This piece from Wired magazine had caught my attention a short while back. It is about this genre of writing that essentially claims that everything you have understood or believed to be true about a topic, has in fact, been wrong. And these “experts” often promise to reveal the secrets to this hidden “truth” — which you can know only by, well, reading more of their stuff. Very often it attempts to tap into the latest scientific findings or social research which is (supposedly) shedding dramatically new light on the topic in question.
Here’s the beginning of the piece to give you a taste:
Clive Thompson on the Hidden Truth of Counterintuition
Wander into the pop science section of any bookstore and you’ll be told—over and over again—a disturbing fact: Everything you know is wrong. About everything. Seriously, everything!
You’re familiar, no doubt, with this genre of book. It has metastasized in recent years, with a seemingly unending series of tomes claiming to upend everything we believe about talent (Talent Is Overrated), decisionmaking (The Upside of Irrationality), motivation (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us), personality (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement), and dozens of other subjects.
And not only are you completely wrong about something that seems totally obvious, but the real truth is some theosophical “secret” long “hidden” from you. It’ll take a renegade outsider—like, say, a “rogue economist”—to pierce these veils of ignorance.
The sheer durability of this trope is kind of bewildering. Can it really be true that there’s some gnarled mystery behind every facet of life?
Or is it possible that Everything You Know About Everything You Know Being Wrong is wrong?
[click through for full piece]
It goes on to mention what journalist David Schenk years ago called data smog—with data smog being described as “living with an ever expanding surplus of research and factoids, which can paradoxically making you increasingly unmoored from what you actually believe”.
The particular reason why this resonated with me was that I had originally come across it while I was writing some longer original essays to appear on this blog. And as I was reviewing some of my notes on various aspects of design, there was a common theme throughout of my concern for how much we listen to (or—to say the least—are continuously confronted by) “experts”, “gurus”, etc.…
Of course, I’ll need adequate time and space to express myself appropriately (so please stay tuned). But for now, I’ll allow the brilliant George Carlin to take us all to school on this issue ….