June 2018

The Problem With Living A Reasonable Life

being reasonable

From an early age, we are taught to be rational and expected to live reasonable lives. Often, we do things because they seem like the logical thing to do. At the same time, we are sure our lives will fall into chaos if we didn’t follow our rules.

What Being Reasonable Is All About

Being reasonable suggests doing what is right, based on a set of internal rules. These rules are self-justified because they came from regulations we have justified in the past.

Economists believe that humans are rational beings who make reasonable choices. When given a choice of one or two dollars, they figure people will always take more.

But this doesn’t seem right, and people often make decisions for a variety of reasons. At times they don’t even seem to care about the reasons that seem obvious to everyone else.

Reasonability comes from science, or so we think. We figure we understand the rules of science, and that they show us the right way to live. We sometimes even pretend that our scientific reasons are a sort of moral guide.

Science itself shouldn’t be a problem. But the way we work with it prevents us from seeing the world outside our own constructed boxes.

People who think they know science often set limitations on what is possible. These limits become even worse when we deny possibilities in our own lives.

Along with this, people often say that nobody has any common sense, but common sense isn’t so common. What makes sense to me, may not make sense to you. So what is common sense to me is not be common sense to you.

On top of this, our sense of responsibility comes from our knowledge and worldview. If we think we are reasonable, which we usually do, then we will act within our frameworks.

We should be careful about assuming what is reasonable for others. Because at times we can’t be sure about what is going on inside our heads.

Why We Try To Be Reasonable?

Our most strong motivation comes from our understanding of the world. We make choices because we think they will bring us where we want to go. Meaning our knowledge of a situation determines which decisions we can make.

At a deeper level, as children, we discover cause and effect. By seeing things happen, we build an understanding of the reasons why they happen.

Being smart exposes us to more knowledge, which in turn creates more rules. These limits create a stricter sense of what being reasonable means. The more we know, the more our choices are confined to our standards.

People who know less may make stupid choices, but for them, they are the best choices they can make. Not knowing the rules in some cases, may even be an advantage.

Being reasonable makes the most sense and sounds like the right thing to do. It is especially true when we ask for advice. We are often told to be rational, which usually means following the same old rules.

Sometimes We Should Be Less Reasonable

Being reasonable can stand in the way of our hopes and dreams. Doing what sounds right, at times can be the worst thing we can do.

As children, we have grand ambitions and dreams about what we can do with our lives. We also have hope and are sure we can make them real.

But often when we ask our parents or someone we trust for advice, they tell us to be reasonable. In other words, they say you can’t make money doing that. This lack of support in a way forces us to choose something more practical.

As we follow their advice, we make choices that don’t feel right in our hearts. After a while, we believe our choices made the most sense. Then we start to forget about our dreams and the other possibilities in our lives.

We rationalize that we need a house, car and vacation. Then we figure we can’t get those things unless we live a reasonable boring life.

With this in mind, we make choices that go against what feels right, but we tell ourselves, at least we get to eat.

Additionally, for something to seem reasonable, we often need to see it happening. It needs to be proven to us by the world. It is challenging to do something you haven’t seen before, which kind of makes it unreasonable.

At times being reasonable sets limitations and barriers to doing what we want. Those barriers may exist, and we shouldn’t forget that. But we also need to realize that they may only be preventing us from trying to do what we want.

At times being unreasonable is essential. Ask someone famous, and they were likely told the most sensible thing was not to try. But they ignored that advice and did something seemingly impossible.

Happiness And Magic

The real magic happens in the moment, which is to say it unfolds quick and without explanation.

When things happen, we try to explain them away with reason and science. Sadly, this approach takes away the mystery which is often what makes them exciting and fun.

As we get older, we forget how to find happiness in what we can’t explain. A great example of this is how children react to a surprise. They get excited and laugh, and they show emotion, but they don’t try to understand or explain.

Kids haven’t had the magic taken away. They still live in a world of mystery and unexplainable things. As adults, we should follow the lead of children and live happier unexplained lives.

