Increasing Our Collective Cognitive Bandwidth
Many Minds Make Light Work
By Nicholas Burk, Executive Board Member
Becoming a freethinker is a worthy goal, but that doesn’t make it easy. Life presents each of us with difficult choices, complicated problems, and profound mysteries. At times, we may feel particularly cavalier and jump into these challenges with both feet. Other times, we may freeze, overwhelmed by the endless avalanche of answers offered in our modern age. Many of us simply lack the time, energy, education, or temperament to wrangle with the philosophical questions intrinsic to the human experience.
It may be tempting to settle for answers that are “good enough.” Dogmatic certainty and superstition, after all, have been the preferred coping mechanisms for most of our ancestors. But for a Freethinker, these options can’t be the only sources of help. What else is there?
Limited Cognitive Capabilities
Understanding the problem is the first step in finding the solution. In this case, our greatest asset, the human mind, also represents our greatest liability. Our impressive, (albeit imperfect) brains are each a sanctuary with a glass ceiling.
Individually, our powers of critical thinking, discovery, problem-solving, and other similar operations is limited to the capabilities of the white and gray matter between our ears. When it comes to wrestling with big ideas, we each face very real limitations. For example, we are blind to many of our own biases, cognitive dissonance, and home-grown logical fallacies. One’s IQ, energy levels, time constraints, and current level of education all represent limits to the rate at which one may increase their understanding.
When our ideas only live in our own minds, they are like blueprints without a construction crew, a locked treasure box, or a scientific experiment, waiting to happen.
The Need for Thick Skin
A seemingly obvious way to overcome these obstacles would be to share the task of truth-seeking with other minds. See what the blueprints produce, open the box, and run the experiment! However, doing so opens one’s ideas up to possible criticism. Only when they are exposed can the failures of our preconceptions be laid bare. Our most profound discoveries may be deconstructed before our eyes, sending us back to square one. Our prized breakthroughs may not be treated with the respect we feel they deserve. As others open up, we may be exposed to ideas we don’t like or concepts that complicate the issue.
A dedicated Freethinker must have thick skin. To them, the Truth must matter more than the slings and arrows endured along the path to obtain it. Truth-Seekers and Freethinkers alike must be willing to abandon faulty beliefs, like broken tools, in favor of those ideas that get them closer to a better understanding of reality, morality, and more. This is a journey of personal growth and perseverance.
With all that considered, is it even worth it to expose others to ideas and expose ourselves to their ideas? Should it be said that the exploration of freethought is indeed improved through the shared consideration of multiple (and, at times, conflicting) opinions?
Stretching Our Minds
For many of us, open-mindedness represents a difficult challenge. How can we possibly entertain multiple perspectives on a given issue? We may think of ourselves like over-ambitious jugglers or an over-taxed internet router, plagued by inadequate bandwidth. If we share this important cognitive load with others, won’t we end up feeling stretched and bogged-down? Aren’t we all better off when we greedily guard our mental processing power, like a limited resource?
Going It Alone
As freethinkers, we tend to first approach life’s most important questions as lone wolves. (Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it is a trend made conspicuous as we later share with one another the stories of our individual lived experience.) In an attempt to distance ourselves from criticism, mental strain, and concepts antithetical to freethought such as dogma, coercion, or “group think,” it is understandable that we may prefer to forge our own path and produce our own answers.
Taking such a position is understandable. However, doing so returns us to that glass ceiling. Like Atlas, we find ourselves bearing an unbearable load without respite. Over time, as with many things in life, we become increasingly aware of our individual frailties and inadequacies. If we are to move beyond this cycle of lonely contemplation, we must be willing to add our voice to a forum, despite all of the reasons to hold back. It takes a little bit of bravery, a little bit of grit, and a thirst for discovery. It is the willingness to take a step into the dark, the deciding factor in a hero’s journey. When we are willing to endure criticism, mental exertion, and exposure to other ideas, we unlock a door to treasures beyond our comprehension!
Sharing the Burden
The good news is that this quest for answers need not be done alone! We live in an age where concepts such as logical thinking, rationality, and self-determination are becoming mainstream values! Chances are good that where you live, you are able to find freethinkers with whom you can meet in person. When we find others with similar goals, an opportunity to work together arises. Rather than bearing the weight of the world’s ambiguities alone, we finally have a chance to share the cognitive load!
Knowledge is power. Similarly, an assortment of sincere opinions, perspectives, and experiences laid before a listener enables them to form a better-informed view on the topic at hand. We are so much better served by carefully considering new points and counterpoints. The alternative is to live in a bubble, an echo-chamber, or a safe space in which our preconceptions may only be reinforced. How can people call themselves freethinkers if they only allow themselves to be exposed to a handful of comfortable opinions?
Freethinking and the search for facts and moral wisdom are, in fact, improved as they are shared. The fruits of this enterprise are more valuable because they have passed the inspection of a high number of critics. When multiple perspectives are taken into account, all involved are better for it.
This need not be a taxing or draining experience. Proper utilization of a forum allows each freethinker to act as an additional processor, increasing the computing power of the overall system. Many minds make for light work!
The Free Thought Initiative is an organization engineered to aid each member in their path to forge their own best-possible answers to life’s most important questions. Even when our individual backgrounds, beliefs, and perspectives vary, we are unified under common goals.
We are here to help. With a forum of fellow freethinkers, one mind is complemented by the power of many more. The chore of sorting through and learning from history’s greatest ideas becomes a game. Each week, we are able to send our ideas to be tested in an open marketplace. Our views are refined and we help each other grow. Our personal limitations fade-away and our unique talents are put to good use!
Through weekly forums, we are improved. As a result, our communities are filled with more freethinkers, freely sharing their findings, and energized through the synergistic increase of our collective cognitive bandwidth.
© 2019 Free Thought Initiative