Friday, July 19, 2019

Insight: To swallow the sun

By Lorraine Glowczak

If you do any form of online shopping, products similar to what you ordered (or simply even took a moment to look at) appear in your social media feeds or other website searches. The same goes for certain information you search online – those similar topics of interest will suddenly appear in other internet platforms.

Often referred as the filter bubble, it is based upon a website algorithm that takes personalized searches and “selectively guesses” what information you’d like to continue to see. This can come in handy for online shopping by saving time searching for the products you prefer.

The downside to the genius of algorithms is that it also feeds us information that we have already developed an opinion about. This additional “information” continues to confirm our points of view – misleading us into believing we are more “knowledgeable”. But, perhaps worse yet, it can deceive us into believing that we are more “right” about our perspectives than we actually are. So right, in fact, that we scarcely listen to an opposing point of view, claiming others as closed minded, lacking intelligence, or not considering all the facts.

But, of course, we – on the other hand - are certainly opened minded and have considered all the facts ourselves. Afterall, the information confirming our perspectives is endless.

And, here I go – speaking of facts and online research, University Professor of Law, Business and Economics at Villanova University, Brett Frishmann had this to say about the subject in the online article, “Is Smart Technology Making Us Dumb”:

“I believe we may be making ourselves dumber when we outsource thinking and rely on supposedly smart tech to micromanage our daily lives for the sake of cheap convenience.
The internet provides us with seemingly limitless data…that could in theory enhance our intelligence and enable us to become more knowledgeable, to be more skillful or to otherwise use actionable intelligence. Maybe we could improve our decision-making, reflect on our beliefs, interrogate our own biases, and so on. 

But do we? Who does? Who exactly is made smarter? And how? And with respect to what?  Do we find ourselves mindlessly following scripts written or designed by others?”

Frishmann admitted that there are two sides to the story, and in some ways, the internet isn’t always making us dumber. And, for me, that’s the whole point. There are two sides to every story, and each contain some form of what is right, correct and true.

Author Barbara Brown Taylor stated in her book, “An Altar in the World,” that knowing what is right and true for oneself involves practice. “Wisdom is not gained by ‘knowing’ what is right. Wisdom is gained by ‘practicing’ what is right and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.”

For me, claiming to be 100% correct in any one perspective is equivalent to swallowing the sun (to borrow an analogy from author Elizabeth Gilbert on a different subject). Its action is impossible. So, I suppose I will practice listening to the other side of the story. And I will continue to practice – until I can swallow the sun.

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