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Seek Wisdom

What I've Been Thinking About Lately #40

Modern humans emerged around 200,000 years ago. In that time, the breadth of human knowledge has expanded enormously (largely in the past 100 years). The internet has provided us with a vast digital repository to store and access this information, so not only is the breadth of knowledge large but it is accessible to everybody.

However, this growth in knowledge has not been matched by an increase in wisdom. We continue to make the same errors and behave in largely the same ways as our ancestors - only our tools have evolved.

Despite our changes in tech, we remain driven by the same core desires, feelings, and cognitive biases that have always shaped human behavior. We still make rash, emotion-fueled choices driven by fear, greed, and tribalism. We cling to comforting falsehoods, ignore inconvenient truths, and favor the familiar over the unfamiliar. Our vast intellect and technological capabilities have ironically given us more elaborate means to indulge our most basic impulses and ugliest natures.

Humanity's struggle against its own worst instincts will likely be never-ending, it's simply too profitable to make things that wildly appeal to human instincts, even if it hurts us.

Because this will be a life long battle, you'll need to get strong by seeking wisdom, otherwise you'll be tossed around by the human condition until you die. Seek wisdom by reading good books and collecting data about yourself.

  • With reading good books, you'll have a deeper grasp of the human condition. Luckily for us, humans haven't changed much so no need to grab a recent book. In fact the older the better because classics have stood the test of time and grappled with the fundamental and enduring aspects of human nature.

  • With collecting data about yourself, you'll create an unbiased view about your actions and can make an assessment of you as an individual. Data like screen time, number of alcoholic drinks, tracking calories, etc. can all be helpful if these things are appealing to your un-evolved human brain as they are to mine. However tracking everything can be really hard so pick what matters most.

The distinction between knowledge and wisdom is that knowledge can be shared, but wisdom must be earned. While information can be passed on, wisdom develops through personal experience, reflection, and application. It's the result of integrating knowledge with our own insights and critically examining our beliefs. We can learn from others' wisdom, but must ultimately cultivate our own.

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