Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: snowballs (Anti-Microsoft sentiment)

Author:Joshua Allen
Posted:9/20/2000; 9:33:31 PM
Topic:Debunking the OSS Bazaar?
Msg #:21563 (In response to 21551)
Prev/Next:21562 / 21564

Dave Rogers: You'll have to take me at my word on this, when I was a much younger man I was probably more cynical and arrogant than you are. I'm happy to report that now I'm merely arrogant. That's progress, no?

Dave Winer: That's so off the wall. As one of the elders here on this DG, I've been tempted at times to say what you say, and may have even succumbed to the temptation. You don't know that he has the same limits or experience that you do. If you're so wise, it seems you should know that. We do not all follow the same path through life. To invalidate someone's pov because of their age is guaranteed to get you flamed, with some justification. You render him powerless. He can't instantly be your age, whatever that may be.

Thanks Dave,

I figured he was trolling, or if he really believed what he said, not worth my attention. I considered an equally trolling response of something like, "If you've lived as long as you have and are still stuck in the same way I had of thinking when I was 16 and much less wise, then you must be slow indeed."

Around third grade or so, my brother and I tried to figure out what "wisdom" was. We decided it took three ingredients: lots of experience of different types, a good memory to remember your experiences, and lots of mental horsepower to analayse and extract wisdom from your experiences. There are only a few things you can do to augment the last two things, but you have a ton of control over the variety and type of experiences you expose yourself to. Age is a fairly poor way to measure the amount of experience that a person has collected. One example is television. By the time someone reaches the age of Mr. Rogers, how much television have they watched? Except on a sophomoric level, would anyone really confuse watching TV with any really useful experience. I could make the error of assuming that someone who grew up with a TV and who watches TV today would have significantly less useful experience than I have. Another problem with the whole age card is that it is quite possible to gather wisdom from the experiences of others. I have revised my recipe for wisdom to include interaction with others. Arguing, debating, listening, provoking others to share their experiences and points of view is not as good as experiencing the thing yourself. But this "imitation experience" can make good food, too.

Sort of related is the idea of the two different forms of buddhist meditation -- one technique is to empty the mind and allow thoughts to flow through (sort of like being "open-minded"). The other is to focus on a single idea and amplify it in the mind. Students must learn the first technique first, because it is dangerous to focus too long on one thing. A thought becomes powerful and can have more impact on the physical world the more it is meditated on, but without an open mind, the student is in danger of amplifying the worng thoughts. On the other hand, if the student stays open-minded, they never have a stable place to rest. By the same token, if you take Karl Poppers "I might be wrong" to the extremes, you end up with pure relativism and this useless idea that truth is relative. I liken this mode to the way that young people often gather experience. The adolescent gathers as many opposite views as he can, especially ideas that conflict with what he has been told by the elders. Just because your parents say that something is right does not mean it is so, and you spend all sorts of energy trying to construct your own view of what is right.

As people get older, I think they often ossify and move toward the other extreme. You collect experience that validates what you already know to be true. You do not look actively for things that oppose your worldview. This is similar to the buddhist "meditate on one idea" concept. Older people are more comfortable in what they believe, and their beliefs are more powerful at getting them what they want.

Is it better to seek experiences that might challenge your wisdom, or seek validation for your wisdom by adding supporting experiences to the feedback loop? I think both are necessary. I also think it would take a pretty pompous person to say that they know what the best balance is.


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