Scott Armstrong

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Does sharing ideas change minds?

Does the ability to spread ideas far and wide at speed mean that the ideas will get better? That there will be more new ideas? Or will we see regurgitation rather than cogitation?

Are people that willing to change their opinions and beliefs without rigorous experience?

In the age of social networking, does argument serve any purpose beyond that of entertaining pastime?

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    Apr 6 2011: One of the most interesting experiments that I ever read about demonstrated that most people do not know where the idea for a solution comes from. In the experiment people had to tie together ropes hanging from a ceiling. Two ropes were impossible to tie together unless the ropes were swung toward each other. Every participant was stimied until the experimenter 'accidently' hit the rope with her shoulder as she was leaving the room. Not a single participant recognized that the inspiration for soliving the puzzle was from the 'hint' given by the experimenter. My point is- we never know where our own ideas and inspriations come from. Dialogue may be like grains of sand accumulating until our viewpoint or ideas suddenly shift to something new. The influence of advertising and television would certainly argue that people shift their opinions without rigorous experience. Literature has been teaching and helping people to live and experience other lives for a very long time. Seminal works of art often change society.
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    Apr 6 2011: Yes, it can - in the right environment. Much of social media noise is people "sharing" without listening and without being open to change. TED Conversations are different. TED gets us closer to give-and-take dialog by structure and atmosphere, certainly more than tools like Facebook and Twitter.
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      Apr 6 2011: YES!!!
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        Apr 9 2011: So Colleen, you obviously understand Thai.

        Sanuck mak!
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          Apr 9 2011: I spent time there, and have a few words. I don't recognize "sanuck mak", so looked it up. Says it is not in the dictionary yet... mispelled...etc. Want to come back to my first language to share this idea?
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        Apr 9 2011: Perhaps sanuk mak then. Means "lots of fun". Lived and worked in Chiangmai (north) and Songkhla (south) at the close of the Vietnam War. Ate at a pretty good Thai restaurant last summer in Burlington. Have you tried it?

        Now, back to the debate, eh?
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          Apr 9 2011: You wouldn't be having a fun enriching experience here would you???

          Been to Bangkok several times, but most enriching, was hiking for a month, north and east of Chiang Rai. Also spent time on the island of Pee Pee in the south:>)

          Burlington...resturant...yes...depending on which one you're refering to:>)
          I was going to e-mail you with the language question, but you don't have that feature in your profile. I do:>)
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        Apr 9 2011: OK, now you are just teasing. I believe I am having as comparable an experience here as I would have on any other social networking site. We could just as easy take this to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or Tumblr. Readers will no doubt, and if this indeed is a high-brow site, think this should happen at this point.

        So, you enjoyed hiking in the Golden Triangle? Interesting. My experience along the Mekong River perhaps was a little different. The driver of our boat returned machine gun fire to a hut on the shore. Wished I had worn Depends that day.

        Are you purposefully deflecting me from the topic?
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          Apr 10 2011: I think I'm purposefully luring you into the topic:>) I don't enjoy arguing against something or someone, and I do not engage in trying to change anyone's opinions or beliefs. I like finding commonalities, and sharing information from there. That is an idea I wish to spread, because I believe it is worth sharing:>)
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      Apr 7 2011: After two months of TED Conversation exposure I'd have to say that I disagree that TED is different in any way to any other social networking outlet.

      No, I stand corrected. The difference is people here 'think' they are having an enriched experience whereas elsewhere there is little pretension.

      I still feel that conversing with the authors in the Theme section is different.
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          Apr 7 2011: Thank you Isabell, I will check this out.
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          Apr 8 2011: Isabell, thank you for "sharing" that. I learned something new, which means I have changed my mind because, thanks to what you "shared", my mind is no longer the same.

          (Alas, maybe it is only a pretentious feeling of enrichment. - I'm just playing here.)
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          Apr 8 2011: This isn't becoming petty, is it? I shan't take part.



          Wait, I changed my mind.
          WOW!! This enlightenment thing is way easy and fun too!
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          Apr 8 2011: HALLELUJAH!!! :>)
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        Apr 7 2011: Different strokes for different folks - hence the ridiculous amounts of social nitpicking sites.

