I think many or most of us would be quick to admit that we don't know
everything. That is, that we're not omniscient. Yet, we often get in online
arguments (or see others get in them) where we posture ourselves as more
knowing or more certain about a topic or a position than the other person. And
there's no shortage of 'stuff' (should I call it information?) on the web that
assumes some view (from anywhere on the spectrum) is true and pushes that view
to others. But is that true? How confident should we be when we get into
arguments about politics, governance, science, economics, school, learning, the
classroom, and so forth? Is there any room for humility? For an approach to the
world that is open to new ideas, new experiences, and to new perspectives?
The issue of humility is not new, but it's especially interesting today, with
our abundance of information and communication technologies. Never has humanity
had such access to so much information and never has humanity been able to
broadcast and re-broadcast that information. Thus, we might ask, what is the
role that technology has in shaping our attitudes about information and how
closed or open we are to the world around us?
As you read this week's article, keep in the back of your mind two things:
I want you to keep in mind how you view your own humility. But note, being
humble does not mean that you need to lack confidence in yourself. Quite the
opposite, and I hope each of you continues to gain confidence in yourselves!
Humility, and its opposite, arrogance, are weakly related to confidence.
Being humble is simply existing with some awareness of our own limitations.
You and I can still be humble but still develop confidence---whether that's
in the powers we develop, the attitudes we foster, or the skills we acquire,
and also in the limitations of all these.
I want you to also think about technology and how it impacts perceptions of
humility. If you have an aunt or an uncle that expresses some political
position, from wherever on the political spectrum, that you do not share and
on Facebook, how does that make you feel compared to how it might make you
feel if they expressed this to you in person. That is, how is technology
influencing how we talk to each other, interpret each other, and respond to
each other. (Remember, don't think about others so much, because, as the
article states, "people find it difficult to notice their own blind spots,
even when they can identify them easily in others."
Lastly, how can we use our newfound powers in search and in information
sources to not only find good information---how can we use technology to
manage and share better information? Think about this in relation to the
recent discussions about the proliferation of fake news on Facebook or the
longer lasting discussions people have had about information overload.