Education as Over-Reach, the Fallacy of Accuracy

One of the persistent fallacies that seem to affect people across the board, including those trained as scientists – at least when looking beyond their specialty – is the Fallacy of Accuracy. We are wowed by decimal places. This stretches from simple situations when knowing the difference between half and a third would suffice and we focus in on obtaining a measure that’s down to the third decimal place; on to the Panopticon Mentality of the security apparatus that converts limitless budgets into an infinity of data points. There is a conflation of security with specificity of “knowledge” that takes us into the spiral death-traps of over-reach.

This is a subset of the Will-to-Control. Once we’ve bought into that fallacy, then we’re primed for this one. Will-to-Control posits that we can affect the world in predictable ways to maximize advantage. When this fails, as it must, we look to find ways to “optimize.” One of the first is to “know more.” When that fails, we up the ante and double-down. Now we’re in too deep, and can’t give up! Classic over-reach dynamics.

How does this affect education? It ripples throughout the entire project. The bottom-line is that we run away from analysis based on sound judgement and prudent wariness and towards amassing ever more elaborate constructs – not so as to be able to make a better decision, but in the wish that doing so will find us a way to game reality and “Get What We Want.”

This insight is at least on a par with “Follow the Money.” In this case instead of asking “Cui Bono?” We ask, “Who Thinks They will benefit?”

These are the reasons why Truth Matters. This is right there at the intersection between a mode of process that looks to align us with what is, using means at our disposal; and a process that wishes to circumvent limitations on our Will by “creating” our “own realities.”

As a hyper-vigilant generalist with egalitarian tendencies I make a back-of-the-envelope calculation that shows me that oil is finite, or that tripling CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere can’t be good, or that damming and strip-mining and over-fishing are not going to end well. A member of the Self-Aggrandizing Elite will scoff and call for more study. In doing so, are they looking for a better way to make a decision? No, they are looking to game the answer.

The cautious path leads to a rather quiescent existence in which a lot of massively horrible outcomes just don’t happen. Life goes on, people die and species, including our own, eventually go extinct.

Well, we’re beginning to see where the other path leads….

Please don’t talk of “Human Nature” as unchanging. Specifically don’t trot that one out to suggest that a particular horribly maladaptive strategy of aggrandizement is human nature all by itself and that it can’t be changed just because you want to double-down again and continue to play chicken with reality.

Don’t ask for more or “better” education. It’s not an amassing of data that will set us free.

This is another example of the fallacy of accuracy. We conflate the disciplines of learning with the aggregation of information. We give weight to arcana – I don’t mean the study of minor Romantic Poetry or filling out the Taxonomy of the Blenny, but the likes of “Economics” and “Corporate Law.” These blind us to the Enormities lost behind the blizzards of data meant to defend Self-Aggrandizing posturing.

“Who Benefits?” used to be the best guide when attempting to navigate a power dynamic. It’s still useful, but since we’ve reached a point at which no-one benefits in any real way any longer, we need a new guiding question. “Who Thinks They will benefit?” fits the bill. The dynamic of the Fallacy of Accuracy shows us where the continuing fascination with this march away from reality comes from. Distinguishing the strategies of the Self-Aggrandizers and bringing our power to bear to uncover their machinations gives us a way forward.

Spreading reactions around the world to the insanity of the Will-to-Control give us a window. Unless we use use this opportunity to strip ourselves of these failed attitudes, and the manipulators of our attitudes that brought this about, we will fall back into recurring cycles of one-ups-man-ship and double-down betting that have gotten us where we are today.

Significant pieces of the puzzle that may take us beyond the traps of futility seem to be coming together.

Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

8 thoughts on “Education as Over-Reach, the Fallacy of Accuracy

  1. Why the gratuitous swipe at scientists? Scientists are no more prone to error and delusion than anyone else. And, science is not magical. It’s a job, and some do it better than others, like all jobs. Empirical results would seem to indicate that the grand prize for delusion and error must certainly go to the world finance industry – at the moment.


    1. Thanks for your response!

      Not a gratuitous swipe at scientists. Not gratuitous because it wasn’t meant to single them out for something they do not share responsibility for, and because I specified that it most often strikes them outside of their “job.”

      That said, science is magical at its base. It grows out of the religious hierarchy’s attitudes of control by takes carrying forward on a path towards “explanation” begun under the Church and taken it to its “logical” conclusion. This is where Atheism and modern “Belief” meet. They both insist there is “proof” Behind their particular “answer.” They have attempted to replace one form of pie-in-the-sky with another; space-ships instead of angels.

      Complete agreement that Finance has taken the plunge into fantasy pretty deeply. They do have an excuse most scientists don’t have. They don’t really know anything. Scientists taking what they know or could know about our growing predicament over the past half-century or more could have stopped “doing a job” and done something about making an insistent case for changing course. But then we have all failed on that count.

      The problem is not with what scientists, or anyone else, “knows.” It’s with what they do with it. That comes down to one’s underlying attitude. One is either convinced we are on a suicidal course, or one believes reality can be gamed.

      There are people on both sides of this in any “field” of endeavor. The crux is that at the civilization level we reward the gamers and marginalize the rest.

      We are all complicit.


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