Lesley Vlietstra

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Why do we as humans feel that our individual wisdom is of any value in dealing with global problems?

In view of the massive diversity in opinions on any subject under discussion, why do we as individuals feel that our wisdom is of value? All that we can agree on is that we disagree more than otherwise. Is personal experience enough to solve another's problem when their experience has produced the opposite view of how to proceed?

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    Aug 1 2013: When we all put our heads together we simply form a rockpile! Ask ten people how many three-cent stamps are in a dozen. Then compile the answers you get. Compare those answers to the correct answer. You ask why we think our wisdom matters? Because we are deluded narcissists!
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      Aug 1 2013: You were talking about other people, not you and me...right?
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        Aug 2 2013: Oh definitely Mike. I'm sure you, like me, are aware that there are four 3-cent stamps in a dozen, right? [12 divided by 3 equals four, right?]
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    Aug 1 2013: Walt Whitman doesn't have a TED account. If he did, he'd say:

    "Lesley Vlietsrta!
    Here is the test of wisdom;
    Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
    Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it, to another not having it;
    Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible off proof, is its own proof,
    Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is connect,
    Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
    Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the Soul."
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    Aug 1 2013: Self-validation. Ego. Despair. Vanity of vanities.

    I'm not Christian (or Jewish) but I'm going to quote two passages from one of my favourite 'wisdom' books:

    "I said, 'I will be wise,' but it was far from me. That which is, is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?"

    "When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how one's eyes see sleep neither day nor night, then I saw all the work of God, that no one can find out what is happening under the sun. However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out."
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    Jul 31 2013: Good question, But in dealing with global problems, isn't it just individuals doing the dealing. And from some of these who have made some remarkably dumb decisions in solutions to global problems, my wisdom couldn't do any worse.
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      Aug 3 2013: Remember the man who invented gunpowder? Didn't he say that his invention would bring peace and security to mankind.?
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        Aug 4 2013: No, as I understand the story, Chinese alchemists developed it as a means to have fireworks for great celebrations. It was Westerners who saw the potential for mass destruction.
  • Aug 1 2013: Individual wisdom is seldom followed because of human vanity and a selfish belief in their own superiority.
  • Aug 1 2013: We feel like this because deep down we know that, sometimes, it only takes one person with some vision and know-how to alter the course of human history. (Its also probably involves a fair amount of a condition called narcissistic personality disorder at just the right place and time.)
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      Aug 1 2013: Thank you Deepak for bringing in the thought that we need something higher than individual wisdom. But this also introduces the fact that not only do we have "individual wisdom", we have "individual divinities", whose followers are willing to oppress and kill those who disagree.
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    Aug 1 2013: I have no opinion or wisdom to offer. I will defer to the 'experts' and gov't officials to make decisions and determine things, because they are always working in my best interest and they're usually always right. So rather than waste my time with my trifling opinions, I'll just continue to work and consume like a good citizen because it is always better to suffer defeat than it is to seek the glory of influence. Usually safer too. Come children, pay no attention to those rabble-rousers. They'll only get you into trouble --- I'm sorry. I couldn't resist. Let me mention a few names of individuals who felt their opinion had value to offer: Marting Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus Christ, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth 1, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, etc. All of those individuals, and many many more, influenced the world and impacted global issues. I believe that we feel that our individual voice has value because it does. Any one of us could bring the next 'game changer' to the table. All the best, friend.
  • Jul 31 2013: First of all, where else besides our collective wisdom are we to find answers to global problems?

    Ideally, collective wisdom might be arranged to form a solution that is popular enough create a consensus on the course of action that should be taken to solve a problem. I think the most consistent method for finding solutions to global problems is collaborative and persistent methodical research to find the solutions to global problems that represent the best collection and arrangement of facts, observations and data from all knowledge on the subject available through history. Granted, since much of the knowledge builds on itself, there is a bias towards the most recent findings and changes. However, many solutions are found by combing through old ideas and looking for new applications.

    In forums such as TED, this is occurring, but because we are not really building a collection of all the thoughts on a particular subject, there is limited building. In another conversation i suggested building TEDWikis where key points from talks, conversations, conferences, and other sources were extracted and added to the Wiki to enable a quick review of ideas and thoughts on a particular subject at any time.

    Discourse on subjects is good, and can strengthen arguments and positions, if it is constructive criticism. TED's mantra of being ideas worth spreading and positive messages sort of cultivates this type of user forum feedback. However, discourse where everyone is just interested in getting their message across,and not truly considering prior responses, sort of defeats this purpose. In light of this concept,Fritzie makes a good point about the variety of perspectives often offering better solutions; Mike's point about everyone's opinion counting is a good one; Scott brought up the recent advent of social networking, which permits a wider variety of responder to a global problem. Until there is a software solution, we need to read and retain the opinions of others in comments.
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      Jul 31 2013: I agree with all the points you've brought out. Looking deeper into the subject though, one finds that there are many reasons why we fail to not only find solutions, but, more importantly, fail to implement the ones that collective wisdom suggests will go some way to alleviating the problems facing us as communities. Just one we could look at could be the situation of children in developing countries dying in their hundreds of diseases that are all but eradicated in richer countries.
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      Aug 1 2013: That was an interesting comment, Robert. But can I be honest about one thing? My eyes glaze over when a comment begins: "First of all..." I hear that and, first of all, I yawn.
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    Jul 31 2013: i think the massive diversity you mention has always been so. it is only with the advent of social networking that alternative dialogue has been enabled (propaganda is no longer one-way) and it has become evident just how many different views there are out there.

    i find it frustrating when changes to an industry, for example logging, cause protest from the workers. fair enough, their livelihood is at risk but, the industry itself should be retraining and and helping their workers into new areas.

    it's indicative of the broken process where the system allows for industry and business to be 'hands off' at the point where it counts.

    think about the production process - companies make a fortune producing, packaging and selling their product. they retain IP rights (copyright, ownership, and so on) but take no responsibility for the waste at the end of the process. that responsibility is, apparently, purchased by the consumer along with the product. i'm sure this is where your question comes in because there will be a lot of people out there who think i'm weird to expect mcdonald's, for example, to be responsible for ALL their waste.

    there are no easy answers, that's for certain, but government, industry and private business seem to be too obsessed with profit margins to really care about substantial change.
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      Jul 31 2013: Your thoughts on the question touch on one of the reasons why I asked it. Certainly there are concerned citizens in all countries and all levels of society who put energy into trying to educate and change where they see a need. But short sighted policies and practices by businesses and governments won't be changed by such means. Profit of whatever sort, be it monetary or power, will always drive such decisions, as you have observed. As individuals we can discuss, protest, deride and complain but we very seldom can change things.
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        Aug 3 2013: the people need a leader but unfortunately, power corrupts. the best leaders are the reluctant leaders and that is why they are near impossible to find.

        "don't follow leaders, watch your parking meters" - Bob Dylan
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          Aug 3 2013: You're thinking Scott, of the adage that 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. We can't have a 'leader', one person can't possibly solve or even imagine the problems that are likely to arise during his or her tenure. And a reluctant leader would soon become infected with a sense of grandiose self importance. I can envisage a squabbling crew of secondary functionaries each trying to convince the 'leader' that their idea of how to proceed is best. Pretty much what we have now, come to think of it.
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    Jul 31 2013: I think people bring different learning and perspectives from their experiences. Combining insights can lead to better solutions, sometimes, and learning by those who have great decisions to make.