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How does curiosity and hunger for knowledge change the world for the better and what can be done to avoid mistakes?

Hypothesis - if we assume that we're all programmed to do, achieve certain goals, think, fail or not, be self-made or made by others - how to fix the system of the programme or make it work better?

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    May 22 2013: Here is food for thought on whether it is wise to make a goal of avoiding mistakes: http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html

    Many people argue, and I agree, that fear of making mistakes stifles creativity and impedes learning.

    In terms of curiosity and hunger for knowledge, it is surely much more likely for a person to learn, to discover, and to innovate with those dispositions than without them.

    They are not always enough, though, because some people's curiosity and interest in knowledge leads to gathering lots of superficial information without understanding anything in depth. An urgent need to understand things in depth is of enormous value in pushing the boundaries of our understanding.
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      May 22 2013: "The miracle of your mind isn't that you can see the world as it is. It's that you can see the world as it isn't. We can remember the past, and we can think about the future, and we can imagine what it's like to be some other person in some other place."

      Loved it, thanks.
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    May 22 2013: There are two possible ways to avoid mistake
    First doing nothing.
    Second doing things in same way again and again .
    Need to understand why we need to be mistake averse when its in the process of learning new things ?
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      May 22 2013: "doing things in same way again and again" - repetitive, robot or slave-like work. What if the same things you do again and again are...wrong?
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        May 22 2013: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result is insanity".....Albert Einstein
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          May 22 2013: Maybe in science.
          In life, if thinking positive, ordinary things done over and over again can produce good results, but only if they are good things.... I'm ranting, I guess, I'm not sure, best wishes.
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        May 22 2013: Nothing wrong with doing same thing same again and again rather good thing is probability of committing mistake will go down.

        Well Einstein is definitely one of the greatest scientist but he was also fond of playing violin. I am sure he was not playing same tune / music in his violin again and again :)

        Only downside with repeating same thing is that none can expect anything "NEW" from such effort. That's it. If someone is fine with that and doesn't get bored with it....there is nothing wrong really with that ...:D
        Have a great day.
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        May 22 2013: Yes they do.....
        Curious people possibly more as they try new way relentlessly :)
        Cheers
  • May 25 2013: Hi Dear Anna kazcorowska,I think curiosity and interest are the motivation of keeping a happy life in learning.Meanwhile I think mistakes are always one part of learnings:).Learn from it but avoid...
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    May 23 2013: Curiosity and hunger to know something (I shall come to talk about ‘knowledge later) are evolutionary tools of consciousness. They are not choices that we make; rather we are programmed socially to use these tools to adjust/modify ourselves and our environments in a better manner than how it is at present.
    This programming, to me, is not an assumption. I feel pretty sure this is how everything works. I have some reservation though about the qualification ‘better’ as in your question because it appears to me that there is a practical limit to our faculty to see the consequences of the adjustments/modification into future. Future is made through innumerable consequences and a large part of those has not formed into ‘knowledge’ to be used as reference.
    Knowledge is an edifice. Human curiosity and hunger to make meaning of things, immediate and eternal, does not work for such a gratification normally IMO. But there are exceptional people who collect the pieces all the time, synthesize them into a coherent pattern and record. It’s only accessed when the society and mind attains a level of sophistication. By default human mind may not be hungry for ‘knowledge’.
    The question of mistakes becomes relevant only when we are into actions using knowledge. Funnily a substantial part of our knowledge is also about a profound history of mistakes. :)
    We can only avoid mistakes by not committing us into actions. Since that does not serve any purpose of evolution, we can only reduce chances of already understood mistakes and remain open for course correction because there is possibility that there will be new mistakes.
    One great way to remain open is to give up blind faith, superstitions and admit questions however uncomfortable they feel. One important such question is whether to put everything on ‘knowledge’ because Plato defined knowledge as ‘justified true belief’. I hope you will agree with me that truth is relative, so justification is relative, so belief is relative?
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      May 23 2013: "Funnily a substantial part of our knowledge is also about a profound history of mistakes. :)"

      Excellent point! It's the winners that write history, it's not a new thought.

      I agree. Truth can be defined in a lot of ways. When it comes to the truth being relative, justification and beliefs being relative... And since you mentioned Plato... Can't it all be summarised as the good old "panta rei"?

