Claiming something is true could potentially lead to the death of curiosity. For some people, it can be easy to jump from hearing a claim—especially from someone of power—to believing it as the truth without taking the time to check. In this episode, Bill Stierle and Tom talk about truth and curiosity and how they go hand in hand, particularly now in the world of politics and social media. Contrastingly, being curious is what allows us to find the truth. They talk about the importance of having this ability now more than ever as we get bombarded with so much information in our day to day lives. Follow Bill and Tom in this conversation as they explore the topic in relation to the latest Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris, news media outlets, conspiracy theories, and more.
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Truth And The Death Of Curiosity
There’s one thing about the work that I do regarding communication and conflict that’s everywhere. If you need some support with communication and trying to get peace in the world, it’s one of my things that happens is I travel a bunch to do that. That’s what’s happening in my world these days.
The wonderful thing about modern technology is we can continue to record and publish these podcasts from anywhere. It’s one of the things I love about podcasting. Me too. Bill, we decided we’re going to talk about a different angle on truth and its truth and what at least appears to be the death of curiosity. I love that word, curiosity. It’s one of my favorite words and I am familiar with this word. I use it a lot in my business and in what I do in daily life. I’m a naturally inherently curious person and it’s part of what makes me a good business person and a business owner, but that’s not the focus. What’s shocking to me, and maybe this is a good departure point for us, all of us, unless we’re living under a rock, are seeing messages put in front of us, whether it’s on social media, television or radio.
Even in podcasts, we are seeing messages of somebody spreading something that they are stating as if it’s fact, making a statement about something. Maybe it’s about the Coronavirus. Maybe it’s about the US Post Office. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact about one political candidate or another. It’s being presented as fact. Whenever I see something like that, whether I agree with the statement on its face or don’t agree with the statement on its face, I tend to look at that as like, “I wonder if that’s true.” I’m curious to find out if it’s true. Before I go and like it, share it, or comment on it, I always want to do my homework can make sure I know before I make a comment and get egg on my face or something or make a statement that is not in alignment with truth. I want to go find out if that’s true. I’m curious to learn about that, but I’m finding an incredible lack of curiosity out there amongst an awful lot of people. Would you agree with that, Bill?
The problem, to first give to some empathy of how exasperating it feels because in the pursuit of truth or being able to have a process discussion with somebody, is that they’re assembling their opinion and quickly going into a theory or a version of the truth and formulating it quickly. Instead of taking these points of data that are out there on the internet and then crunching those data into valuable pieces of information and then tying that information into knowledge. Do you see how this takes time? Taking the knowledge and driving it into an insight. That insight becomes a piece of wisdom. It’s like you got to take some steps there. It’s this data to information, knowledge, insight to wisdom. You got to have curiosity along the way because if you don’t, you’ll go to theory and/or a conspiracy theory too soon.
The conspiracy theory is something that is formulated from more these unlike are unreal data points of that must mean that there’s this group of people doing this and go like, “I don’t know if that’s true or not.” Just because all the people that go to your church, they happen to find each other and have relationships with each other, it doesn’t mean that this political group is all acting in harmony with each other. No, it’s a different community and they know each other and that’s why they connect with each other. It’s not because there’s some great conspiracy going on. They know each other and because they hang out next to each other and that’s why they know each other. If they are correlating around a certain belief or a certain experience, it doesn’t mean that there’s a conspiracy.
It means that happen to be living in the same place and going to the same parties and going to the same church. That’s why they were together because they are in the same belief structure, not because that they’re there’s this big conspiracy thing that’s taking place. There are several comedians that have done a great job on conspiracy theories. Whether it’s Bill Maher, Samantha Bee or Jon Stewart used to do this or John Oliver. It’s like you draw this and you put this, so you put this and you put this together and you’d go like, “I can see how they could have done that, but that is not necessarily the truth.” You’ve got to remain curious about that. Is it done out of humor? Is it done because you’re trying to gain wisdom? That’s a big part of it too.
