I have been reading and watching a lot of Richard Feynman recently. For those that do not Feynman he was a great Physicist and received a Nobel Prize in 1965.
But what I adore and idealise about the man is his passion and the ability to think about the world from a different point of view.
Here is a short clip where Feynman talks about this concept. I love the passion and excitement in his face.
This clip also covers knowing the name of something does not mean you know about that something. But this is a topic for another day.
The intro asks you to think about the rituals, habits or belief that we have now that generations will look back and think what were they thinking.
He gives the example of the crazy idea of witches. They were a belief held centuries ago that we look back on and laugh. No one believes in witches anymore. But people did and at the time it was common place. People might have thought otherwise but they did not say so.
We think we are sophisticated now, we do not have crazy or stupid beliefs.
But if history is any guide odds are we do.
Paul Graham wrote a fantastic post What you can’t Say on this. It is a long read but well worth the time.
What opinions or beliefs do we hold now that people will look back and laugh? From the article:
It seems to be a constant throughout history: In every period, people believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you would have gotten in terrible trouble for saying otherwise.
History is littered with these examples. The earth is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, Darwin’s evolution theory etc.
Paul Graham then gives us a clue as to where to find these beliefs.
What can’t we say? One way to find these ideas is simply to look at things people do say, and get in trouble for.
Of course, we’re not just looking for things we can’t say. We’re looking for things we can’t say that are true, or at least have enough chance of being true that the question should remain open.
It is not enough to say something that is clearly false like the earth is flat it has to be true. If we say something that goes against a certain belief and gets us into trouble chances are you may be around the mark.
Graham adds that statements that are met with the greatest push back are probably getting close to a mistaken belief.
The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.
So what are our thoughts today?
Is religion something we will look back on as a ritual that was crazy?
Will future generations look back and think how could we not see climate change was real and people mocked it?
I have a few of my ideas but Graham’s advice is to think them not say them. Not yet anyway.
Unfortunately the belief will only reveal itself to be a fashion or truth due to the passage of time.
So ask yourself, what opinion or belief do you think people hold that is possibly untrue? Tell it to a friend or your partner, if they respond by saying “You can’t say that” then you might be onto something.