        I find the discussions on TED far more interesting than what a facebook user might have for tea is all..
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          Apr 10 2011: Exactly! Knowing that my friend has brushed their teeth or that they are going through typical teenage angst does not interest me!

          The difference between TED and Facebook isn't the pretension. The difference is that on Facebook it is a bunch of individuals talking about themselves "to" each other whether the "other" listens or not. On Ted, it is a bunch of individuals talking about ideas that have to be fully listened to in order to be talked about and understood.
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        Apr 7 2011: By what mechanism will people know they have had an enriched experience?

        I "thought" I was having some but apparently not?
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          Apr 7 2011: Whatever gets you through the night.

          Music quotes are my fav too!

          *LIKE*
      • Apr 7 2011: If you think you're having a enriched experience, then aren't you?
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          Apr 7 2011: If you are hoping to utilize René Descartes', "I think, therefore I am" philosophical statement to prove one's existence as an applicable assertion here then you, unfortunately, are making a typical and rudimentary logic error.

          Wikipedia's entry got it nearly right - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum
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          Apr 8 2011: I agree mark...if I think I'm having an enriched experience, I am in fact experiencing it.

          E A Mercer: What? If we are hoping to utilize a philosophical statement to "prove one's existence as an applicable assertion here then you, unfortunately, are making a typical and rudimentary logic error"? Are you saying that those of us who believe we're having an enriched experience are really not having one because you have decided that we're making an error in logic? No wonder you're not percieving an enriched experience on TED! LOL:>)
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          Apr 8 2011: LOL too funny Colleen. BTW luv yur pic.

          My original challenge was addressing Drew's statement that,

          "TED Conversations are different. TED gets us closer to give-and-take dialog by structure and atmosphere, certainly more than tools like Facebook and Twitter".

          If this is indeed a different venue that champions the rather ambiguous conditions as set out in the above statement, then let's put it to the test. Or we can continue with platitudes, whatever.

          I'm just saying...
          *wink*
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          Apr 8 2011: Kob Kun Ka
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        Apr 7 2011: Thanks for the link. I'm still swilling that around and trying to absorb it. I've always found heavy philosophical debate boils down to the words chosen to communicate the point and their definitions and their meaning.

        I figure that I know I exist because I pay taxes.
  • Apr 6 2011: People tend to associate themselves with people who share they own views on life. That is just how we operate. We like being with people who agree with us. As a result, usually, we develope a provincial, narrow-minded idea of how things are, why things are and how they should be. At least, this is from my experience.

    TED is great because (although first person interaction is much better) you converse with people from all over the world. They all have all sorts of beliefs, perceptions and ideas. As a result, you hear "the other side", so to speak. These conversations force you to consider the other side. I have always tried to respect the ideas of others, because it is arrogant to think that your view on things is the correct view.

    So, my vote is YES! Sharing ideas can change minds, if you are willing to consider them. I have changed my mind several times thanks to TED.
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      Apr 6 2011: Can't thumbs you up anymore Colby
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      Apr 6 2011: Colby, you are right!
      People tend to associate with people who share their own views...it is how people often operate. We like being with people who agree with us...and sometimes develope a rather narrow-minded idea. The conversations on TED do not "force you to consider the other side". It is a choice, and you are making that choice to consider other ideas. Perhaps you have changed your mind because you are open minded...yes...I think/feel that is the "right" answer!!! :>)
      Hugs to you Colby:>)
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    Apr 6 2011: Good question Scott!
    Sharing information definitely has the potential to influence people, and it is more possible with an open mind of course. Technology provides the ability to spread information farther and wider, and from there it is up to each individual to be open to the information...or not. Some people will stay attached to their own ideas and believe those ideas are the "one and only".

