TED Conversations

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

is the death of free thinking down to society or our education system?

There has been a recent demise in the amount of free thinking done in the world. if one compares our generation in comparison to other decades, protests of 70's, creativity of 80's and innovation of 90's, on must ask the question, why do we no longer question things or fight for what we believe in? I originally believed it was society, that we believed that there was nothing more to think of, nothing new after computers to think of, that we had reached the final frontier according to society. As well as there not being a cause high profile enough for people fight for, nothing like Vietnam for people to fight against. Then i realised that possibly it is not society or what is happening that is killing our need to free think, fight and/or innovate. Yet are we not in the same situation as past generations? Eg. They invented the TV but we felt the need to invent the computer. Is our school system not possibly, by constricting us to such extents, possibly killing free thinking and making what is possibly, extinct? They change the way we perceive problems so we approach it with blinkers on, instead of allowing our free thinking and imagination to solve problems in a whole variety of the ways? Which has the greater influence f the two ...?

+1
Share:
progress indicator
  • thumb
    Jan 8 2013: Why do you say people no longer question things? Where specifically is this true?

    Why do you say people are less invested in creativity and innovation? Where specifically is this true?

    It seems that in many parts of the world people are extremely expressive of their dismay about the status quo, with great and vocal disagreement about how to change things.

    It also seems that there is enormous interest in entrepreneurship, both private and social, a large industry of making individuals and businesses more creative/innovative... The big thing now in this area is "design thinking."

    People take pride in being different, innovative, critical of one or another version of the establishment, thinking outside the box...

    So I am having trouble finding some traction in the premise here.

    It is a very interesting question, I think, why in popular culture so many people are so heavily invested in the assumption that "we" no longer think and question, no longer invest ourselves in using imagination to change what we find wrong in the world and so forth. Is it about the desire to define an identity or group identification a bit superior to an "other" who is for the purpose usefully caricatured as unthinking and unimaginative?
    • Jan 9 2013: You and I are absolutely on the same page.

      I think a lot of people try to apply their localized life onto the general population. They hear bad news in the media, and they irrationally think that those events are universal.

      Innovators and free thinkers are out there as they always have been, doing what they have always done - creating and improving, or purposely destroying and harming the world we live in, and carrying, on the backs of their efforts, all of humanity.
  • thumb
    Jan 8 2013: i don't know if free thinking is in decline. but if it is, i would point out that the education system is a created by the society, so the ultimate cause of lack or abundance of free thinking must be society. we don't have anyone else to blame.
    • Jan 9 2013: Man you and I agree too often these days, what has the world come to?
  • Jan 8 2013: How many threads do we need attempting to argue against the value of education? In order to discuss the cause, we must first demonstrate that the basic premise is true - that free thinking is dead. It's not.
    • thumb

      Gail . 50+

      • +1
      Jan 8 2013: It has certainly gone dormant in the larger part of society.
      • Jan 8 2013: It has ALWAYS been dormant in the larger part of society. That is what is meant by being a free thinker - a willingness to go against the majority in thought; to create something new and different.

        Your argument suggests that something has changed. Prove it beyond anecdotal BS.
  • thumb
    Jan 8 2013: 3rd one is most important for Free Thinking that is Individual's Curiosity and desire to Think out of the Box

    No society / education system ever allowed Free Thinking....
    • thumb
      Jan 8 2013: Isn't that the truth. (Well, it can't be stamped out, but it can be so hidden that only a rare few ever find it)
    • Jan 9 2013: To earn a PHD, usually you have to propose something new.
      • thumb
        Jan 9 2013: I don't think, Brock, that the value placed on imagination within education is limited to the elite level at all. I think students who combine rigor of thought, a drive to understand deeply, and a disposition to think independently and imaginatively are those who excel in educational settings from high school on.

        But...those who are imaginative but do not engage in rigorous thought or and who are confident of their thoroughness of understanding even when they don't understand the matter at all, often will do poorly despite their imaginations.
        • Jan 9 2013: I agree completely. A solid understanding of the fundamentals(even to a lesser degree than a PHD) actually empowers the creative and makes them more effective in their creative endeavors.

