Pat's View: Stay uncertain
By Patrick Robinson
Most people spend much of their lives in a quest to relieve uncertainty.
If you were fortunate enough to have parents who provided for you growing up, then much of that didn’t impact you until you were an adult.
But the certainty of a paycheck, a place to sleep, your next meal, someone who loves you, all the basics, drive people. It conditions most people, if not all, to apply that lens to the rest of life. It creates the belief that you can in fact be certain about a supreme being, certain about a leader, certain about a belief, certain about a behavior. But clearly that’s all very likely wrong. And that’s ok.
Here’s why. Uncertainty means you don’t take anything as utterly true. Yes, that means being uncomfortable and it means you might have to think harder, or do more research to arrive at a more likely useful truth.
Politics, religion, business advisors, counselors, your parents, all offer you some answers to questions. How can you be certain any of them is right about anything they want you to believe?
The answer to that is you sort of can’t.
There’s a way of thinking that has been applied to computer systems, machines and more called Fuzzy Logic. It takes you through what is called a “decision tree” analysis.
The uncertainty about so much we deal with and the lack of complete clarity about various factors in any situation means we need to take that imprecise information and give it weight through some inferences. That’s easy enough. All you do is ask “if-then” questions. If some part of a question is known, then you can infer the most like “then” or clearer fact about it. The more you do that the more numerical weight you can assign.
Then end result of this decision tree style of thinking is that you get more certainty.
Uncertainty however is still useful. Nearly everything is in some state of change. Some changes are slow and others far faster, which only means that being completely convinced, of anything is potentially wrong. It’s fuzzy. I’m not referring to some things that are demonstrably true. Stoves are still hot, and water is still wet. Taking a lot of fentanyl will still kill you.
What I’m talking about is that it’s good to keep part of your mind and heart in a state of uncertainty because it makes you ask more and better questions. It makes you apply fuzzy logic as you refine your inferences about something. It keeps you from rushing into something because you are convinced it’s right.
Certainty also leads to political divides, religious divides, personal divides. The idea that you are completely right about an entire range of ideas prevents solutions from being found. Compromise starts when you allow for the potential that you could be wrong.
Stay skeptical. Stay uncertain.