Brad Feld

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Lack of Critical Thinking

Aug 17, 2006
Category Random

I believe I’m seeing a steady increase in the lack of critical thinking from everywhere.  In an effort to be recursive, I thought about why I thought I was seeing more of this (and if in fact it was an increase, or I was just noticing it more.)  My “instinct” is that I’m seeing more of it, which amuses me when I ponder it.

My hypothesis is that it’s coming from a few places:

  • The coming election cycle is causing sound bites and hyperbole to accelerate to “get the message out.”
  • The proliferation of blogs – especially with fact masquerading as opinion and assertion – is changing the texture of the way people present (and consume) information.
  • Mainstream media – in an effort to overcome the emergence of new media – is looking more like the new media – which creates a self-reinforcing loop of nonsense.
  • People enjoy writing opinions that are not fact based because it’s easier and – as a result – leave real critical thinking by the side of the road.
  • Agendas are commonplace and – if you want to accomplish your agenda – you sacrifice critical thinking for the outcome that you want.
  • People are too distracted to actually do the work, so it’s easier to just pile on a current theme that one finds interesting without actually thinking about it.

I ran into two particularly strong examples of critical thinking in two categories that I’ve seen a huge lack of it in – (1) climate change / global warming and (2) Software as a Service.

  1. Climate Change / Global Warming: The transcript with slides (very good ones, by the way) of Michael Crichton’s speech titled Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century given to the Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy on 11/6/05 is an excellent example of critical thinking applied to the topic of global warming.  Actually – it’s brilliant.
  2. Software as a Service (SaaS): Richard Davis at Needham is one of my favorite software analysts.  In addition to actually doing real analysis and using up shoe leather visiting companies, he’s hysterical.  His recent article titled Software as a Service: World’s Greatest Innovation or Just a Good Idea? is the best piece I’ve seen on SaaS yet and – as a special bonus – demonstrates real critical thinking.

Now – it might be that I’m just more tuned into this because of all the time I’ve been spending with Atlas Shrugged – but I don’t think so.  When Amy and I were talking about this the other day, she reminded me of the bumper stickers from the 1970’s that said “Stop Continental Drift.”  Er – um – yeah.  It turns out you can sign a petition to help stop continental drift.