I agree that curiosity to me is such a key element here. I have a little example, Bill, that maybe is one we can discuss a little bit that happened. In the last episode, we talked a little bit about the vice-presidential nominee for the Democrats, Kamala Harris. When that news broke, there were all sorts of discussions on social media. I saw one and someone made a statement claiming that Kamala Harris was not African-American. Why is everybody saying she’s African-American? He was making a statement she is not African-American. I did a little homework because I was curious and I researched it. I commented back to this person. I said, “I’m curious why you think she’s not African-American or not is legitimately African-American? Her father’s from Jamaica. Jamaica was part of the slave trade route from Africa for slaves. That’s how Jamaica was populated hundreds of years ago. Therefore, she’s an African-American.”
This person replies, “She doesn’t identify as African-American.” I’m like, “She doesn’t?” I decided I would look at her about page for the US Senate website, Senate.gov website. There is a page for every Senator and Kamala Harris has one and it says plainly right there she identifies as African-American from Jamaican descent. She identifies as African-American and South Asian American, because her mother’s from India, I believe. I decided to provide a link to that and said interesting. When I go to the Senate page for Kamala Harris, here is what she says about herself. I’m sure she wouldn’t allow this to be put there if she didn’t identify as these things. As we say, the facts don’t always help. I was providing some facts, but I was also proposing a little curiosity to this person saying, “I’m curious why you think that? What gives you this idea,” and then providing some information.
We’re going to feel exasperated because our need for truth can’t fully be purchased by using facts and information. The person needs empathy for identity and empathy for what’s happened to us as a divided conversation. That’s the hard part because it’s easy, if I was a pundit, to jump on the gerbil wheel with you and go like, “Yes.” All of a sudden, we’re in the same boat we don’t want to be in. Because what happens is it’s being curious is allows us to find the truth and also not to get inflamed or engaged in the process of trying to make our point going like, “I didn’t know that she didn’t identify herself. Did you know that? Is that true? From this one article, that’s why you’re formulating this theory?” The theory of things is I’m seeing the outline of the stars.
It’s like looking up the stars and say, “Yes, I can see how that’s Scorpio. I could see how those stars are doing a bear thing up there. The dipper, I get that. That makes sense. There is a big and it’s a dipper and then there’s a small one. I can see those.” Our conceptual mind wants to grasp the bigger picture and then what winds up happening to things that we don’t understand or don’t have clarity about, we’ll tend to get a stronger conspiracy theory than things that are not big. The difficulty is to use our curiosity through the process of here’s some data, here’s some information, here’s the knowledge that we can do from this at this time and here’s the insight. What’s our wisdom decision? For example, with the Coronavirus, the initial projections were this higher number. You have to go to what the projection is going to be called the worst-case scenario because that’s what governments need to do is go to the worst-case scenario, not the least case scenario.
The least case scenario allows the thing that you’re trying to deal with to wiggle out of your grasp, which is exactly the way we’re facing our current environment. We want to take data and not ignore data points, not ignore information points and gain a knowledge base. “This is what some countries are doing. Whether it works or not, they’re flattening their damn curve. Let’s do what they’re doing and get rid of the idea that America is not going to do it that way because we’re going to do it this other way.” It’s like, “No, you want to use other people’s knowledge or wisdom. If it’s an overreaction, at least it’s an overreaction. At least we might not have needed to spend XYZ money on it, but it sure saved a lot of money on the backend.”
That’s the exasperation that we’re going to have because we’re not converting data, information, knowledge, insight, and wisdom as a sequence. We’re not doing that. We’re jumping from, “Here’s some data, here’s a theory. There must be a conspiracy. Here’s some data, here’s a truth.” The truth equals this conspiracy theory or this theory that I’m engaged in. It’s like, “Stop looking at the projection. Draw the line to where the lines go in. Be able to follow this and this.” There are other people that want to weigh in. They want to weigh in and they’re going like, “What are you weighing in on? You’re weighing in on whether Scorpio’s tail looks like this or it looks like this? That’s means that it’s this.” It’s like, “No, it does not. That is an unrelated data point.” There are certain news outlets that focus on the unrelated data point to purchase truth and take advantage of the lack of curiosity development in our schools, the lack of curiosity development in our spiritual centers. How is this belief making you a better person? If it’s not, it may not be a spiritual practice.
