To see

It’s the most difficult of challenges. Trying to see things as they are rather than how you would wish them to be. I came to that conclusion much because of my work on aviation safety management. Collecting data, doing analysis, and trying to distil what’s important and what’s not.

Data speaks. It tells you things about what has happened in the past. That gives a clue to what might happen in the future. Although, estimates and forecasts are derided by some people they are essential in a technocratic society like ours. Results can be inconvenient and embarrassing. Not paying heed to them can compound any difficulties a thousand-fold.

It’s not sane to use complex technology without doing some projections into the future as to its possible implications. I know there’s a contradiction in that we have adopted digital interconnections without a great deal of thought as to what can happen. That proved to be a very bad move in at least one fictional depiction of the future[1]. The possibility that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could move against our general interests is real.

That aside, my general point was on the more unemotional and objective view that can be taken of evidence gathered for a purpose. Taking that and then imposing dogma and prejudice on what has been learnt can be down right dangerous.

I found a backup for this view coming from British philosopher Bertrand Russell. He provided advice when he was interviewed in 1959 by John Freeman for the BBC’s Face to Face programme[2]. The great man came up with this message to future generations a year before I was born. Russell having been born in 1872 had seen so much change in his life he was well placed to conclude as he did.

Good advice “ask yourself only what are the facts” and what they show. He’s not saying we must be automatons. Judgements must still be made in relation to the facts. There will always be an ethical dimension to those judgments. There are most often multiple choices.

Russell foresaw more societal interconnection and interdependency but left us before the world wide web took-off. In social media venues like Facebook and Twitter tolerance and care for the facts are often found to be lacking. This does have a profound impact on political thinking. It gives legitimacy to complete folly. Dare I bring up the subject of Brexit?

My advice – Try to see things as they are rather than how you would wish them to be.


[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407362/

[2] https://youtu.be/ihaB8AFOhZo

Author: johnwvincent

Our man in Southern England

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