KNUTSON: Living in the echo chamber
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The crop season has wrapped up, or nearly so, but agriculturalists still have plenty to do. As several farmers have told me through the years, "We're busy in winter. It's just a different kind of busy." Tasks like hauling bin...
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The crop season has wrapped up, or nearly so, but agriculturalists still have plenty to do. As several farmers have told me through the years, “We’re busy in winter. It’s just a different kind of busy.” Tasks like hauling binned grain to town and catching up on new ag products are now on the to-do list.
I respectfully suggest that aggies add this to their list: “Expand my view of the world by learning more about opinions and beliefs that differ from my own.”
One of the hazards of writing columns is an occasional disconnect between what I’m trying to say and what a reader assumes I’m saying. So let me be very clear here: I’m in no way implying or suggesting that farmers are more close-minded than anyone else. My point is this: Aggies, like every other human being, tend to lock in on what they already think and believe. Aggies, like everyone else, are prone to seek out information that reinforces and confirms their existing convictions.
Confirmation bias, myside bias, the echo chamber - whatever you call it, we can all fall victim to it. Whether we’re conservative or liberal, urban or rural, highly educated or not, it can entrap us all. When it does, we limit our ability to improve ourselves and influence the world around us.
The solution is obvious, thought not easy or simple to achieve: Seek out opposing viewpoints and make an honest effort to understand how they were developed. Don’t immediately label them as bad or wrong or stupid, but as interesting.
Convinced that GMOs are safe (or unsafe)? Then check out what thoughtful folks on the other side are saying or writing.
Sure climate change is real (or bogus)? Then look into what intelligent people on the other side say and write.
Certain that your political party has all the right answers and that the other party is full of thugs and fools? Then study what astute people on the other side believe, and why.
Yeah, I know, some of you are smacking your forehead in frustration and saying, “Doesn’t this goofy columnist get it? There aren’t any thoughtful/intelligent/astute people on the other side. They’re all crazy or crooked, or both!”
Well, maybe. Or maybe the echo chamber you live in, and the confirmation bias it creates, gives you a slanted view of the world.
Enjoy your winter. Put it to good use. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, you might be able to cross out all the items on your to-do list.
But no matter what else you accomplish this winter, try to spend at least a little time learning about opinions and views different from you own. Maybe you’ll find they’re not quite so crazy after all. Maybe you’ll find the world isn’t quite as simple as you thought.