    Chi Che suggests that we can share our own ideas and not be attached to the result. When we are attached to a particular outcome as a result of sharing our ideas, we often try to convince others that we are "right", we often see regurgitation and sometimes hostility. When we can be open minded/open hearted and listen to new information, sometimes there is the possibility to build on ideas and create cogitation, which is good for all of us:>)
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      Apr 8 2011: I don't think you really need to bring a concept from forensic science to get this idea across and as usual, 'psychic' may not have been the best word choice, but I do agree.
      It's like reading a book. Even after having long forgotten its contents I think that by degrees, and often in the most subtle ways, its ideas can effect the way we act and, accordingly, affect the way we react to whatever comes next.
      The same is true, really, to any experience.
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        Apr 8 2011: I agree Michael, that often in subtle ways, ideas can change the way we act and react in the life experence. Sharing ideas can change our perceptions if we are open to it:>)
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    Apr 6 2011: I think we are in the "dumping" stage of ideas-sharing.
    This survey shows 1 in 5 Americans have no religious affiliation: http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-09/living/us.religion.less.christian_1_american-religious-identification-survey-christian-nation-evangelical?_s=PM:LIVING.
    For now, social networking and idea-spreading is just going to shed old beliefs. We're going to hear a lot pissed off people who will regurgitate ideas in new perspectives just to vent. We are changing our ideas and new ideas won't be fully formed right now, they're just going to be thought up and vaguely discussed. But we have to start somewhere!!
    I think we should be content with how the world John Lennon, Bob Marley, Jesus and Ghandi wanted is forming: we are coming together :)
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      Apr 6 2011: I agree Mark that we may be in the "dumping" stage, it is part of the process of change, and we are beginning to come together. Sometimes, things have to be torn apart before they can be rebuilt. As Debra insightfully says: "Dialogue may be like grains of sand accumulating until our viewpoint or ideas suddenly shift to something new".
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    Apr 11 2011: I've had this happen through my blog and on my other social networks, so it is indeed possible! You'll need to be able to interact with people beyond your closed circle though.
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    Apr 10 2011: I think that sharing ideas is a process that allows us to learn something about the work of others or something what others have think.Spreading ideas is a progressive process , this means that ideas will get better ( like a mosaic piece for piece). From the spreading of ideas other people will be inspired to create other ideas and so ideas will always turn in cycles. That is my opinion or view about how "sharing ideas help other ideas to get born" ( sorry for my english )
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    Apr 10 2011: I look at this question and read: "Poetry." For me, a good poet is one who can make connections from one idea to another that I've never made before and, by doing so, allow me to better understand what that poet thinks of when he thinks of "X."

    Sharing ideas through TED seems to work the same way for me. I see people who are talking about compassion (for example) and tying it into business and happiness of the soul at the same time. It's a very Platonic undertaking roughly 2 1/2 millennium after the death of Socrates. These ideas allow us to connect parts of the brain that we didn't think were compatable in any way and, eventually, you realize that everything in the world is connected and it only takes the right stimulus to get you started.

    One last comment on his last question "In the age of social networking, does argument serve any purpose beyond that of entertaining pastime?" I would say a resounding YES! First, I fail to see what social networks are doing to potentially destroy argument. The last network I was a part of was Facebook last year and it didn't seem to do anything but eat time and show me how simple my friends' lives were. Argument is the breeding ground of new ideas which are obviously coming in by the barrel-full through TED, inspired classrooms, and personal experience. The reason that Plato's works are still relevant is because the idea that argument can lead to knowledge is universal and spans generation gaps all the way back to Attica.
  • Apr 10 2011: If sharing ideas does not change minds, what else will ? hehehehe. When some ideas that is banal in one field moves to other, that may have phenomenal effect and be a paradigm shift in other field. Even if it is regurgitation, it may end up well. I think social media ( not every social media) increases the frequency of such exchange.
  • Apr 9 2011: This conversation reminds me the philosophical question of whether ideas are self-initiated or inspired. Taking black swan for an example, people can easily change ideas or concepts when dealing with general facts, but it takes a long way for people to get used to such "mutilation" of perception. Changing minds like changing habit, people tends to tolerate and drawback. TED or other media platform provide such momentum, but after people get used to the "exposure-culture-shock", we can't expect people to follow up so quickly or change minds as fast as the signal transmits.
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    Apr 9 2011: Yes, only if these ideas are executed
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    Apr 8 2011: It does in the movie Inception
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    Apr 8 2011: Ideas are almost always a position on how the world works or will work given a set of circumstances. Clearly any mind can be changed by an urgent enough set of circumstances. Having said that there are two points.