You may want to adjust off of that because you’re not a better person for this. You’re not inclusive or you’re not accepting you are illustrating or amplifying an enemy image of another human being. That might not be the strongest way to go as a nation of inclusion with all men are created equal. You may want to change that a little bit. That sentence even, in its literal form, “All men are created equal,” doesn’t include women. That kept them from voting for a lot of years. If you’re not looking at our human condition the way it is, we need to be curious about what was the intent of that person back then. Yes, those were the data points back then. That’s the information, that’s the wisdom that they had back then, but it doesn’t mean it was right. That’s why curiosity is so essential. We’re experiencing the death of curiosity. It’s don’t be curious. It’s have an experience of doubt and skepticism and then cast criticism and judgment on people on the other side of your belief structure. That’s not going to help us.Being curious allows us to find the truth. Click To Tweet
Bill, you mentioned about data information, knowledge, and then on all the way the conspiracy theory. If it’s all right with you, I’ll share an illustration that you provided me for that.
The funniness of this the experience of knowing what the scope of that image is that we’ve got to do a better job of being curious on every data point that down the list. It’s funny, but it’s also not.
I found it funny, but also I would say instructive. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this showing a path of curiosity to a large extent until you get to the very last phase?
If you kill the curiosity, you never get there. If you kill the curiosity, what happens is the person goes from a data point all the way to theory. They’re using, “I can see it because I’ve listened to you.” This makes for great TV ratings if somebody doesn’t have to think. All they’ve got to do is jump from here to here and they’re okay with the jump. This chart is also both on the left and the right, it’s not like the left has any free pass on that. They’ve got their list of things and the right’s got their list of things that it’s like, “How close is it to wisdom and will we get to a nation where we make wisdom a priority?” Is it where we take the knowledge and convert it into something that’s usable at this moment and say, “The outlier that is sitting on this other thing, we could go that path, but that’s not going to help us.” If you look at even the wisdom part of the chart, it’s like the purple dot on the bottom, that’s defunding the post office so that private industry can run the post office. That turns the post office into another cable company. Tom, is your cable company responsive?
Is there enough competition there?
No, definitely not.
If there’s competition, they’d be 2 or 3 or 5 times responsive. They’d have somebody there in the next day to fix your cable stuff. If they had somebody that you could easily hop to that was in competition with them. It’s not designed that way. It’s a design that we have not applied the antitrust laws that are on the books to say, “Some of these things are not in alignment with the best interest of capitalism. The best interest of capitalism is not to have two cable companies and operating in different areas and they’re not competing with each other.” The consumer is stuck. They’re stuck because they can’t get a better service because it’s not valuable to the company to do it. It’s problematic.
What I found interesting is that for everybody reading, I have this chart in the blog posts at PurchasingTruth.com. You can go and check it out, but it takes what is beginnings with data going through information, knowledge, insight, wisdom, and then the last one is a conspiracy theory. It’s interesting that when you get to a conspiracy theory, you have to take a jump, a leap for the data or information, something to go directly there. Isn’t it often a partial truth, Bill?
There’s going to be a partial truth, which is a combination of where the data is and the information things. That’s where people start drawing the lines together to get ahold of knowledge. That’s where we start to gather that, “Look at the bigger insight. I got to get from this point to this point. Let’s draw the line to that because that’s where that’s the best path to go forward.” I’ve complained about cable companies in the past. Why? If other countries that have viable economic competing elements with different cable companies, I’m thinking specifically of South Korea is that their internet bandwidth is extraordinary. It is making their communication between each other more effective.
They don’t have dropped lines. They don’t have the things that we have here in the US which is you can go to some places and things work technology-wise. Meanwhile, in other countries, it’s like, “We have it right there.” That’s what a viable engaged and energized economy looks like. These companies competed with each other. They have fairness and they try to get talent and skill to hire and bring them in. If they do that well, then things can make a big difference. Otherwise, you’re stuck with somebody promising you something that’s not in alignment. Isn’t that what a conspiracy theory is? It’s somebody promising you something that is not real. Whether it’s any promise a Democrat has made that is outside the fray or a Republican that is made that’s outside the fray.
