thomas Sowell