A short primer on sense-making

*For context this is not meant to provide all the possibilities for sense-making in these polarising times.

We live in a world saturated with opinion. Drowning in data. And manipulated by powerful AI that is invisible to us.

We are the fish who have no clue we are swimming in water. 

We must know the water. 

To begin we must learn the terrain of the water we swim in. The algorithm is designed to capture us without us knowing we have been captured. For reference please read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. 

Or look to Tristan Harris’s work. 

Unless we know the power of the tools used every day to capture and colonise us, we are naive to the field. Tools more powerful than any used ever before in human history.

Only after we know the water we are swimming in can we then consider the data.

Data. A sequence of information. Like any information it lives in a context. 

Hard data is numbers, words, things that can be measured. Statistics. Metrics. 

Warm data is almost always neglected in any data gathering. Warm data is weightless, invisible, unmeasurable. It is culture. Relational. Feelings. Intuition. The spaces between. Meaning. In-group and out-group. Tribe.

All data must be examined from at least the following contexts.

What data is missing? 

What was the question the data seeks to answer?

Who was asking the question and why?

How are we considering the warm data? The cultural and relational context? Influence, fame, power? Care? Long-term thriving? 

Then we must inquire into the intention of the person or people producing the data/story/documentary. 

Why do they care? 

What is in it for them?

What do they do if they find out they are wrong? Do they admit their mistake or do they dig a bigger hole as their identity has now become entangled with the story they are telling?

Consider as well the integrity of this person/group/people in all other areas? Do they live as exemplars of integrity?

Consider their own sense-making capacity. Do they ask similar rigorous questions at minimum as covered in this short primer? 

Do they thrive on drama? Righteousness? Being the leader of an in-group that makes everyone else the out-group? 

It is easy to read an article and find some truth in it. And then be directed to the next article that also has some truth in it..but only a shadow of the original truth…and on and on…falling down the rabbit hole of sense-making capture, where we then become the tools of propagation of a shadow of a shadow of a shadow of truth that endlessly feeds this insatiable beast.

If we want a world with a future for earth and all her creatures we must become better sense makers as a priority. 

This requires discipline and rigour. If not this, then we must admit we have been captured, or are at the least easy targets for manipulation. 

Perhaps let us not profess to know anything, to have an opinion about much at all, unless we can stand in our own integrity of the rigour of considering all of the questions in this short primer?

Perhaps we might very carefully choose those ‘experts’ we will listen to only when we have put them through this type of rigorous inquiry.

Photo taken September 12th 2021

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