Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not and other talks

This is a double banger: the first TED talk is a great one about ecologically minded people getting things wrong (and slaughtering 40,000 elephants in the process) and then taking unusual steps to make amends (and transforming some theories about grazing and land care). I have it here because while the talk is wonderfully persuasive and the speaker presents a massive turnaround in their thinking I also notice that the speaker does not reflect to any significant degree on how their certainty that they were right led to many of their subsequent problems. The second part presents some of the work of Robert Burton and his book “On being certain” – some reviews pinched from his website and a 1hour video from a talk he gave at Google – a rather good one at that and well worth taking the time to enjoy. If that doesn’t give you enough to do then maybe you would like to read his book which can be found here: On Being Certain

First talk

About two-thirds of the world's grasslands have turned into desert. Allan Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert. This talk is about what he learned. This talk is also here because of what he didn't learn.

In 1992, Savory and his wife, Jody Butterfield, formed the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe, a learning site for people all over Africa. In 2010, the Centre won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for its work in reversing desertification. In that same year he and his wife, with others, founded the Savory Institute in Boulder, Colo., to promote large-scale restoration of the world's grasslands.


Second talk

In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton challenges the notions of how we think about what we know. He shows that the feeling of certainty we have when we "know" something comes from sources beyond our control and knowledge. In fact, certainty is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. Because this "feeling of knowing" seems like confirmation of knowledge, we tend to think of it as a product of reason. But an increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain, and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. The feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen.

This talk from Google is such a good talk I can highly recommend it. While not really as good as reading the book it is a very decent substitute. Hopefully by the end you will be wondering ... And most especially you will be wondering about ever feeling as certain as Savory did in his talk in the first video. Maybe you will also reflect on your own sense on certainty.