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May 07, 2008


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From the "On Being Certain" article: "Why are people so different in their need for certainty?"

Timothy Leary presented an intriguing theory decades ago. For the survival of the species, MOST individuals must be risk-averse, dedicated to protecting and cultivating the status quo.

Our species also needs some people who QUESTION rather than BELIEVE. These more adventurous people "push the envelope" by taking more risky stances in how they lieve their lives, and the deep questions they're willing to entertain in the philosophical and intellectual range.

SOME explorers/adventures like this are necessary for the species to move forward and make new discoveries (both the discovery of new places and things, and new ideas and perspectives).

But only a small percentage of the population need to be explorers. The rest can/must be more risk-averse, making them more suited for the vital work of providing security and stability. Cultivating fields, stabilizing social systems and group cohesion, protecting and raising new generations... these tasks are best performed by the risk-averse majority... while the adventurers take the risks inherent in venturing away from "certainty" into the unknown.


I think that if wine didn't have alcohol in it, even if it tasted exactly the same, far fewer people would like it. For sure nobody would pay $150 for Dumb Pigeon-one.

I like this post.

Richard Feynman said, "I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things… It doesn't frighten me."

I feel comfortable with this statement. Certainty has bothered me for a long time. I probably turned away from absolutism and embraced relativism as a young man without even knowing that the words existed, let alone had a meaning.
Call me wishy-washy, but I don't mind having a life that allows parameters for personal growth. Sure, I like to have some certainty that my car isn't going to break down when setting out on a rainy night, but having an overall certainty about what I am, and what life will be - well, that's not only boring, but constraining.
Surely, uncertainty must precede exploration. If I'm certain about everything, I may as well stay at home (metaphorically speaking). Stuart Resnick talked about the risk-averse and the risk-takers. I think he's right about that. The risk takers don't think of themselves as such - they just do what they do because they're comfortable with their uncertainty. I'm certain about this.

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