    First, that not every mind can be changed by the influence of a specific person.
    Second, some minds can be changed by anyone.

    ...ah, humanity.
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    Apr 8 2011: I do think that sharing ideas can change minds :D in fact words are very powerful tools to communicate and in this case they can start changing actions I think TED brings not just boring theory but combined with great stories told by real and innovative people who want to awake us to DO SOMETHING is wonderful inspirational and it can be applied in anybody's life
  • Apr 8 2011: Sharing in my humble opinion is the key to changing ideas, though the success of this metamorphosis or morphing of this idea into a ferrero rocher, where and idea can have several layers may they be, intricate or completely and irately stupid, depend on a few things. The factors contributing most to how an idea metamorphises depends on, the milieu of the person and well as their internal subjective interpretation of their reality not forgetting their relative open-mindedness. Open mindedness and allowing one's idea to be scrutinized by others is, I feel the single most important contributer to the furthering of science, one need to leave the idea of self to the side if we're to progress in science and make this world a better place.
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    Apr 8 2011: I think that sharing ideas can absolutely change minds. Rarely immediately so and with simply the idea itself, maybe not, but the train of thought that it might inspire, and the insight and experiences to which it might lead certainly can. They certainly do.

    There's nothing quite like a new perspective. Exchanging ideas is immeasurably valuable.
    There have been quite a few TED talks on the spread of ideas and innovation. These things are contagious, and now they're worldwide. It's remarkable.
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    Apr 7 2011: Hey scott fellow kiwi - lots of questions in here - social networking i think certainly shares ideas...does it change minds?, not so sure - i do wonder if it overloads them and makes it all a bit grey - look at all the wonderful work that is and could be done to enhance our environments.. .the energy that can go into this moves with what is happening in the news at the time, the budget to push and how many people are throwing something at a whaling boat (that actually makes the news).

    i think people are willing to change minds without rigorous experience, dare i say it look at religion.....based on what experience do people suddenly join a religion....change beliefs or for that matter start beliefs, generally this change is brought on by a need of belonging and the basic lack of knowing what to do so its easier to be led ??

    i think that minds can change through the sharing of ideas...but the idea generally has to have something that will "effect me" pretty quickly and if someone else could get it started that would be good to as i need to meet a friend for a coffee.

    Does speed help...hmmm? I think again it makes it grey..."oh thats a good idea...i say to a friend who instantly tells me of one they saw on ted,...you tube..facebook....i think the speed and amount shared makes a lot of people aware and gives them the ability to speak of change rather than being the change...phew...i need to breath.
  • Apr 7 2011: Ideas are like water flowing as river. When water hits rock, it just flows out. When it is soaked by the sand on the banks, life form grows and dwells. So first and foremost it does change mind, but the one that is ready to accept. Secondly, I think, the very basis of human existence is shared idea based - society, law, morality, art, science etc - and shaped by the personal idea of what 'self' is. So even a mind that is rock-like is already part of this shared existence.
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    Apr 7 2011: Yes, I agree, but I have a few remarks.
    We just agree ideas similar to our own ideas.if we listen ideas considerably different from our own ideas ,mostly we would refuse that ideas or we would argue against that idea.I mean ,most of the change mind come from our own experience or when we listen similar ideas that it is slowly going to change our mind (sorry for my English ,I´m learning it)

    Nosotros solo estamos de acuerdo con ideas similiares a nuestras propias ideas.Si nosotros escuchamos ideas considerablemente diferentes de nuestras propias ideas ,la mayoria de las veces nosotros la rechazaríamos o discutiriamos contra esa idea .La mayoría de los cambios de nuestra mente provienen de nuestra propia experiencia o de ideas similares que poco a poco van cambiando nuestra forma de pensar .
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    Apr 6 2011: there are people on the margin. ready to go to the other side. only those, you can influence. it is enough!
  • Apr 6 2011: Definitely yes. In fact, I think this situation is like the difference between a person who has always lived in the same little town (and has communicated with a limited number of people) and one who traveled his/her whole life, discovering new cultures and new perspectives about everything life is supposed to be. TED gives us all the chance to improve somehow the quality of our lives - it might sound exagerated, but I really feel that.