      Best wishes.
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        May 23 2013: That's for a neoplatonist to decide. The human faculty is under a dichotomy in as much as one part of it is conditioned/programmed to seek changes towards progress (where curiosity and hunger for knowledge plays a significant role) whereas other part can glimpse the intrinsic relativity of things making choices look futile.
        I won't go up to nihilism simply because of it's anti-dialectical assertion and take a stand in between. We can and should change for relative better in relative small timescales in relative progress but should not be blown away by it. Have you seen kids playing pretend play? We can very sincerely pretend play and its not something we should despise.
        EDIT
        I forgot to say that you are welcome.
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    May 22 2013: The 'will' covers a lot of territory. I can will myself to practice the piano and by so doing, learn to produce beautiful music. I can not will myself to practice flying by waving my arms. The medium is the message translates here into 'the body is the instrument." What we are could be analogous to a program limitation or function. So by what we are we are able to do some things and not do others no mater what our will might wish or desire. So, in some cases the will is totally free. Yes, I will practice. No I will not practice.
    But if I am 1.2 meters tall and will myself to become a pro basketball player, I may have more difficulty than I can overcome by will alone. To try to decide if the genetics can be improved for future generations might grow out of my failure to become a basketball star. I will marry someone who is tall!
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    May 22 2013: Another thought. This idea is about the question "How to fix the system?"
    A major obstacle to improving the system is how we calculate economic costs and gains.
    Businesses use cost/benefit analysis in two ways that cause mistakes in the long run.
    First, the term they use is too short. They want gains to be as quick as possible. So if the benefit takes too long, it is rejected in favor of a benefit that will arrive more quickly, even if it is not as great a gain as when they take a longer term course. The business invests in the technology that is a compromise. The best technology won't bring about the gain soon enough.
    Second, the costs are only calculated according to what must be paid to other institutions or individuals. Contracts are drawn up between businesses and each is agreeing to this arrangement. But neither side has to pay the cost incurred indirectly on the environment both on the production side and the disposal side. The erosion of topsoil which results from housing development is not a part of the calculations. The pollution of ground water which results from mining and oil development is never paid for by the mining corporations nor the oil producers. The storage of nuclear waste for the next thousand years is not part of the cost benefit equation used by power companies. The disruption of economies caused by nuclear accidents is not part of the equation either.
    If the long term costs were calculated as well as the long term benefits, businesses would not do business the way they do now. They want to be alive to benefit from the economics. An economic paradigm that puts the benefit far into the future is of no interest to the current paradigm.
    The fix would be for the political institution to require cost benefit analysis for a long term before a contract would be legal.
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    May 22 2013: Man's curiosity and hunger for knowledge is nothing less than the fuel powering the engine of science and industry. Without it the engine sputters and dies. "Mistakes" happen when the products of science and industry are used in harmful ways. How can such mistakes be avoided? Only by changing the very nature of Man.
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    May 22 2013: Your hypothesis statement "if we assume that we're all programmed to do, achieve certain goals, think, fail or not, be self-made or made by others." is too broad, taking both sides of many questions. The fundamental flaw is 'programmed.' If people could be programmed then all would be lost. I think you are describing - in general terms the wide variety of human talents and innate abilities, including curiosity, which is the hunger for knowledge. So I would translate "how to fix the system of the programme or make it work better?" into "How can we encourage people to develop their talents, innate abilities, and natural curiosity?"
    Then the answer reflects the problems caused by modern civilization. We encourage our babies to walk and talk as soon as they can. We give them toys to explore and satisfy their curiosity. Years pass and our attitude changes to "sit down, shut up, and do your homework." We have forgotten that one of the main purposes of civilization is to provide a humane environment. Our mistake has been to focus on producing workers rather than enlightened, curious humans. We have been operating on the assumption that only by work can a person lead a fulfilled successful life. Our institutions - especially education and business - operate from that point of view.
    So, how can people achieve a successful, fulfilling life without making the money required for life in our civilization? There are untold starving poets and painters who are examples of how we are not doing it at present. Ever since rich patrons such as the Borgias helped finance the Renaissance, no way has been found for "enlightened, curious humans" to live a successful life without help or a lot of luck.
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      May 22 2013: Thanks, I agree. To encourage free choice is and individual development is underestimated at times, that's the sad truth, but I was thinking more of the free or unfree will. If we assume that we are programmed... do we have free will? If we're programmed neurologically/genetically. If we are... are we programmed well? Getting carried away as always...
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        May 22 2013: Have we all, then, been responding to the part of your question that was not central to you? Were you really wanting us to respond to whether we agree that we are programmed or whether there can be changes in such built in programs?
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    May 22 2013: Curiosty and hunger for knowledge has definitely changed the world with so many new inventions .

    But the big question is for the better or for the worse.

    Has earth's environment changed for the better ?
    Are inhabitants of earth other than humans better now than before?

    Mistakes can be avoided if after our every action we can give answers to the above questions in affirmative.
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    May 22 2013: G'day Anna

    First of all Anna making mistakes is a part of learning, if the human civilisation didn't make mistakes we wouldn't know what we do now. Most human advancements have come from when we are at war which are huge mistakes for starters especially for the losers but human advancements usually excel in this environment.

    If we balanced out our greed which is spurred on by consumerist materialism with something else quite the opposite mistakes wouldn't be needed for our advancements as much, in actual fact consumerist materialism is a huge mistake to live just by without a balance of some kind, balance is the key.