          A fun example might be: How do we send a man to the moon without first learning physics?
        • thumb
          Jan 13 2013: It's not matter of believe , rather talking about facts and proven pattern like "normal distribution".... which got no perspective !!!

          Yes 360 degree perspective could be the best, definitely some people have it. However which perspective I am missing you think? How sure you are about that ?

          I am also aware of "selective blindness" to facts. Thats natural also because despite of that humanity progressed and will do same in future
        • thumb
          Jan 14 2013: Fritzie, Diffusion Innovation in society almost all cases follow normal distribution curve.....that in turn gives the picture of readiness of society in accepting innovation....

          Does it sound relevant to my argument ?
      • thumb
        Jan 9 2013: Understand your point about PhD but that again a process of certification.......though I don't have the statistics just as helicopter view...how many breakthrough ideas came so far from PhD thesis any idea about it?



        Socertes, Plato, Darwin, Galileo, Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Newton, Wright Brothers, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, (list will go long and long) none had PhD .....but how they changed the thought process of mankind?
        • Jan 9 2013: "how many breakthrough ideas came so far from PhD thesis any idea about it?"

          Well, that is an interesting question, and I don't know the answer. However, if it were only once in the history of earth, it would still disprove the statement: "No society / education system ever allowed Free Thinking"

          Consider John Nash of "A beautiful mind" fame... His doctorate was earned with his introduction of Game Theory that flew in the face of conventional wisdom regarding economics.
        • thumb
          Jan 11 2013: You know what you wish to believe, I think. It can be useful to try to see the other side as well.

          There is a recent book edited by John Brockman in which about 150 of the top thinkers, mostly but not all science and analytical people, answer the question, "What have you changed your mind about?"

          It is a shame that in modern times, at least, the willingness to stick to your position is so respected and the willingness seriously to consider other perspectives and change your mind from such open-mindedness less so.

          Education/school is one place that encourages considering other perspectives. But often once people leave school, they just try to fit all the facts they come across into a prefered world view. Confirmation bias, it is called.
        • thumb
          Jan 13 2013: Salim, I am answering as close as I can to your question. I very much know what a normal distribution is but do not understand whether or how it relates to any argument you are making.
      • thumb
        Jan 10 2013: And that result did earn him his Nobel.

        In reference to our earlier exchange, the reason I raised the point about education, imagination, and disposition to deep understanding and rigor is that too many people, I believe, talk themselves into the idea that their failures to excel in school stemmed from the environment's intolerance of imagination or critical attitudes when,in fact, it was their own unwillingness to confront their misconceptions, to think critically, or to be wrong that truly stood in the way.
        • Jan 10 2013: I actually don't think ANY student feels like their creativity is being stymied. I was in the Air Force for a really long time, and now I am going back to school on the GI Bill for a degree in computer science. I've lived in both the real world and academia, and both are fresh in my mind.

          I am in school now and I can unequivocally say that academia encourages free thought more than just about any other place on the planet. More than that, I think some of the people posting here KNOW that that is true, and that is what they truly detest.

          I just don't trust the motives of people that want to discourage education, or to try and perpetuate myths and fear of educated people.

          It is pretty easy to raise the BS flag, because their argument is blatantly absurd on the surface. I love doing this though, because it allows me to challenge their motives and to mock them. In doing so, I let them take one step forward, but then I knock them two steps back by destroying their argument and then their motive!!! lol

          Educated people tend to be more politically liberal and also tend to be less religious. Not all, of course, but the data is pretty clear.
        • thumb
          Jan 11 2013: The basic question , is whether Dr. Nash or Einstein was made by society or certification system we have in place....
          Not aware of Dr. Nash case , will try to know but about Einstein referring to his boigraphy it's clear how much he was built by society or certification system to be once EINSTEIN. Moreover you agreed that he was not good in other subjects....so did the certification system gave him good grade (which is the method of ackonwledgement in education system) , if not how he was then encouraged by society or education system as kid ?