Life can be more exciting when we stop worrying about why. Simple things can bring pleasure when they are not understood. We need to try to be open to the unknown and be ok with surprises.

By letting go of rationality, we can see things for what they are, which is often unknowable.

The Real World Isn’t Reasonable

If we focus too much on science, then we will have an explanation for everything. That seems reasonable enough, but can we be sure it is an accurate description of the world around us?

There are lots of things that we can not explain. Popular science gives us the impression that we know a lot about the world around us. But in fact, we know very little about almost everything.

The problem with sticking too hard to what we think we know is that it makes our world small. When we accept our ignorance, we open ourselves up to an expanding universe where things can’t be identified so easily.

Most of what is possible is outside the range of what we can know at any given moment. We can be open and accepting of this explanation, or we can demand proof before taking action. The second, more popular option will only hold us back from doing great things.

Being reasonable isn’t always consistent. The truth is that we don’t understand enough to be too sure about almost anything. Often what we know, is only reactionary, instead, we should embrace the unknown.

A Less Reasonable Life Can Be A Better Life

I am not suggesting you entirely give up on reason. Many real-world risks can and should be avoided. On top of this, throwing all caution to the wind is foolish. Life can always be improved by living well and making good choices.

But we should be careful not to confuse living right with living the best kind of life. Sometimes we need to make irrational choices if we want to be happy and do more meaningful things.

It’s rarely reasonable to follow your dreams, but your happiness often depends on it. At the same time, know that even when you fail, you get satisfaction out of the process. Plus knowing you tried will let you live without regret.

If you want a meaningful life, you need to be willing to step outside what seems reasonable.

While living a sheltered life may feel safe, it won’t force you to look outside of what you know. In the long run, a safe life will rob you of all the most exciting and significant potential happenings.

The best thing you can do right now is live a little less reasonably. Embrace the unknown, and it will bring you more than you would expect.

Don’t let reason get in the way of living the life you want to live.

All News Is Fake News

fake news

Fake News has been around forever, well, at least as long as there has been news. But recently it has become a sort of joke about what the press has become. Fake news is said to be a threat to society, but not for the reasons you’d expect.

We are told that ‘fake news‘ is out to trick us and influence us into believing things that are not true. That may be the case, but at times, the label is used to censor voices that are not approved.

Fake news is a perfect tool to silence dissident voices. The problem is that it comes at a time when it is difficult to trust the so-called good guys.

We think we know who the good guys are, but can we trust them? Can we be sure that they are even trying to tell the truth? After all, they have been wrong about many issues over the years.

Consider these examples, most of the popular news sources were sure that Donald Trump would lose the election. They were confident that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And they were satisfied that no severe economic issues were coming in 2008.

Being cynical about what seems to be happening to the mainstream media. The use of Fake news could be about lost revenues and jealousy rather than truth.

The traditional press is getting killed by new media, like alternative news and YouTube. The changing of the guard could be an incentive to try and silence those who are profiting from this transition.

The 24 Hour News Cycle

There are different types of fake news with varying degrees of falsehood. Absurd conspiracy theories are not at the same level as CNN. But it would be difficult to believe that CNN wasn’t fake to some extent.

Suggesting this isn’t to point the finger at CNN specifically, as Donald Trump did. Instead, it is to make light of the fact that CNN is the biggest name in the news.

Profits power CNN, and it is without a doubt a business. Earning money for news means that its primary aim is ratings and ad revenue. This motivator also suggests that the primary drive isn’t information, but entertainment. Even worse, this means sensationalism needs to be a part of the day to day news cycle.

Compounding this, 24-hour news sources are often a mix of news and opinion. At the best of times, it is hard to tell the difference. Usually, the only thing we can be sure of is that it is likely a mix of the two.

The Problem With Political News

Another kind of fake news comes from sources that have a different political agenda. By necessity, a different political view comes from a different worldview.

Our worldview is an all-encompassing filter of what goes in and comes out of our minds. Meaning our worldview changes the way we see the world and events.