    Love
    Mathew
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      May 22 2013: "If we balanced out our greed which is spurred on by consumerist materialism with something else quite the opposite mistakes wouldn't be needed for our advancements as much, in actual fact consumerist materialism is a huge mistake to live just by without a balance of some kind, balance is the key."

      If consumerism is at its heights and people surrender to it and lose grip then...balance is not a key to do something with it, you need something else, probably ;) Just a thought.
      Best wishes!
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    May 22 2013: Just an idea when it comes to communication innovation - wouldn't it be cool to be able to programme phones/e-mails to send a specific e-mail to a specific person at a given time? Type in a message/text or anything else and push - send at 10.00, send in half an hour... It's 06.40 now and I don't want to wake anybody up, hence the idea.
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      May 22 2013: This function is built in to Apple's Siri.
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        May 22 2013: I prefer to talk to myself than to Siri ;)
        I was thinking more of writing and then doing the thing manually :)
  • May 22 2013: Its the AWE that drives the cultural/philosophical/scientific evolution of our species. Im sure curiosity has an evolutionary aspect to it.. I mean what drove man to explore, create, innovate and what compels us to be on TED??? whats compels us to seek out knowledge and be committed to change the worlds even if sometimes are heads are in the wrong places? I think its the AWE of life that brought us to our current state of humanity and will bring us to the next paradigm.
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      May 22 2013: Thanks, Keith.

      What is it that gives you this feeling of awe you're describing and how does that inspire curiosity in you?

      Best wishes.
      • May 22 2013: Im inspired by knowledge of all kinds but what really inspires me specifically are the philosophical renegades of the enlightenment era who sought truth and justice despite the threat of death hanging over their heads. It reminds me that answers can be found if truth is sought and there is something very
        poetic about that era of history and the thinking of such men.. i guess i like to think i have that renegade, truth has no bounds type of attitude.. what about you??
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          May 22 2013: Do I really need to answer that? ;)

          Reminds me of a short novel in which a person sitting in his room needs a change. He describes the position of furniture - a table there, a bed there, a closet there. He shifts it around, calls it a change. It's not enough, he shifts it around even more, he calls it avantgarde. After some time he's still not satisfied so he decides to sleep in the closet. He calls it revolution. Then he discovers that it's uncomfortable, so he moves the furniture back to their original position, begins to sleep in his bed again remembering how he used to be a revolutionist. By Mrozek. A funny short story.
          Just a thought.
  • May 22 2013: I think that curiosity and knowledge are for human beings what the candle flame is to the fly. It's bright and warm and good for us, but if we don't view it with enough circumspection we get into trouble. I don't know that mistakes are avoidable, but perhaps the wisest people I know are 'optimistic doubters' and minimize their mistakes being that way.

    I saw a t-shirt that said: "Next time I will make better mistakes." Maybe it's a good motto...
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      May 22 2013: Thanks, Karl.
      How about - next time I will fix my mistakes better? :) After making better mistakes, that is.

      Best wishes.
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      May 21 2013: Is it possible for the internet to provide "the remotest villages and satellites" with knowledge that can effect them positively when the monolithic gatekeepers of the internet, such as Google, now push content to users based on computer models of what they might be interested in (or sold) rather than providing full, unfiltered access more akin to that of a traditional university library or the original BBS systems and FTP sites of yesteryear?
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          May 22 2013: I was referring to the "Filter Bubble" discussed in the the Eli Pariser TED talk from 2011: http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

          This talk informs us that although the old paradigm of search engines was to scour the known internet and provide relevant results from the whole, the new paradigm is to limit the search to what the engine determines the user will be most likely to "like" before the search is done.

          I felt this was relevant to your remarks as it occurred to me that although a tribal villager with access might have an interest in studying subject X, services like Google will only provide a subset of X, if anything, based on whether or not their algorithm find the villager "a qualified consumer" of the potential results.

          This is to say nothing of the limitations to access that specific nations may subject their citizens to or the diplomatic international laws that limit information access between countries.
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    May 21 2013: In my experience, mistakes are often the germ required for powerful change. Curiosity will, by nature, lead to some unforeseen elements. The moral/ethical value of the results of intellectual endeavor are most often attributed in hindsight; but, the stagnation that would exist without such endeavors is most certainly an evil that must be avoided at all costs. Admittedly, the mistakes and missteps that change and curiosity bring can be catastrophic. Still, the certainty of destruction that stagnation promises is a greater evil than the possibility of destruction brought out of the search for change/newness/improvement, don't you think?

    The deterministic ideal of individuals being programmed to do/achieve/think specific ways, I think, is an oversimplification that prompts belief in stagnating conservatism. After all, as has been debated by philosophers, if determinism is the rule, is there any potential for exception? Such concepts only work well when the interactions between variant individuals is neither considered nor evaluated. A perfect application on a perfect operating system will always run perfectly, true; that is, until a perfect virus or trojan horse changes the operating system or application and everything goes chaotic. Curiosity isn't the virus, it's the programmer who introduces the virus.