It’s like, “Yes, you did deliver this thing you said you would, but it’s not what’s valuable. It’s not valuable to the nation to build a wall. There’s no value in it. That’s my viewpoint.” To another person’s belief structure who has been saturated with immigrants or the problems, their belief is, “No, Bill. It is valuable to have a wall because number one, he promised it. Number two, he started to deliver it even though it’s not valuable to us, but this is outside of wisdom. It’s ignoring those two things. I have some data about immigration. I have some information about immigration. This is wisdom. This is the decision out of those two pieces.” No, you haven’t done it enough. You haven’t looked at is it worth the money? Is it worth the cost? Is it worth the time? Is it worth the resource? The answer is no. There are all these nos. It’s not worth it.
You could take even our experience thus far with the Coronavirus, with COVID-19 and the whole process started with some data we hear about somebody who’s sick. We hear about a bunch of people that are sick in China, and then there’s one in the United States. There are all these ones in Italy. You got all this data that no one’s done much yet with. You’ve got information as you’re starting to uncover more pieces of that data and start to see where things are lining up. You get to start to build some knowledge. It’s affecting people that are older more than people that are younger and it’s transmitted through the respiratory system, droplets in the air.A conspiracy theory is somebody promising you something that is not really real. Click To Tweet
You gain this knowledge, then eventually you get to the point of there are some insights. “We’re finding if we put people on ventilators, they may be able to survive and they may not, but some might. There are some other techniques if we do this or that, then they might survive.” I don’t think we’ve even gotten to as much of the wisdom part yet because wisdom maybe comes from looking in the rearview mirror a bit after it’s over and completely assessing everything and then having that experience. We’ve got so many people jumping to the virus is a hoax and all these different compare conspiracy theories about it. It was manufactured in a Chinese lab and it’s meant to harm us all. You go past all that knowledge and wisdom and jump right to a conspiracy theory. A lack of curiosity allows that to happen, doesn’t it?
It does because I want to make sense of my world based on my beliefs. My brain has been cultured to believe not to trust the outside environment. Therefore, there are people on the right end, the left that goes, “This was a bioweapon that started here. This was a thing that’s out here.” There are pieces of data out there about where did it first show up. All that stuff is valuable. It’s not even to say to ignore those possible data points are a part of the line of wisdom or the line of understanding. Many times, we come back 15, 20 years later, we can redraw the wisdom line because we didn’t have enough wisdom or insight or knowledge. All of a sudden, you get some knowledge fifteen years later and you go like, “No wonder why that showed up that way.”
Through genetic testing, we know this African-American person is the descendant of Thomas Jefferson because of the children he fathered with one of his slaves. It’s like, “Now you’ve got the data point was he was a great guy.” The conspiracy theory showed up this way. Once you get knowledge and insight and then wisdom that goes with it, you go like, “Okay.” We also got to put that in the perspective of the time. We can judge somebody in the history that happened over 200 years ago doing a behavior as being abhorrent. We need to look at some of our choices now and saying what are some of the things that we’re doing that are abhorrent and things that are not in alignment with the consideration for the planet, for the environment, for ecosystems all because it’s a better economic or somebody in the short-term can make a lot of money at it.
I’m not sure if that’s the best way to think about this. Even to click back to a belief structure from a Native American belief structure is that is what are you doing now and how’s it going to affect seven generations forward? That is a toughie because we don’t think like that. Decisions you’re making are not necessarily seven generational decisions. We’re trying to chop it out in our modern world and trying to get our best efforts for truth and collaboration and cooperation to take place. That’s where the sweet spot takes place. Are you in collaboration and cooperation with another person? Are you standing for the truth and are you remaining curious to get there? It doesn’t mean that you can’t make a mistake as you and I have done in the past. There’s a few there. That’s a big part of it.
I’ve certainly made lots of mistakes, but I’m always curious to learn from that mistake so that I don’t make it again. Personally, that’s just me.
