The Tree Of Knowledge, Not Understanding


Errol Morris finishes his series on anosognosia with a parable:

When God created man (and woman), he gave them the ability to perceive the world, but withheld from them the ability to understand it.  We could come up with one cockamamie theory after another, but real understanding would always elude us.  It was mean-spirited on God’s part.  And to make matters even worse, God gave us the desire but not the wherewithal to make sense of experience.  One might easily foresee that this would lead to unending, unmitigated frustration and suffering.  But here’s where self-deception, anosognosia and the Dunning-Kruger Effect step in.  We wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything, but we would never be aware of that fact.

This quote from David Dunning, from earlier in the post, is also worth reflection:

Here’s a thought.  The road to self-insight really runs through other people. So it really depends on what sort of feedback you are getting.  Is the world telling you good things? Is the world rewarding you in a way that you would expect a competent person to be rewarded?  If you watch other people, you often find there are different ways to do things; there are better ways to do things.  I’m not as good as I thought I was, but I have something to work on.  Now, the sad part about that is there’s been a replication of this with medical students people at the bottom, if you show them what other people do, they don’t get it.  They don’t realize that what those other people are doing is superior to what they’re doing.  And that’s the troubling thing. So for people at the bottom, that social comparison information is a wonderful piece of information, but they may not be in a position to take advantage of it like other people.