People on the left and right often have conflicting views. A lazy but popular option is to call the other opinion fake. When you disagree with a person’s worldview, most of what they say will not make sense to you.

Ideology creates a subtle form of fake news, as the falsehood comes from political views rather than facts.

Obvious vs. Hidden Bias

When someone is racist or sexist, their bias is often apparent. In a way, it stands out, in part because we are primed to notice these sorts of differences in people.

But other types of biases are much less clear. A great example is the bias of someone who grew up in America. This bias wouldn’t be apparent to most Americans, but Canadians can spot it.

There are always biases in people’s worldview. These biases are influenced by where someone comes from and how they are raised. Professional journalists tend to have a lot in common. They usually live in major urban centres and attended university. They will also have grown to respect news, as they choose it as a career.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, only that it is a factor in anything they produce. Unfortunately, this worldview is not obvious, yet plays a significant role in any content created.

To be clear, when people say fake news, they often mean false or untrue news. But I’d argue, it is more subjective and based on the personal views of the speaker.

Bias Becomes Invisible When Everyone Shares It

In newsrooms, schools, businesses and families, people tend to share similar beliefs. The sharing of views means that any bias amongst them is not visible or noticeable.

The deeper problem comes from human nature, as we often connect with people who we agree. In a sense, we unintentionally create a bubble where we usually only hear opinions with which we already agree.

Due to this problem, we also get less exposure to outside or controversial ideas. Control like this influences the way we perceive events and how we make sense of matters. The difficulty that comes from this is that it is common with the people around us, so it acts like a feedback loop. Our opinions now feed the views we hear about later.

People don’t intend to repeat biases. They are merely trying to be honest about what they believe.

Trusted Sources

When it comes to the news, we go to our trusted sources. We go to the places that we believe we can rely on to be honest. But these sources do the same thing for their information. They use similar sources over and over again because they believe they are truthful.

The problem with this is that it relies on a regression to the past. You believe the story today because the story yesterday seemed to be true.

The problem with a trusted source is that we always go to it for facts. But this means that they have informed our current opinions of what the facts are. For this reason, our views of what is trustworthy become cloudy.

For something to be a fact, it must come from a trusted source. But this reliance is circular, as we use what we already know as support for what we accept today.

What Are Facts Anyway?

There are often few facts for any event. If there is a shooting, we may know who the victim and shooter were. There are also the other W’s like ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when.’ But much of how the story is told is coloured by hidden bias.

If the story has a social justice aspect to it, it implies moral signalling. When race is a factor, it will bring its own assumptions. If there is a lot of depth that brings previously held ideas with it.

For simple events, the facts may be apparent. But most events are complicated, and complexity creates obscurity.

Science takes years of study to certify a single fact. How can a story written in a day get anywhere near the truth?

Besides, not giving all the facts may be a form of lying. The choice of what to include can often paint a different picture.

On top of this, it is impossible to get the whole story, as some angles are hidden or undeclared.

Now To The Risk Of Censorship

The biggest concern with fake news is that it creates a justification for censorship. The left and right label things as fake news to have them removed from public discussion.

Another issue is that if the news doesn’t come from a trusted source, it is by definition fake. This is dangerous because it stops less popular ideas from gaining traction. But it also can act as a barrier to entry for new news sources. If a story isn’t from a trusted source, it can be shadow-banned without notice.

Control like this creates a situation where only the editors of existing trusted sources can decide what is right. In a sense, they get to choose what the truth is.

An aggregator like Facebook also gets to decide what is real, because they control what you see. They can easily block stories that make them or their sponsors look bad. Censorship has already happened many times with Google and will continue in the future.

The risk is that if we are willing to label things as fake, then the line becomes less clear. This kind of censorship takes away our choice and inevitably controls what people say in public.

Is It Bad?

Yes, but fake news is only a problem if we let it get out of control.

It’s often impossible to know what is right, but letting someone else decide is extremely dangerous. We need to make better choices as consumers, and we need to choose our sources and not let someone else decide for us.

In the end, it is all fake news, and the real story is often only a matter of opinion.