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Posts Tagged ‘distance

I am going to conclude with this: It is relatively easy to overcome ignorance. It is practically impossible to solve stupid.

How did I arrive at that conclusion? 

Over the weekend, a message declaring that people will be fined or even jailed for not keeping 1m apart made the social media and messaging rounds. 

I did not get any notification because I have been keeping a distance from stupid (aka stupid distance) by staying away as much as possible from Facebook and WhatsApp. I treat these platforms like COVID-19 clusters.

Unfortunately, my wife received this message from a colleague and that triggered this reflection. 

As @mrbrown pointed out, the warning was from a news article published on 27 March 2020. The warning was from more than a year ago when strict policies were put into place and right before our lockdown.

My issue is not with the rule because it is still an offence to flout physical distancing rules. The problem is people spreading the “warning” without first checking the source. It is basic information literacy to do this.

Simply forwarding a message without first reading and evaluating its source (if it even has one) is not ignorant, it is stupid.

Ignorance is forgivable and can be overcome. It is the default state of not knowing about something because you simply do not know about it. For example, I have a Ph.D., but I am ignorant about appreciating jazz. I can learn how to do this if I need or want to, then I am no longer ignorant in this respect.

But wilful ignorance is stupid. This is knowing better but still going ahead with an uninformed action. In this case, it is forwarding a source without first checking its relevance, context, or intent.

If I had to give some benefit of doubt to whoever started the spread, it might be that they were simply trying to remind people to work together to keep COVID-19 at bay. This is in the context of the recent hospital cluster and our Prime Minister’s hope to avoid a second lockdown (aka Circuit Breaker 2).

But this does not mean relying on old habits to deal with new problems. It is old habits that create or perpetuate problems in the first place, e.g., misinformation and fluid vectors of disease.

Old habits can be comforting and they persist because we refuse to change even though we might know better. A small change could mean checking the source (published date of article) of your claim (jail/fine for not being 1m apart). This change would mean this text chain would not start, or if it did, be stopped quickly by those who practice this change.

Sadly, some choose to stay in their comfort zone even if the cognitive dissonance is small and the inconvenience is minor. We collectively look stupid if we choose to ignore better habits of mind and practice.

Photo by Plato Terentev on

It is relatively easy to overcome ignorance. It is practically impossible to solve stupid. This is why I immerse myself in the business of education and maintain a wide stupid distance.

Lessons sometimes hide in the least obvious places. Take this tweet for instance. It provides a lesson on using white space.

With the white space, the message in two parts reads: You matter. Don’t give up. Without the white space, the signs read: You don’t matter. Give up.

There are many reasons for incorporating white space in any form of design. In the case of the signs, sufficient empty space helps you make sense of the intended message. Removing it provides an unintended joke.

White space helps create clarity. Something similar could be said about providing physical, temporal, or social space between you and a complex problem.

If you are too close to a problem or if you work so frequently with the nitty-gritty of an issue, it is often difficult to solve it because you cannot see where you need to go with it.

Distance from an issue might help you gain a new or broader perspective. Providing space between you and the seemingly unsolvable problem matters.

she drives em hard n’rides em rough (but by McBeth, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  McBeth 

Even though I am on official leave for a conference overseas, it is inevitable that I have to work over a distance.

Work is not limited to responding to email. That aspect is the easiest to deal with by getting Internet access (typically via a prepaid SIM in country X), and delegating the work before leaving.

Other things that are a bit more unwieldy are documents that require signatures. While I can delegate my two assistant heads to sign off on some things, CeL relies on SignNow. I like SignNow because it can be used on just about any mobile device.

Then there are things that you can only do if you are in the office, e.g., access an intranet or restricted work sites. But even then, it is possible to securely control a computer thousands of kilometres away. I use software like TeamViewer and LogMeIn to remotely control my home and office systems.

If that sounds like more work, then I say it is not because I can control the circumstances of work.

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