Consider how limited is our understanding and vision of the world we live in. All our decisions about the world are based on the evidence of our senses and our accumulated experience. Yet our senses are incredibly limited. Consider some hypothetical senses we might have which are based firmly on reality — indeed, might be conceivably be given us by technology — and which might unalterably change our understanding of the world:
- being able to see in infra-red
- seeing events faster or slower than we do
- seeing the earth’s magnetic field
- seeing the electrical fields surrounding living organisms
- seeing other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as radio waves generated by sun, stars and earth.
- feeling physical pain whenever someone we have met dies
- seeing the flow of money from market to market across the world
- hearing the cumulative levels of laughter/shouting/talking/crying in a million homes
- hearing sounds representing the pace at which people are dying violently or being born across the world/fossil fuels are being burned or replenished/animals are dying in slaughterhouses or being killed or being born
What do these examples tell us? Something we know intuitively, yet rarely contemplate: that there are a multitude of phenomena happening about us to which our senses are either totally oblivious or of which we can acquire only indirect, sporadic or partial knowledge.
Yet despite knowing that we are so ignorant, we nonetheless constantly and confidently take decisions which affect all the environments these hypothetical senses cover. When we vote one way or another, politically or as consumers, we take actions.
But in assessing our understanding of the world about us, we compare ourselves only to others, and spend little time wondering of what things in the world we may be all too ignorant.