But What If We're Wrong?


Chuck Klosterman visualizes our contemporary world as it will appear to those who will perceive it as the distant past.

Favorite quotes from the book:

The practical reality is that any present-tense version of the world is unstable. What we currently consider to be true — both objectively and subjectively — is habitually provisional.

History is a creative process (or as Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “a set of lies agreed upon”). The world happens as it happens, but we construct what we remember and what we forget. And people will eventually do that to us, too.

Discounting those events that occurred within your own lifetime, what do you know about human history that was not communicated to you by someone else?

… smart people tend to be wrong as often as their not-so-smart peers — they work from the flawed premise that their worldview is standard.

Should physical differences matter more than intellectual differences? Should the ability to intimidate another person be rewarded? Is it acceptable to scream at a person in order to shape his behavior? Should masculinity, in any context, be prioritized? The growing consensus regarding all of these questions is no. Yet these are ingrained aspects of competitive sports, all the way back to Sparta.

We want a pain-free world where everyone is the same, even if they are not. That can’t happen if we’re still keeping score.

The amplification of available information and the increase in communication speed was obvious to everyone. We talked about it constantly. What was harder to recognize was how the Internet slowly reinvented the way people thought about everything, including those things that have no relationship to the Internet whatsoever.

When you see the phrase “You’re doing it wrong,” the unwritten sentence that follows is: “And I’m doing it right.” Which has become the pervasive way to argue about just about everything, particularly in a Web culture where discourse is dominated by the reaction to (and the rejection of) other people’s ideas, as opposed to generating one’s own.

Consciously trying to keep up with what’s happening might actually make things worse. We spend our lives learning many things, only to discover (again and again) that most of what we’ve learned is either wrong or irrelevant. A big part of our mind can handle this; a smaller, deeper part cannot. And it’s that smaller part that matters more, because that part of our mind is who we really are (whether we like it or not).