    Plus, the human nature is doing its job and we have this great curiosity that makes us want to find more and more about things that we like, that interest us, that intrigue us.So in a way TED gives us also an impulse to.. at least to enrich our general culture.

    (I'm sorry if I made grammar mistakes, I tried to make myself understood)
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      Apr 6 2011: Mirela,
      You are PERFECTLY understood.....in my humble perception:>)
  • Apr 6 2011: I think that if a person has a conversation and not a monologue with another; i.e. both are interested in participating, then a fertile experience is shared. Both would have another perspective, or the same idea but as a second voice. From that seeds of thoughts are experienced and maybe something might take root and change either one or both ideas. As long as the conversation is respectful and selfless, that is the how change may propagate.
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    Apr 6 2011: Sharing ideas cannot change minds, but it will help for the unification of those people who sharing different ideas with same wavelength. This is what happened in THE 18 days peaceful revolution of Egypt. There is global need to understand the hidden Root of all ideas in-order to come out from the orthodox lock-up generated by our own image forming mechanism of the mind.

    When one has truly realized the linkage between ideas and their correlation with space-time, one will not assign more importance to ideas than to the underlying spiritual spontaneity. There is no good or bad idea. Everything is an outcome of the particular space-time where an idea will become relevant for a specific time-interval. The idea will turn into success only when the space-time condition is ripe. It is the space-time that generates idea, not the human mind. The most brilliant ideas in the history of mankind are also an outcome of the particular space-time. When the time is ripe it emerges through particular individuals with the force of revelation. William James says, "An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation".
  • Apr 6 2011: Scott, I think sharing ideas can change minds but more often I think it may be a catalyst for others ideas which encompass many. I believe we all see the world through our own little straw, so to speak. If we put all the views together, we get a better (though still incomplete) picture.
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    Chi Che

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    Apr 6 2011: Last night, I talked with my best friend about this. He complained to me that he had given me a lot of good advices and ideas, but I didn't pay much attention to that. So he felt that I didn't care him at all. But I want to say that everyone has his own viewpoint and we can't hope that others will agree with us completely. In my opinion, we can share our own mind with others but we shouldn't care the result too much.Maybe you can remember the idea at that time, but you will forget it very soon.Mostly, it's our own experience that change our minds, not others' ideas.
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      Apr 6 2011: Chi Che, I loved your points. I often tell my friends when they ask me for advice that it is worth exactly what they are paying for it - nothing. Most people have this sense that you should follow their advice but in reality the advisor only sees one small and imperfect perspective of an issue.

      Sharing ideas is a lot like rain. We never know where the water goes but sometimes it hits the right place and a brand new plant pops up that might never have made it without.
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        Apr 6 2011: Debra, I would seriously log on everyday to every one of your posts just to read your metaphors and insights. I have 2 questions:
        1. Will you bless the world with like a book or something?
        2. May I address you as Debra-san, Master of Metaphors and Words?
        Just kidding about the last one, but seriously, good post
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          Apr 7 2011: Mark, Mario and Jimmy, I am really delighted that you found something worthwhile in my responses. I had a surgery last week and you are making me feel better!!
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        Apr 6 2011: couldn't agree more with you two.
  • Apr 7 2011: Sharing of ideas can be both fun and challenging. Most often people refrain from speaking because they worry if they have something worthwhile to say or if someone else might find their ideas interesting. But through sharing I believe we can further clarify our own thoughts. However, one must be prepared that not every one will agree with the idea shared, some may criticize it if it does not fit their schema and still others might ignore it. If you are prepared for this then through the process you can learn.
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    Apr 7 2011: yes, ideas are what led to great inventions that have over time change the way in which mankind operate.
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      Apr 7 2011: The first step to accessing our own sub-conscious and reprograming our way of thinking is to assimilate new ideas, which we may learn by sharing:>)
    • Apr 10 2011: @ Kathy,I do agree that our sub-conscious part play a vital role but we do have an access to sub-conscious part (I agree we cannot control it 100 %) . If sharing idea can change personality and perception of person, then it must have change the mind or am i missing the point ?
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          Apr 10 2011: Kathy K,
          You are absolutely right...it is a matter of semantics. LOL:>)
          A photograph of food cannot nourish us, but it sure can make us hungry:>)