          "Adoption of Innovation" follows normal distribution curve.......however the innovation in commercialization can drive that adoption a bit quicker otherwise it will be slower or even die once.......that means innovation need to be supported by another innovation.....it's not that our society always jumping to accept an iinovation right as it comes....
      • thumb
        Jan 10 2013: I agree that perpetuating myths and fear of formally educated people is unconstructive at best and often has a self-serving motive. It provides a basis for throwing out evidence, knowledge, and understanding in favor of prejudices.

        I applaud those who take both their formal educations and independent education seriously. Formal education keeps you honest, because someone will likely let you know if you are actually clueless about a subject, whereas in independent study one can simply avoid any such check and can spend years becoming further and further deluded.

        I have had the pleasure of learning from and working with highly conservative educated people as well as liberal people. I have found educated people tend to be more open-minded, precisely because academic life is about considering different arguments and explanations, evaluating evidence, and so forth.
      • thumb
        Jan 10 2013: Well , that can be subject for debate.... last statement of my first post here as reffered. As I have my own resolution not to open any subject here for conversation other than participating conversations that attracts my interest or curiosity, but will be you open that debate here....

        I have little idea how much favor the new idea of Dr. Nash got at the begining from society or education system....Generally I was referring about the pain and anguish new thoughts get from the society and education system over the ages.....Moreover with current GREED based model many new thoughts / ideas get killed if the innovator can show the profitability of the same....

        For new ideas and thoughts Galileo was jainled, what happened to Gandhi, Martin Luther King even Nelson Mandela for their new thoughts ? How much encouragement Einstein from the certification institutes he was going through to get so called education ? When first time TV or Computer was invented how much struggle those invention had to go through before being accepted....? The list can go long and longer to support my OPINION of that no society / education system ever supported Free Thinking.....

        Have a good day @ Brock.
        • thumb
          Jan 10 2013: Since you ask, both Nash and Einstein were acknowledged as geniuses even before the works that made them particularly famous. Einstein was a theorist and when his theory was empirically confirmed only about five years after he first proposed it, he became the most famous scientist in the world.

          It is myth that Einstein did poorly in math and science in school. He was superlative in those subjects, though not good in some other subjects.

          So neither Nash nor Einstein supports your case.

          Those whose ideas challenge political or religious powers, in contrast, might be expected not to have their ideas embraced quickly by those entities, but this has nothing to do with any educational system.

          I don't know whether TV and computer took off fast or slowly, though that would be easy to research. We can see how quickly new technologies take off today.
        • Jan 10 2013: @Fritzie

          I think the growth of TV and computers within the population was governed primarily by basic economic principles... i.e. the law of demand. As the cost of production decreased and subsequently the price as well, demand increased. Innovation followed Moore's law - a doubling of processing capability every two years. The quick adoption of new technologies benefit from the already low costs of production previously innovated by the computer and electronics industry.

          Just my thoughts on that one subject...
      • thumb
        Jan 10 2013: Hi, Brock. I looked up the case of TV, but did not post my finding, as a figured anyone who really wanted to know could look it up as well.

        TV became economical for mass production right before WW2 and so did not go into real production until after the war because of the diversion of resources, facilities, and interests for wartime needs and uses.

        In terms of the broader question, paradigms don't shift instantly, but this is unrelated to their strangulation by school systems. It is because supporting evidence needs to be gathered and evaluated.
    • thumb
      Jan 14 2013: Oh, I see Salim. All you are saying is that when an idea is new, people don't tend just to throw away all their prior ideas immediately but rather to to check it out first. After all, new ideas are sometimes wrong! In the case of innovation, there are first adopters and then others follow. I think there is a Derek Sivers TED talk on this. Some ideas catch on really fast, like Einstein's. In scientific inquiry, there often needs to be enough evidence before scientists consider a conclusion statistically reliable. This scenario is unrelated to obstruction by the educational system but does describe how ideas are not immediately overthrown and replaced by new ones until some empirical support gathers.In a case mentioned earlier like ideas that would appear to threaten a predominant religious faith or ideology the dynamic is different than the diffusion of innovation generally. These issues are far afield of "the death of free-thinking!"
  • Jan 8 2013: "if one compares our generation in comparison to other decades, protests of 70's, creativity of 80's and innovation of 90's, on must ask the question, why do we no longer question things or fight for what we believe in?"