The hard part about it is that the things that are sticking with people are the ones that have been done in repetition and the person’s brain is hearing that level of repetition and getting overtly engaged with adrenaline, cortisol, anger, aggravation and trying to meet their needs at the expense of others. Even in an unconscious way, I’ve watched a couple of different political ads from both sides that I would say some of them are not in alignment with truth showing strength where there is not strength. Showing weakness where there is not weakness, telling a story that only has a partial truth to it.
I watched a Congressperson do something like that. I’m like, “That story is not congruent.” I had to become curious. Is it congruent? If so, what are the obstacles that that environment or that city faced to make it impossible for that city to do something to grow or to be vibrant or to foster a healthy space? Anyway, that’s the big part of what we’re working on here. Can we remain curious enough to say without being dismissive? Is it true? Is it true that because this group of people led this environment or is it because they are the cause of the downfall or there might be bigger things that are causing the downfall here rather than that?
Bill, we often talk about people’s needs being a driver for the actions they take. What might be a need that prevents a person from being curious or following any curiosity they might have? Is there an underlying need that is a reason why?
There are a few of them because people not to use curiosity. Certainty is one need. I have certainty about the way I see the world and my world is giving me the wisdom to run my life. If everybody could do it my way, already they have certainty going like, “This is the way to think and be in the world,” rather than saying, “There are other ways to live life.” Even with the preponderance of the evidence that other countries are doing fine and living lives that are more vibrant than a person living that’s voting even against their interests. They still think that their life is better than that other person. They’re not interested in flying to another country to check out and say, “Look at what is happening here. This life is way better than the life I have in my house.”
One of the experiences that the East Germans, the East Berliners had when the wall was taken down and they came over to see what was happening literally on the other side of the wall, they were angry and furious. They had been living in suppression for so long and be fed messages of suppression for so long by what the communists and the Russians were doing with East Berlin. They were freaking furious. They weren’t joyous. They were like, “We had to live the way we had to live for the last 10, 15 or 20 years,” or whatever it was
It shows me my mindset needed to grow quick there for all those years of living under that way of living going like, “What the heck happened to us? How do we get over here?” A person’s belief structure, it’s tough. The world has moved past America and a lot of ways and it’s hard for Americans to even believe it. They don’t want to say, “Our airports do not look as good as other countries’ airports.” They don’t want to have that discussion. Only the person that travels internationally gets at that experience and going like, “That airport’s floor is so clean that you can literally almost eat off of it because people are cleaning and keeping the airport completely clean and tidy and to the level of cleanliness that you could eat off the floor.” It’s an exaggeration, but the modern designs of airports in other countries, the efficiency in which they welcome traveling and travelers. That’s unsettling.The best part of being curious is that it keeps you into a space of being alive. Click To Tweet
I was amused by how you caught yourself there, but how sometimes as Americans, we speak in brand names, Spic and Span.
That was a cleaning product in the past for all of you who weren’t there. All of a sudden, we’re dating ourselves because that’s a great example of a saturated message that represented cleanliness. Febreze, we would get that nod for, “It would smell like Febreze.” If we remain curious and don’t kill the curiosity, we got a shot. If we continue to kill curiosity and keep leaning on our beliefs and our biases, things will not go well. That’s a thing to get ahold of.
I hope there’s a period of restoration where we can all be more curious and reveal the truth and see things from each other’s perspectives. Otherwise, it’s going to continue to be ugly for a while regardless of who wins the election.
The best part of being curious is that it keeps you into a space of being alive. If you don’t, then what happens is that you’re vulnerable to either data or information to be used against you or data or information used to reinforce. Tom, here’s the scary part of this in our modern society. Literally, somebody could go throughout this entire body of work that you and I have done here regarding Purchasing Truth and pick twenty messages that could serve them and be damaging to us and it would not be true. That’s the double-edged sword of freedom of speech. They get to say it because it’s true, but it’s not in inside the context of what truth looks like because there’s no curiousness to say, “I know this person said this but is it like a scale of 1 to 10, they’re 10 believing this thing? Is it a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10?”
