Monday, October 17, 2005

all you know

"light a fire burn up all you know"

The has been a change in the wind the past few weeks, a not unpleasant restlessness. I've been listening to a CD Ceone leant to me and several lines have been running through my head. The line above comes from Peter Mulvey's Shirt. I guess you could say that I've been asking questions.

I'm in the middle of reading Steven Levitt's Freakonomics and I am intrigued. In the intro to the book he says something along the lines of "all you really need to do is ask a good question and then answer it." Indeed. In the book he asks the reader to take a closer look at what we think we know about certain situations -- falling crime rates, the wages of your average crack dealer -- and see if the numbers back up the claim.

He quotes economist John Kenneth Galbraith who, apparently, was the first to coin the term "conventional wisdom". Galbraith defines conventional wisdom as 'that which is most easily understood and contributes to self esteem.' I was thinking about this as I read Gerry McGovern's New Thinking newsletter for this week. Gerry is arguably one of the leading experts in the strategic use of online content. In his newsletter this week he was talking about the problem of too much information. He drew an example of the FUD occurring in the news surrounding hurricane Katrina:

Hurricane Katrina exposed a serious and ongoing problem with misinformation. It was widely reported that more than 10,000 were dead, when the actual figure was a little over 1,000. It was estimated that it would take three months to drain the city. Within six weeks, it was largely dry.

He went on to say that "Human beings are much better at dealing with scarcity than with glut. This is particularly true when it comes to information." In this age of information what you don't say can be every bit as important as what you do say.

My Dad is fond of reminding me not to take information at face value. There's certainly a time and a place for that but I think it's interesting that we are as a group an interesting of cynical true believers. For an independent, free thinking, post modern society we are surprisingly quick to believe without question that which we have not seen with our own eyes, or reasoned through with our own logic.

I don't know that lighting a fire to every I know is the way to go, maybe for now I just need to keep asking questions.


JAnie & DAve said...

I like. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

JAnie & DAve said...

Janie never signs who she is when she posts. *pthpth*

I keep seeing "freakonomics" and wondering what it's about. I'm not overly interested in economics, but I LOVE the image of the apple/orange on the cover! I will say though, that "Ask a question and find the answer" sounds SUSPICIOUSLY like Secretan's "Find an itch, and sratch it" from his classic management fable "The Way of the Tiger" (yes, management fable). I dunno. I'd have to see it for myself, but Secretan's book is an international best-seller so I wouldn't be surprised if freakonomics boy has read it.
DAve C.