Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Cogito ergo sum

Now that I have come into the habit of writing in my blog, I also find an urge to write about core ideas that shaped my thinking over the years. Ideas I discussed with colleagues, students, trainees and others over the years.
The first idea finds its roots with Descartes. ‘Cogito ergo sum’, I think therefore I am. For me that means the ultimate starting point. Doubt everything except your own existence as proven by your ability to think, to observe, to analyse and to prove. But also doubt any ideas your mind brings up, challenge them and make sure they are empirically sound. Only accept what can be proven.
How often do I see projects and efforts go lost because the people working on them just followed their experience and training without realising that the world has changed around them. I see policymakers, politicians and others act on data that is biased, gathered by using instruments that were never meant for use outside a narrow context. Data and statistics start to build a reality of their own. When the model becomes more important than reality, the great lie commences.
I push student and trainees to look what seems obvious, to challenge all theories and methodologies they have learned and verify them with real life, not statistics. And time and again they find the flaws and fallacies. They learn that what they have learned suits the profile of a white affluent, middle class. They learn that what has been taught is woefully inadequate for a multi-ethnic society, for a modern society with a variety of family structures, social economic circumstances and with complex belief systems interacting with the notion of individual freedom. Not surprisingly the students’ feelings are mixed once they realise this. Doubt, anger, frustration. But most embark on their new careers knowing they have much to learn, that they should challenge everything, not the least of which, themselves.
Cogito ergo sum

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One thought on “Cogito ergo sum

  1. I think your are right on here. Over the past couple of years, I have found myself as well challenging my own beliefs and ideas about life and how it should be lived. As I have become more and more exposed to the politica realm, began to follow presidential elections and taken an interest in world events, I realize how many individuals operate on a daily basis with a closed mind. Now, one might think that challenging everything means excepting nothing. I do not follow this line of thinking. Instead, I choose to believe that challenging our boundaries, along with the opinions and we are spoonfed allows us to grow as individuals, and become better contributors to society. Otherwise, we would just be mindless automotons following the predicted whims of those who have power and authority over us.

    Your thoughts are intriguing. . . .and much appreciated.

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