Shaming Ignorance

Seth Godin wonders if ignorance will ever be shamed?

Society changes when we change what we’re embarrassed about.

In just fifty years, we’ve made it shameful to be publicly racist.

In just ten years, someone who professes to not know how to use the internet is seen as a fool.

The question, then, is how long before we will be ashamed at being uninformed, at spouting pseudoscience, at believing thin propaganda? How long before it’s unacceptable to take something at face value? How long before you can do your job without understanding the state of the art?

Does access to information change the expectation that if you can know, you will know?

We can argue that this will never happen, that it’s human nature to be easily led in the wrong direction and to be willfully ignorant. The thing is, there are lots of things that used to be human nature, but due to culture and technology, no longer are


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  • Pete George

    Start on blogs – start shaming anyone who we think is ignorant.

    How radically will that change things?

  • Reminds me of the Headless Chicken’s Gaskrankinstationand the hapless Ivan: “I’d like to know all the facts”. 

  • Mike

    The problem is the ignorant – how will they know what to shame?

    The current “Global Warming” issue is a good example – do we shame the supporters or deniers?  Both groups are convinced the other is ignorant. With the widespread influence of social media, we may just have a tyranny of democracy, where ignorance is defined as the least popular belief, and any voice in the wilderness is shamed into silence.

    • politically unstable

       Haven’t they changed their position to Climate Change and ditched Global Warming? Of course the climate changes!!!! It would be bloody boring if it didn’t.

      • James Gray

        Because clearly “boring” things are inherently undesirable

  • BJ

    The opposite of ignorance is knowledge. 

    To gain knowledge 3 things are required.
    1. Information – either someone gives it to you and you are receptive to it or you actively seek it out using your own enquiry.
    2. Motivation – one has to want to actively propel themselves to learn
    3. Ideas – these come about from life experiences unique to each individual

    If either of these three ‘ingredients’ are missing or lacking then learning (gaining knowledge) will not take place.  A large proportion of the population does not have more than basic life experiences so will never learn to think for themselves and so remain a lost cause.

    • politically unstable

      ” A large proportion of the population does not have more than basic life
      experiences so will never learn to think for themselves and so remain a
      lost cause”

      Which population? NZ world? People you know?  or is this information you have available??

      Of course we can be knowledgable in some things but may not be in others due to lack of interest (motivation). But then some people are happy to “muck along” and actually have a happy life…

      • BJ

        By your reply you have made my point beautifully. 

        To a knowledgeable person it would be obvious at what point my factual contribution above ends and where my judgmental opinion begins.

      • politically unstable

         BJ, I was being a bit tongue in cheek with the first comment…but yes, I get what you mean and unfortunately, (or fortunately) the quest for knowledge is not for everyone.

        I have been to villages in other countries where they have little materialistic values, no infrastructure, no TV etc etc…and on the whole they are very content.

        Should they have a black mark for this?

  • Gravedodger

    I do not consider the supporters of climate change as stupid or ignorant.
    Most believers see the income stream whether from the levy systems or the “research” opportunities around study as a reason to continue.
    My driver in opposing what I see as a fraud greater than Madoff’s, are  the unavoidable costs I will incur downstream.

  • @BoJangles

    The deeper message is to immediately report to Area 51……
    Make a right on Hope, left on Change then follow the signs to Happy Lane …..   

  • jay cee

    most of those posts about megaupload/kim dotcom went straight over my head to be quite honest.  i understand that there are some things in this world i will not get. but if i am intrigued by a subject i can always find out about it. you pays your money and you takes your pick.

  • titanuranus

    I doubt ignorance will ever shame people, we have all types of religious nutters who absolutely revel in their ignorance and wear it like a badge of honour.

  • thor42

    The idea is good, but it’s hard to see it actually happening. 

  • nzd.gbp

    Richard Feynman said great things about how difficult it is to really know something. The amount of care and scrutiny is beyond the realms of the social sciences and politics for which there is no right answer, just a general consensus. Racism, Gay rights, workers rights etc are only considered to be right once a majority agrees on the base principles from which they are derived. So what is this ignorance Seth talks about? He seems to be talking about bullying people into accepting things that cannot be deduced from any other than contrived principles and if they don’t, they should be ashamed. People are only too happy to accept something as true if they accept the underlying principles and agree with the assumptions used to arrive at the answer. Shaming them into accepting a consensus does not make for a reliable acquisition of knowledge.