066 Fear isn't the problem, culture is
On how to be more curious
The Amazing Things & Ideas is (usually) a weekly Sunday email newsletter. Apologies for sending it a couple days late for this edition.
There are countless articles online on “how to be more curious”.
Which is quite curious itself for why aren’t more people curious when (1) it has tremendous evolutionary benefits and (2) it seems to be the natural state of the human condition?
What’s stopping people from being curious?
As is often the case, there isn’t something necessary to add to solve this problem, but something to remove.
“People ask me, what special is in my mentorship which has made Malala so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised? I tell them, don't ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that's all.”
— Ziauddin Yousafzai (TED Talk – My Daughter, Malala)
It would seem reasonable to conclude that fear is the thing most stopping people from being curious.
People are afraid to raise their hands for they think that their question might be seen as stupid.
People are afraid about the fact that a question posed in some form of criticism might not be taken well by someone higher in the authority ladder than they.
So should we aim to eliminate fear?
Well, no. Even if it is fear that’s stopping people from displaying curiosity, that’s not the main problem to tackle.
It is a rather odd fact at first that your fear might actually be correct. The culture and systems in place could be wrong. Let me explain.
Why are people afraid to ask questions? As explained in the above bullet points, one reason might be that they care about what other people think of them. And another, similar one might be the dogmatic nature of some authority.
These are cultural phenomena. Fear may be right when it stops you from asking that question to your boss. Because it is probable that it be not taken constructively by your boss and be seen as a form of insult.
Though your fear may be right, the reasons for which it is right may not themselves be right to begin with.
Fear is not something we should be fighting. We should instead fight those things that produce fear and obstruct curiosity in the first place.
All people are prone to making error. Just because a higher authority says something has nothing to do with the justifiability of their statement. Nothing is justifiable. There are good explanations and bad. Reasoning from authority is a very fallacious way to form conclusions.
Similarly, one must understand that group think is a real phenomenon. And no questions are stupid. To ask them has forever been the only way to progress.
[On asking an entirely curiously-driven question to the taxi driver last night, I received a fascinating fact from his response. That simple moment again sparked my interest in just the importance curiosity plays in the role of the good life. From that flowed the content of this newsletter
New Podcast Episode
#6 – Jason Crawford: Does Progress Make Us Any Happier?
Jason is the founder of The Roots of Progress, where he writes and speaks about the history of technology and the philosophy of progress.
In this episode we talk about the need to study progress, tackle the question of whether progress makes humans any happier, optimism and solutionism, and some more.
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