The Missing Pieces

I’ve noticed I keep hitting a wall when trying to finish articles (I’ve several still in the works, some nearly done).  Recently, I figured out why.  

All this time, I’ve been trying to write self-contained articles that would stand on their own.  I’ve been aiming for a clinical and detached approach, with all the context necessary for a person to see all sides of a situation or all aspects of a concept.  Each article was to be a crystal of robust information that anyone could absorb and apply without misunderstanding. 

Pictured: Visual metaphor for a robust information crystal that avoids misunderstanding.  (Clarification: This is actually an image of a rock.  Do not try to physically absorb rocks like this one into your body through any means.)

Unfortunately, while that’s a good way to write reference material, it’s not a very efficient way to reach people in order to build and maintain a community.  I don’t know how well my existing articles have succeeded at what I meant them to be, but I can’t make all my articles like that, because I can’t do it fast enough or consistently enough for it to be relevant.  

As such, going forward more the articles on this blog will have more of my own perspective in them.  I’ll trust you to recognize that although I try to see and acknowledge as many perspectives as possible, I can’t collect all the information to do them all justice, and to recognize that I recognize that.  

My articles are incomplete.  If it’s even possible to make a complete, authoritative article on anything, it’s not the best use of my time.  

Neither is getting a bunch of stopwatches in different colors and starting them all at the same time to see if the red ones really do go faster.  But I digress. 

Right now, I want to be able to write a quick perspective on an issue and trust that all my readers know there are other important perspectives out there that deserve attention as well.  I’ll aim to spell out this expectation in each article, but stating it here will allow me to proceed with confidence.  

I may write about a basic concept, but I can’t know all the manifestations of that concept, or all the ways you can apply it.  I may even be overlooking some fundamental aspects of the concept.  It’s happened before, and I still have to go back and update some articles accordingly.  

I may write about my perspective on a situation, but I’ll always be missing some experiences and values from the people involved, and some information about the factors in play.  

I may write about my approach to solving a problem, but I’ll very probably lack some of the skills and expertise involved to implement that solution, or deal with the inevitable unexpected obstacles that come up.  

I may even change my mind and retract something that I said earlier. After all, I have biases informed by the way I think and the experiences I’ve had, so I actively question things I feel certain about as much as I can.  It is fairly easy to prompt me to update my perspective on a situation, if you ever feel the need.  The kinder you are, the easier it is, though I can’t guarantee that my perspective will exactly match yours after I update it.  

But if I’m just going to change my mind, what’s the point in publishing my perspective?  If I don’t have all the answers already, why am I writing at all?  

I can see that you, dear reader, like to ask the key questions, like, “What does this key go to?”

So what’s the point of this blog, then?

If the articles on this blog aren’t going to be comprehensive takes on the concepts and situations they deal with, what makes them worth your time or mine? 

Simple: They’re insufficient, but still necessary.  Each of my articles is food for thought, but it’s only part of a complete breakfast.  

Along with—apparently—dish soap, two dimensional bananas and avocados, and a bowl that violates the laws of visual perspective.  No wonder it’s spilling!

I write because I think that my perspective and approach is a critical element that people are missing.  I don’t have the completed puzzle, but I found some pieces that fell under the table while everyone else was fighting over which of their puzzle pieces was the full picture.  All I want is for people to use the pieces I’ve got to join together the pieces they already have.  

Why do I think my approaches are missing pieces that you should read about?

It’s a bold claim to say that I have some important pieces.  What makes me so certain I’ve got anything the world needs?  

Well, for a start, I can tell there’s something missing.  Time and time again I see that people who are trying to change the world fail to express what they’re doing in terms of fundamental values that other people can understand.  Instead, they use superficial phrases or unnecessarily complex technical explanations, valid or not.  

These would-be world-changers focus on many different aspects of the world, and they usually define the scope of their goals narrowly enough that they don’t see the point in collaborating with each other.  However, if they saw the underlying problems and overarching goals that they have in common, they could pool some resources to deal with those and advance all of their causes more effectively.  They’d also have more luck with maintaining the integrity of their institutions: humans usually have trouble connecting the abstract with the concrete, so lofty ideals tend to evaporate where the rubber meets the road.  

Furthermore, the way we define our goals can make it difficult to explain to other people what the goals are and why they are important.  A tremendous source of fear and mistrust between modern humans is that a human can’t count on being able to explain their values to another human so that the other human can empathize and appreciate those values.  There’s a pervasive fatalistic sense of “either they understand or they don’t,” with the implicit dread of having to violently defend your values from belligerent parties who don’t share those values.  

Finally, the methods we use can also be hard to describe simply, which means that unless you are familiar with a particular field of expertise, it can be almost impossible to tell which methods are trustworthy and which are not.  In turn, it becomes almost impossible to hold experts from mechanics to medical specialists to the media accountable for speaking in good faith about what they see and do.  People end up trusting those who signal they’re part of the same team, which is why “fake news” exists (or doesn’t, depending on who you believe) and why people forget to distrust journalistic interpretations of experts. 

Fun bit of trivia: Recognizing that the media gets your own area of expertise wrong but forgetting about that when you read something else is called Gell-Mann amnesia, coined by Michael Crichton. 

All these unnecessary problems arise from the inability to communicate clearly about goals and methods.  Instead of working together, people fear and mistrust each other.  

That’s why I feel confident in stating that human society is missing a vocabulary necessary to define and communicate these ideas.  

As for why I think I have these missing pieces, I’ll just present some perspectives and approaches to various situations and let you be the judge of whether the pieces I offer can help us work together to build a world we can all be proud of. 

So we can turn our jumble of pieces…
…into a cohesive and integrated world. 
…And maybe eventually into a portal to wherever we want to go. Who knows?

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