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Stories of self-deception

Tq-121010-tlDavid Weinberger just came back from the Future of Story Telling conference wondering if we are falling into rut of telling stories to smooth over complexity and just give people the answers they want to hear. Yes and no (naturally). If your goal is applause, it's easier to tell a story that confirms people's expectations. They don't grow, but they're happy. Getting people to listen to a story that opens up their mind is a LOT harder. And riskier. 

In my head, I go over and over my past, trying to figure out what I've done wrong so I can stop doing it. But in real life, most outcomes were dictated by forces beyond my control. But that doesn't lessen my desire for an explanation, especially one I could use to change my future. We evolved to be sense-making animals, and we'll grasp at the simplest, easiest-to-swallow cause-and-effect explanation we can find. Even if it's wrong. 

So I guess the answer would be: don't be evil and tell stories that help people deceive themselves. And don't swallow every story you hear. Even if you told it to yourself. 

Joho the Blog: Skepticism about stories, 2012-Oct-8, by David Weinberger

It may well be that stories need to be relatively simple and arced in the middle simply to be stories. And I would hate to lose the stories that come from artists, for great stories — or perhaps I should say truthful stories — transcend the simplicity the form imposes. But I continue to worry that story-telling outside of the aesthetic realm is a simplification that all too often falsifies. So, I wouldn’t want to give up stories. But I would be happier if we approached the form itself with a fundamental wariness.

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