virus: Is learning valuable?

Reed Konsler (
Fri, 4 Apr 1997 19:04:30 -0500 (EST)

>From: Tadeusz Niwinski <>
>Date: Thu, 03 Apr 1997 14:54:09 -0800

>It's not a refutation, but a question. How do we know that learning is
>valuable? Does it have a survival value?

Good thread. Good question.
Do you think it is significant to subdivide learning into different "kinds"
or are you interested in a more universal, less precise "learning"?

>A society does not need everybody to understand reality. If many people
>spend time thinking rather than hunting, the group may not survive. It's
>better for the group if only a few will "do the thinking" and the rest will
>"work". A social mechanism has developed: keep the majority in the dark and
>allow only a few to think for the group. Learning may be not "valuable" for
>the group if too many get involved in it (in that sense learning is *not*

Agreed. Each tribe can only support it's witchdoctors on the group's largess.
Two things inspired by above passage:
1) Thinkers use their increased modeling ability to analyze their neighboors
behaviour and manipulate them, often in the "parasitic" (is this how you
mean that word, Tad?) detriment of the "workers" instead of analyzing
"reality" (ie thinking up more efficient ways of doing things).
2) The vast majority of people have never understood the "models" developed
by the "thinkers". Yet, many successfuly pursue their own self-interest
(I guess proving this would require us to define what "success" means).
It must be possible, therefore, the behaviorially adapt, without
conciously thinking about it, even to the rapidly changing chaos of
the modern world.
3) This may become less true as the "environment" in which each of us lives
becomes more and more chaotic...but maybe not. I can imagine scenarios
in which people are hoodwinked by and endless series of fantasies
ever stumbling on critical thinking...and others in which, as
moves ever faster it become impossible to manipulate people against
will as a result of instantaneous feedback.

>There is a set of beliefs which stimulates independent learning. The
>intellectual elite -- who knows the set -- is divided into two groups: (1)
>those who want to make the set of beliefs public (causing more people to
>loose interest in "hunting" and other hard work needed for the survival of
>the group), (2) those who want to keep the set secret. Of course the first
>group is spreading the set of beliefs, so what does the second group do?
>Ridicules this particular set of beliefs. This way more people can be kept
>in the dark and serve as mental slaves to the society. Who is doing a
>better job for the society?

This is very interesting. Of which group would you consider yourself a
member? Which would you assign other people on this to?

I guess I'm a member of the first...but I hadn't considered the implications.
You have found a recently unexamined axiom of my mental set: that making
learning and thinking public is a universal good under almost every
circumstance. I have to say that I can't see myself budging far from that
concept...but I see myself being paralyzed by introspection in the near

>The game is much more complicated, as people from outside of the elite are
>also playing it, there are many other ways of keeping in the dark, etc. I
>refrain from specific examples, although there are plenty of excellent ones
>in CoV.

Keep talking. I want to hear more.


Reed Konsler