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Stories We Tell Ourselves

March 11, 2018

If you haven’t read the book Sapiens, I highly recommend you do. It’s one of my top 3 all time favorite books. I took away one concept from Sapiens that I think about almost every day. It’s about the human ability to take part in a story.

Believing in stories we tell each other has let homo sapiens conquer the universe. No other species has the ability to either tell or listen to stories. So what’s unique about participating in stories?

Stories have led to humans to cooperate and build something bigger than the species. The US constitution is a story, democracy is a story. The New York Times tells stories and how people talk about the times is a story. What North Korea tells it’s people is a story. Marriage is a story and so is product development.

Biases are built based on stories people listen to, the people they interact with and the opportunities they are given. The better the story, the more number of listeners and a better grip on those listeners.

One neat way to decide if you should believe a story is to go down to the first principles and find out if what’s being said is a fact vs an opinion. Problem is, not all stories can be traced down facts, especially those with an indeterministic outcome.

Sometimes, the facts are there but you’d likely only spend the time to get down to the facts if your life depended on it. Humans by nature like certainlity and feel comfort in arriving at a judgement which makes it hard to detach from the narrator, especially with your pre-conceived biases. The stronger the attachement to the story the more you don’t want to listen to the alternative narrative.

Reading Sapiens was like taking the red pill from Morpheus. You won’t be able to help but ask yourself whenever you engage in a new conversation if the story is really real or if there is an alternative version to the story.

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