          Sulav Duwal,
          You are not missing a thing! You said the same thing, insightfully, with fewer words:>)
          By the way...I LOVE Nepal...had a great time hiking the Annapurna mountain range, white water rafting the Seti river, and exploring Chitwan National Park:>)
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      Apr 10 2011: I agree that the idea itself does not change the mind. If I don't take a moment to absorb (consciously or unconsciously) something you share with me, then it can not be a catalyst. Yet, I may be misreading your comment, but when you say "when we are able to access ... our sub-conscious and reprogram" it sounds like you are implying a conscious action. I don't think consciousness is necessary for our mind to change. In fact, our mind is absorbing things all around us and making connections all the time without our consciousness being aware.
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      Apr 6 2011: I've got to admit, although I can be open-minded, I like to hold pretty tight to my theories until I've chewed them 25 times.

      I often find that reading and listening to other perspectives leads me to refine my ideas and perceptions, which I suppose is the best you can expect if you want people to think for themselves..
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    Apr 6 2011: similar question: during evolution, a gene becomes better? a genome becomes better? all we can say is the phenotype becomes more appropriate as of now. what ideas are selected as most accepted? the best ideas? these are deep questions. related talk:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_dennett_on_dangerous_memes.html
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    Apr 6 2011: I agree with Max in that innovation comes in cycles. We humans are creatures of habit and for many of us, change (both in action and thought) is very difficult. Little bits of information, possibly from many different sources, may be what sways us to change out mind about something. If one person says that it's a good idea to eat prunes for breakfast everyday, it may not be enough to make a person change from eating bacon. But if all of your friends say that eating prunes is a good idea, you just might try it. And the more ideas spread, the more this can happen.

    For the record, whenever I am going out for a night on the town, I ask my husband what I should wear. "Should I wear the red dress or the black pantsuit?" I say as an example. He says, "I think you should wear the red dress." And I ALWAYS end up wearing the black pantsuit LOL. Not sure what that means...
  • Apr 6 2011: Excellent question.

    We’re social animals. Communication / conversation and are a way it manifests. Argument is part of that. That technology has increased our ability to communicate with each other doesn’t make the benefit of argument invalid.

    A well balanced diet is good for you. If you add a large amount of sugars, you will become obese, but that doesn’t diminish the body’s use of vitamins, minerals and protein. Perhaps high sugar intake may negate proper nutrition’s benefit health wise but that doesn’t mean vitamins, minerals and protein are not being used.

    All in all, I suspect the ratio of 'well thought-out argument' to ‘noise’ is the same, and the percentage of people willing to change their minds in the light of one vs. their personal experience the same as well.

    Have convinced or entertained you?
  • Apr 6 2011: Scott, that last line " does it serve any purpose beyond that of entertaining pasttime?" touched my nerve, I have a dim feeling of recognition of disturbing truth. I will think about it.Thank you.
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    Apr 6 2011: "Two minds are always better than one" so yes spreading idea will able to make it better.
    If the mind is open , than definitely it can change mind.
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    Apr 6 2011: YESS!!!!!

    (I just wanted to make this one of my conversations, will say more later, good conversation)
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    Apr 6 2011: Innovation comes in cycles. Someone thinks up a revolutionary idea, that ideas spreads and a bigger set of ideas forms because of that breakthrough. This explosion of innovation then becomes the norm for a while, until someone else comes up with a better idea. and the whole thing begins again.
    The internet is speeding this cycle up. New ideas are being spread at incredible rates and in turn being created at incredible rates. We are quick to accept a new idea as the norm nowadays, but we are just as quick to move on to another one.