Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Are we brave enough to live for the future?

The past seems a simpler place to think about - the future is so messy and unpredictable.

Years ago educational philosopher John Dewey wrote that the best preparation for the future is to live well today. Good advice.

A while ago I listened to an interview about such things.

Hindsight bias, it seems, drains the uncertainty from the past while looking into the future is just so unpredictable. This uncertainly interferes with our judgment and provides us with a bias to conservatism.

Our conservative autious minds tend to see minor changes as progress but most of such changes are inconsequential. We, it seems have two sorts of minds - a reasoning one and an emotional one. Over the centuries we have learnt to distrust our emotions but they still underpin our actions. Unconsciously our minds decide quickly if any event brings a feeling of fear or is positive. Reasoning is just too slow so we need to learn to value our emotions positively.

Research shows that it is our unconscious minds that make all the decisions - our intuitions - our gut feelings. The trouble is that this goes against what we have been taught to believe. After our mind has been made up ( by itself) we go over the event and reconstruct it as if we actually planned our actions and then we make up rules for the future.

This quick response comes from our stone age past when decision had to be made fast for pure survival.The trouble is today we do not live in this ancient world. Today electronic media 'burn' memories, such as stranger danger, into the brain making us fearful.

As a result we are becoming a risk averse society. Our media is full of bad news to be worried about and all well beyond our immediate experience- this is in contrast to our stone age ancestors.

Reality is being distorted.

Our risk averse habits widen. We need to be aware of this development and be more critical. We must learn to examine our emotions. We need real information, to debate issues and examine feelings. Stone age primitive 'on /off' thinking is no longer appropriate although our politicians revel in such simplistic thinking.As emotions rule our lives we need to make sense of them - emotional control/ awareness needs to be seen as positive.

Our stone age minds saw 9/11 in vivid colour in our living room. This tended to make us afraid of flying irrationality but it more dangerous to travel by car. After 9/11 people travelled in cars rather than flying and far more were killed than if they had flown.

Learning to adapt to new fears is both a blessing and a curse. We get habituated to such things as nuclear war and climate change. This is why so many don't care about climate warming.It is too big for our stone age brains to comprehend. Too abstract. But with stranger danger we over emphasize the danger.

As a result of being risk averse we have become a 'cotton wool' society.

We need a more realistic approach

We need the confidence to take more risks, to stop being so compliant, and this can only be done by really examining the situation, the facts, and not being side tracked superficially by our emotions, or fears, as if we still lived in simplistic immediate stone age world.

The future needs us to be risk takers.

Seems to make sense to me.

Life is safer than we have come to believe about some things and more dangerous about some big things we can't comprehend. We need to take risks to cope with both.


Anonymous said...

It would seem we have to encourage students to be risktakers in safe environments and to stop and gain information about bigger issues to get a better picture if we are to stop being so fearful and risk averse.

Bruce said...

We need to 'train ' our students to take responsibility for their own choices. Teaching these days is to much about following teachers' ideas. Kids need to take risks and face up to consequences - but we need to help them gain both skill and confidence to do so.