You and I can say something in jest and somebody can say, “That means that this,” instead of going like, “It’s really a two, everybody.” We’ve lost the ability to scale and that’s what happens when you kill curiosity. You lose your perspective and you literally put blinders on. That’s the empathy that the Republican Party needs right now. They’ve been cultured into putting blinders on to their world view in order to take a message like voter fraud and say, “Yes, we have voter fraud in America.” All of a sudden, our flag, their flag, that they don’t know that it’s been associated with voter fraud. They have no idea of the damage that does to America. None. They say, “It’s being done to us to our type of America.” It’s like, “No, you did it to your own flag.” That narrative has been done. If you want to do something about voter fraud, investigate it. That’s called getting knowledge and insight and wisdom. There’s no evidence there, so drop the theory.
The problem is you have the chief executive of the country, the President, who is already fueling conspiracy theory notions himself. He’s saying, “If too many people are allowed to vote by mail and if I lose the election, then the election was rigged. It was due to that.” He’s already setting up the narrative and creating the conspiracy without any pursuit of knowledge or wisdom. The thing is on this one on voting, we have a ton of wisdom in the United States because we’ve been doing this for a couple of hundred years. All the evidence says there’s no voter fraud by mail, not certainly any amount to justify this alarmist rhetoric.
We used to be on the monitoring. We used to monitor other countries, help them with their monitoring system. We help them to do that. We were known as a country that would come in and help the people to vote and track the vote of that person. That’s what you used to do. We used to be known as the country that could help with that. How are we going to be the country that would help with that when we’re questioning our own things? How do we sell that now? America is the one country that says that. Who wants to come here then? It’s a tragic narrative that has gotten started. That narrative, even though there’s some freedom of speech that’s going on there, you don’t get to have your own facts.A naturally curious person makes a good businessperson. Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, the brander in chief is doing so much brand damage to big America around the world with regard to voting. Give him credit. He’s good at branding himself and branding others. He’s using his skill to do a lot of brand damage to the US around the world, and that’s scary. Especially with him, he’s trying to set this situation up where if he loses, the election was rigged. That is not the type of adult mindset that we usually expect from our leaders running for office? We don’t have to go back far. We only have to go back twenty years to look at the biggest example of that with Al Gore and George W. Bush. Al Gore, while he believed he won the election, and truth be told months later after every vote was counted in Florida, he did win Florida, but the Supreme Court ran out the clock. He didn’t agree with the decision that was made, but he accepted it for putting the country above himself, putting the country above his party. It’s disheartening to see how the President is setting us all up for nothing that will be like adults putting America first in this country, himself, obviously the president.
We’ve got a lot of restoration and a lot of healing to do after this whole thing is over. The restoration and the healing that needs to take place are for good people that are going to want to fight that battle. The people that are wanting to fight the battle of restoration and trying to heal things, people on both sides, it’s going to take well-minded, well-focused people to go like, “This is the way to do this and to decide on what the future is going to look like that way.”
I think you’d agree with me, Bill, and I want to be clear here that there are plenty of those likeminded people in the United States, in America. I like many Republicans. I am friends with many Republicans who would agree with us. I’d be friends with them regardless, but that they’re putting America over party. That gives me hope for restoration in America.
There’s some hope there. We’ll have to see what our level of experience of hope will be after the election. Is it going to be more hope or less hope? It doesn’t mean that the need for respect for America and the need for trust with America doesn’t do better after growth through this time. Something’s got to be done and that’s the thing that needs to take place. There needs to be a step forward of people that want to fight for this country in a way and dedicate that and make it a part of their legacy and make it a part of their willingness to participate in the restoration process.
We need to go through it. It’s going to be a tough run. One road’s a little bit easier. The other road’s a little bit harder. The one road might be a little bit easier is that if we can stop the messages of division, that would be helpful and start with the message of inclusion. That’ll be helpful and that’ll start us down the path. There’s more to come on this, Tom, and it gives us a lot to talk about next time and I’m sure that we’ll get our opportunity to go in how curiosity can be enriched moving forward instead of killing it off like we’re doing.
That curiosity, I’m hearing the wizards saying, “Don’t look at that man behind the curtain.” That’s the curiosity killing. Thank goodness for Toto, though. He keeps pulling the curtain back. He’s curious. “What’s there?”
That instinctual self. Tom, have a great one and more to come.
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