    Protest is still happening, but it's less than it used to be because in most countries the population has aged (old people don't protest, except for lower taxes). I don't know what you mean by the "creativity" of the 1980s, that time was shallow, commercial and tasteless if you ask me. By innovation of the 1990s you probably mean IT breakingthrough. We have no such breaktthrough today but that might just be coincidence, it's entirely possible that nanotechnology, genetic manipulation and artificial intelligence will cause huge breakthroughs in the coming decades.
  • Jan 11 2013: People are not robots but they are becoming robots. Do not doubt that for one minute.
    To think otherwise is to lie to oneself, otherwise known as self-deception.
    Self-deception is the active misrepresentation of reality to ones own mind.

    It is because of our brainwashing institutions, some formerly known as our education system.
    The public is deceived, intentionally and has been for decades if not centuries.
    People now believe what they are told to believe, think what they are told to think, say what they are told to say and do what they are told to do. Conversely, they do not believe what they are told not to believe, do not think what they are told not to think, do not say what they are told not to say and do not do what they are told not to do.

    They are embedded with false information, rendering them Artificially Intelligent, as they become mental robots.
    They think voting works, that laws solve problems, that politicians are necessary, and that by remembering the past, they will not repeat it when that is exactly what they do. They repeat what they remember. One cannot repeat what one cannot remember. Today, they have Manchurian Candidates and they are Manchurian Citizens.

    The main effect of brainwashing is a dulled ability to reason. The second effect is an impeded ability to act.
    People are coerced with the threat of violence, constant terror and fear mongering, destroying the economy and the value of their currency in order to keep them struggling and fearing not having an occupation, all while continuing to being pitted like wild animals for survival and having it make sense to them while they defend it as "normal".

    Very ill.

    Again, William Casey, the head of the CIA in 1981, said, "We will know when our program of disinformation is complete when everything the American people believe, is false."
  • Jan 9 2013: It's impossible to separate those two even in principle.
    one is simply mirroring the other.
  • Jan 9 2013: There will always be influences that impact human thinking; but in the end human beings are not robots, and in some cases something new usually comes out of the pot-pourri of influences.

    Protests? There are protests as usual. On the streets and on the social media.
    One may be tempted to think free-thinking is on the decline because of the mass of people who follow trends like sheep, or because of the quick spread of original ideas to new places where a 'smart' folk can easily pass it as his or her own.
    But the world is still as it was in the past; still 2 categories of people: the leaders, who are usually few, who are insightful, who take responsibility for their actions, courageous and disciplined.
    And the followers, a mass of people.
  • thumb
    Jan 8 2013: Don't discount things like FOX news. Include all those media outlets (including movies) that teach us to "BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID!"

    Fear (and our culture is very fear-based) increases activity in the amygdala part of the brain. The amygdala (pronounced eh-MIG-da-la) is responsible for for the fear/anxiety we feel. It causes the body to put out cortisol and adrenalin, and it is responsible for short term decisions. Short term decisions, as you know, are not rational unless it's an emergency do or die situation - and not even then sometimes.

    Increased activity in the amygdala shuts off access to the frontal cortex & that's where RATIONAL, long-term decisions are made. That's the part that looks at situations, questions, seeks legitimate answers, and decides outside of the blinding limitations imposed by fear. It is the source of curiosity & critical thinking skills.

    The most effective way (known off) to change from fear-centered to curiosity centered is with meditation. Those who practice it say that there were noticeable improvements within 3 months. It has been proven to not only decrease activity in the amygdala, but to turn on the frontal cortext and actually thicken it & raise IQ up to 6 points. It also raises EQ (of necessity).

    But there is a quicker test. For one month, turn off TV, violent movies & thrillers, video games, and political/religious discussion. If you're a fundamentalist christian, stop going to church for a month. Spend that hour a week meditating. At the end of the month take some time out to asses whether or not you have fundamentally changed. If so, you might want to go the meditation route.

    Those who do this are more judicious in their choices about what they invest themselves in (use their time) forever after. They have discovered what "free-thinking" means and its importance to "freedom".