You can't reach the brain through the ears

yarapavan | 123 points

"A final obstacle that stops us from filling each other’s buckets with wisdom: it might kill us.

If you’re on a Mac, you can open up a program called Terminal and, with just a few lines of code, ruin your computer. You’re not supposed to screw around in there unless you really know what you’re doing.

The human brain does not have Terminal, for good reason. If you could muck around with your own source code, you could suddenly make your lungs stop working, or destroy your ability to see blue, or get yourself sexually attracted to birds. That’s why you have to wall it off, so that neither you nor anyone else can break your brain."

I like this idea - reminds me of hearing of sci-fi stories where even cursory communication with aliens is catastroohic because they share knowledge we are not meant to know and destroy ourselves because of it.

And the comment of someone(?) on TV being bad for children because it gives them answers to questions they wouldn't have asked.

Talk is cheap, but maybe we should be a little careful, and most of all careful of what we listen to.

dmbche | 4 months ago

Hey, this was a good blog post. During the first section, I came up with a bunch of objections, and then by the end he had addressed them all (that is not to say resolved them). And, it was fun. Thumbs up to the author.

All that leaves me is this observation:

> Computer people have a good word for this kind of thing: lossy compression. You simply can’t fit a thought into a sound wave. Something’s gotta go, and what goes is its ineffable essence, its deep meaning. You have to hope that the other person can reconstruct that essence with whatever they have lying around in their head. Often, they can’t.

According to Tolstoy, the role of art is to reconstruct that lost data. That "[a]rt is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them."

So, maybe try writing an opera about how studying at Oxford is a waste of time. Hope that helps.

karaterobot | 4 months ago

William Yeats: "Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire."

Issue is, academic research is so focused on getting dollars from federal or corporate grants, filling the bucket is the norm. The dispassion within academia is heartbreaking.

waterheater | 4 months ago

As a counterpoint to the introduction, my postgraduate degree at Oxford is the best thing I have ever done. The professors were engaged. Classes were very good and my social life has never been as interesting since. Don’t listen to this man.

WastingMyTime89 | 4 months ago

This one does the rounds on HN periodically: "You can't tell people anything"

firstlink | 4 months ago

It's not a compression issue. You have some state in your head (which is crosslinked to other state) and you are trying to get someone else to have the same schemas in their head. But you don't really know what's already in their head.

At least in 1:1 conversation you can use an interactive, iterative process which has a higher probability of success (in the article's example: the author spoke to someone and then got a question back indicating a complete lack of understanding). Still pretty terrible, but the best we have got.

gumby | 4 months ago

This was very much in line with my own thinking, or at least that is what I suspect and can’t know for sure.

With the recent AI buzz I got to think, maybe the keep from the story are higher level concepts that exist only after the underlaying layers have been trained and can therefore not be adressed before.

macgyverismo | 4 months ago

I find hearing about other people's experiences extremely useful.

What I don't find useful is when people just tell me what to do.

Instead of telling me not to go to Oxford, tell me about the things that surprised you at Oxford. I can make up my own mind about going, and the most effective thing you can do to help me decide is to tell me what it was like for you, without assuming it will be the same for me.

newaccount74 | 4 months ago

that was good one.

i wanted to send this to a couple of people of then I realize the meta irony of that.

edit: donot know why this reminds of song "Ooh La La - the Face"

> Poor young grandson, there's nothing I can say You'll have to learn, just like me And that's the hardest way, ooh la la

born-jre | 4 months ago

There is a common hesitancy from accepting wisdom because of ego: they didn't think of it themselves. In addition, wisdom given too freely is seen as low value because the receiver didn't have to earn it and so it doesn't seem scarce enough. Also, the impression between madness, foolishness, and wisdom is hazier and more easily confused for those with less life experience to draw from. Charisma, along with ethos and pathos, are ultimately more effective than logos.

If committing to some career or education investment in time and treasure, then it's worth carefully considering the need and financial advantage for that particular outcome and working back how to get there most efficiently. It's unwise to earn an MBA or PhD simply because you can, because you might not need it or there maybe a net economic disincentive to having it.

sacnoradhq | 4 months ago

"Newton turned in her dissertation and then peaced out. Newton, if you’re out there: respect"

A true pioneer

nadermx | 4 months ago

I was having a conversation about this over the past weekend. I, and the other person, come from poor countries and now live in a rich one. We think it's important to give back. But sometimes it can feel like a non-trained person trying to save someone who's drowning, and they just drag you down with them. Then it hit me: you can't change someone's life, anymore than you can change someone's mind. The best you can do is be there for them when they are ready to ask for help.

namaria | 4 months ago

I think about the same question all the time. Instead of can't change, I think human mind is more of a slippery slope of ideas, an overton window. If you try to transmit an idea that is on the far end of that slope, it would appear no exchange has taken place. But that slope is different among a population. If you managed to transmit the same idea to a bunch of people, some will get what you are trying to convey. I believe ideas are better broadcasted and people do change, albeit slowly.

a_c | 4 months ago

I love this article, but I’d like to add that it is in fact possible to reach the “keep” as the author has called it through emotion.

Emotion is very important to memory and steering thoughts as many studies have shown. [0]

For example: Advertisers, sales people, politicians, coaches, military leaders, charismatic leaders, etc. all use emotion to change minds, create memories and influence behavior.

For an interesting look at the power of this approach, see the documentary “Century of the Self” by the BBC. It’s very interesting and perhaps even eye opening.

jschveibinz | 4 months ago

> "explain that postgraduate education in the UK is largely a way of extracting money from foreign students."

"I've been everywhere - all over the USA, raising funds - trying to sell them the idea of an Oxford education"

"Africa is crawling with British Professors frantically trying to flog Sociology courses to the natives"

- BBC sitcom Yes Minister, circa 1982 -

jodrellblank | 4 months ago

If we could communicate emotions effectively through speech alone, we wouldn't have invented art.

pxeger1 | 4 months ago

My personal tl;dr for this is: "People can't get a joke by you explaining it to them, they have to experience getting it for themselves."

I lot of experience is just like this.

nielsbot | 4 months ago
| 4 months ago

I wish people would stop spreading fake news.

iamnotsure | 4 months ago