Making an effort to understand

This is a corollary to my last post. You can't tell people anything, but what about yourself? Can people tell \*you\* anything? Do you catch on when strange new ideas come along?

Say someone is blabbing at you about some keen new concept. It's obvious they've got a wild hair about it. Do you: a) glaze over and think about sandwiches? b) reflexively contradict whatever they say, as a defense mechanism? c) nod vigorously while memorizing the list of words they're using that seem the most important, so that you can seem smart too? d) get over yourself, and make an effort to comprehend, even if it means astonishing the other person by firing back questions?

The problem is that, especially in technology, so many ideas are zapping around that we develop a hull. We see the world through slits in the armor, and ideas ping off it like small-arms fire against M1 Abrams battle tanks. This has the benefit of allowing us to not go insane, but has the side effect of making it unlikely to catch on to the rare \*good\* idea until somebody else implements it.

I think everybody owes it to themselves--not to the people spouting new ideas, but to themselves--to catch on to new ideas. It takes effort. It means balancing skepticism with eagerness. It means not just the ability, for example, to say the phrase "web two point oh," but to understand which 5% of that concept is is interesting and useful, and which 95% is BS. If you can do that, you are helping yourself, not the person explaining it to you.

Comments:

I love the metaphor that we see the world through 'slits'. That's one of the best ways I've heard to describe the sheer overload that is out there these days. So much information! Catching on to new ideas also takes that passion. The kind of person that likes to keep learning is the kind of person that thrives in today's information dense reality. Thanks for the wonderful explanation and encouragement.

Posted by Jennifer b. on January 11, 2007 at 08:49 AM MST #

Thanks! Yes, it's definitely a life-stance almost. Keeping one foot grounded in reality and the other constantly testing new ideas.

Posted by Greg on January 12, 2007 at 06:11 AM MST #

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About

My name is Greg Reimer and I'm a web technologist for the Sun.COM web design team.

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