Publish at November 15 2022 Updated November 15 2022

Can we trust ourselves?

Is the self real or an illusion?

We are endowed with self-awareness, something unique or nearly so on the planet. We are one of the few living species with such a reasoning capacity. Yet, can we trust ourselves? We already know that our brain can be easily deceived. Optical illusions show well how our perception of things can be manipulated.

What's more, we do not have a perfect memory. The majority of everyday events are erased from our thinking each day like burnt film from a continuously projected movie. This can be a particularly powerful survival mechanism in people who have experienced trauma.

Another example of cognitive biases we have: we misperceive risk management. After the 9/11 attacks, many Americans avoided air travel in the following years. They took the car and thus, researchers saw a consequent increase in fatal accidents on the roads. Moreover, the framing issue is known in different sectors such as health. Doctors would rather say that 90% of patients survived more than 5 years after heart surgery than to say that 10% died within this period. Yet the percentage of success remains the same no matter how you say it.

So perhaps we are stuck in a simulation of life as Plato argued with his allegory of the cave? Possibly, but the solution to overconfidence is self-criticism and realistic thoughts as Socrates proposed.

Here again, one should not fall into too severe a self-assessment at the risk of harming oneself and no longer believing in one's means.

Time: 29min53


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