Waleed Aly on Opinions

The following is a portion of Waleed Aly’s response to the final audience question in a talk he gave at the Above All Human conference in 2014:

…I will confide in you—this is a bad thing to do in a room full of people on social media, but anyway—the more I do broadcast work, so the more I do radio and TV where I’m producing content every day, the dumber I reckon I get. And I’m meant to be doing the serious bit of it. But there’s a reason, and that’s because it’s not really reflective. I feel like I’m hacking away with a knife, and I’m never sharpening it.

And that is, I think, one of the great problems of this world that we are slowly creating. We are creating a world of constant performance, constant production. Everything is a broadcast, everyone is reviewing everything all the time, as though things are worthy of review, as though they are worthy reviewers. We are in the process of losing our cultural humility, which sort of says, “You know what, there are certain opinions to which I’m not entitled.” Sometimes the most ethical thing to do is shut up.

But, to go back to [Pierre] Bordieu’s point, we are beginning to create a social structure that privileges, that creates an ethos in us that values rapidity, rapid response, and a kind of self-entitlment to speak on everything. To say, when someone asks you a question, “I don’t know” kind of feels like a failure now. It shouldn’t be. It should be a triumph. And I should be able to say that about 98% of things in the world, because, if I know 2% of stuff in the world, I’m amazing! But we don’t think that way.

Thanks to Pat Allan for recommending that talk. The whole talk is worth a watch. (I can’t find a way to link to it directly, but you can find it in amongst the conference videos.)