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Progress is determined by heterodox thought and troublesome questions

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Between the 9th and 13th Centuries, the world’s mental centre and the supply of a lot of its progress, discovery and achievement was Baghdad. This was the Muslim Golden Age and at its core was the Home of Knowledge, established by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. At one level, this library housed the biggest assortment of books on Earth and drew the best minds on the earth to share concepts, innovate and discover historical sources of science and knowledge from Greek and Persian texts. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and atheist students labored collectively to advance human understanding till a gradual decline culminated with a later Caliph declaring that its variety of thought ought to bow to a literal interpretation of the Quran and Hadith.

The tip lastly got here when Mongols entered the town in 1258, destroying the libraries and different buildings resembling observatories, earlier than casting 1000’s of books into the Tigris and turning its waters black with dissolved ink. The legacy stays nonetheless.

Human historical past is characterised by this punctuated method to progress. Nice advances solid within the white warmth of particular occasions and locations, making use of variety of thought and supply to synthesise new concepts and make new discoveries. The fashionable conception of the scientific technique is primarily the extrapolation of this precept to a whole self-discipline, however much less concentrated in a single place.

Simply because the Baghdad Home of Knowledge, so too the Platonic Academy, the Mouseion of Alexandria, Mansa Musa’s Timbuktu, the Florence Academy and the European Enlightenment. Every characterised by a willingness to assume in new methods and create one thing from numerous sources. Every finally destroyed by neglect, anti-intellectualism, violence and the imposition of orthodox thought.


An unravelling

We create our personal cults and by extension we additionally create our personal blasphemies

You might argue we’re in the midst of this course of proper now. The achievements of the Enlightenment are unravelling in lots of domains as folks demand their very own model of the reality and never simply an opinion on it. A crew led by Anat Maril on the Hebrew College of Jerusalem has revealed a report within the journal Social Psychological and Character Science which finds proof of speedy and involuntarily psychological processes that kick-in every time we encounter opinions with which we agree, much like the processes for the way we reply to  information. The researchers write that “their demonstration of such a knee-jerk acceptance of opinions might assist clarify folks’s outstanding capability to stay entrenched of their convictions”.

Orthodox pondering and an unwillingness to soak up data that challenges private beliefs and vested pursuits are issues we are able to all witness each day. Leon Festinger’s principle of cognitive dissonance focuses on the sentiments of discomfort we get from making an attempt to stability data that conflicts with what we predict and the Web permits us to create echo chambers to take care of it.

From inside this secure house we’re free to dam out something we don’t like and shout abuse at those that insist on sharing it. The place as soon as we’d have determined to hear, reject or synthesize concepts, now we are able to simply block them out. As this piece in Aeon suggests, we quickly create our personal cults. By extension we additionally create our personal blasphemies.


That is an argument that applies to smaller and parochial concepts, in addition to the good concepts. The useless hand of orthodoxy and concern of disapproval might be seen resting on a lot of what we see within the debate about work and the office. We’re at the moment in the midst of an existential disaster and the entire course of drains the life from me nearly as a lot because the each day procession of tedious concepts for remark items that stuff my inbox. A number of persons are keen to ask extra fascinating questions or current difficult concepts, however the majority are trotting out the identical stuff as all people else.

Headlines reflecting bland office orthodoxies and virtues are shared with out being learn whereas more difficult, nuanced items which will categorical heterodox pondering are learn however not shared

What surprises me most is that there are sometimes fascinating questions that might be requested about the identical topics however aren’t. Take one thing apparent just like the hyperlinks between office design and wellbeing or between working from dwelling and productiveness. Such debates have been largely over a very long time in the past, but nonetheless we see folks proving a hyperlink, typically by ignoring the complexity of that hyperlink earlier than coming to simplistic, generalised and unhelpful conclusions primarily based on single variables.

So, the fascinating query to ask about that is absolutely why we’re nonetheless speaking about it as if we don’t already know crucial points. Equally, there’s lack of crucial interested by the a lot mentioned difficulty wellbeing together with the very actual risk that possibly it’s incompatible with work to some extent or different. Now there’s a query price exploring.

There are a selection of boring office points which appear to be topic to lazy pondering and countless repetition which may simply as simply be topic to problem and demanding thought, together with open plan places of work, Millennials, versatile working and proper now – the ‘new regular’. Every has an orthodox strand of thought that ought to no less than be challenged or topic to extra scrutiny. As an alternative folks appear completely content material to regurgitate or hear the identical stuff over and over. Some might even pay to listen to it, which is baffling.

But we additionally perceive there’s some urge for food to discover such points in new and difficult methods, though we could also be too fearful about being seen to adapt to the orthodox to specific it overtly. One of many fascinating points of publishing on-line is the possibility to interrogate knowledge to see how folks reply to content material. Generally we are able to see a distinction between what folks learn and what they need to be seen to learn, by evaluating readership numbers for items with how a lot they’re shared on social media.

Headlines reflecting bland office orthodoxies and virtues are shared with out being learn whereas more difficult, nuanced items which will categorical heterodox pondering are learn however not shared.

So, it’s very clear that there’s a starvation to maneuver past the orthodox and even – God forbid – open ourselves to concepts with which we’d disagree. Historical past teaches us that if we need to progress and forge new methods of pondering, then that is important. It’s a lesson we should always all soak up as the talk about work and the office enters a completely new part.

Picture: Students at an Abbasid library in Baghdad. Illustration by Yahyá al-Wasiti, 1237




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