It’s time to critique “critical thinking”...“Critical thinking” has become a new panacea—society’s go-to antidote to the spread of fake news, the rise of populism, and the AI-driven atomization of our social media feeds. If no one should control which messages get published and spread (given the priority we place on free speech), then everyone should at least possess the skills to judge the logic and legitimacy of the messages they consume. And how do we develop those critical thinking skills? Education, obviously. Yes, the power of lies to mislead whole sections of society may be a big problem. But education can solve it...That is a comforting thought. But here’s a discomfiting one. What if “critical thinking” isn’t just a discrete skill that can be taught or trained in individuals? What if it’s also an emergent property of society as a whole—the same way that “intelligence” is an emergent property of the brain, or that “niceness” is an emergent property of certain communities, like Minnesota, USA or Gothenburg, Sweden? What if the popular power of obvious lies isn’t due simply to the failure to teach specific skills well enough, fast enough, to consumers of social media? What if the real problem is some sort of systemic failure?
Is society’s capacity for independent critical thought weakening? Is “critical thinking” the answer? Or is it the problem? In this episode we delve into all this and more.
You can find the link to the map that corresponds to this episode here.