[extropy-chat] Is Ignorance part of the genes?

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Fri Mar 24 01:46:56 UTC 2006

On 3/23/06, Samantha Atkins <sjatkins at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 3/23/06, Anne-Marie Taylor <femmechakra at yahoo.ca> wrote:
> >
> > I assumed that knowledge and ignorance must be part of the genes because

> > some end up being wise while others are very content being ignorant.  I
> > was curious to know if sometimes it's easier being content and have
> > no stress or being wise and having a lot of responsibilities. (For a
> > knowledgeable person  has a super set of the range of options).
> > Do you think it is part of our make up or do you think ignorance is
> > a choice?
> Becoming more knowledgeable is a choice.  Since it is a choice that
> some not inconsiderable effort compared to remaining relatively ignorant
> is not the default or most popular choice.  Humans conserve energy
> speaking.  It is certainly not easier than remaining ignorant.  It tends
> maximize longer term well-being and options for self and others.  If one
> values short term ease more than long term viability then ignorance is
> chosen, mostly by default.

To expand on this, while greater knowledge is often an advantage, it comes
at a cost, for example in terms of time spent, exclusion of other
activities, etc.

   - Whether or not this is considered good depends on the subjective
   values of the individual or the group doing the judging.  We have many
   examples where scientists and visionaries have been ostracized and

   - Whether or not increased knowledge provides a survival
advantagedepends on the nature of the environment and its specific
opportunities and
   threats.  There are many examples where having stronger community ties
   provides greater survival advantages than having greater objective knowledge
   which might distance one from others.

In our environment of accelerating technological change, I think that (1)
increasingly objective knowledge of how things work, applied to (2)
increasingly inter-subjective knowledge of our shared values (those that
persist because they tend to work) is the path to increasingly effective
social decision-making that will be seen as increasingly moral.

While I don't agree with the original poster's suggestion that "knowledge is
in the genes", I also don't think that, ultimately, "knowledge" or
"understanding", in the sense of a complete model, is in the humans either.
In a very profound sense, much of what we rely on is encoded in our
environment, including our culture.  In a like sense, we will do well to
intentionally contribute to building a broad framework of wisdom
incorporating (1) and (2) above while recognizing that it will be operating
at a level of complexity beyond individual human comprehension and its
*specific* behaviors will be unpredictable.

- Jef
Increasing awareness for increasing morality
Empathy, Energy, Efficiency, Extropy
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