So what are we to do? (third, and hopefully final, political aside)

For a long long time, the uneducated classes more or less accepted what the educated — “talking” — classes were saying. They could grumble or jeer but they had little reasons to doubt, let alone reject. The educateds could basically ignore anyone except other educateds because the silent class remained silent.

That’s not the case anymore. The silent class are now talking in between themselves — full steam. They have their own news, entertainment, even science. It’s not that they are totally ignoring what the talking class is saying but they now have a choice, including the choice of getting educated (in the traditional sense) or not.

In this new landscape of choice, forcing or shaming no longer work. People now have where to retreat when they feel they’re being pushed on. They have where to go and who to get encouragement from. “They” are no longer aspiring to become “us”.

(And they, increasingly, are trying to push back. Can the world go on as before now that more and more positions of power and authority are taken by people from this alternate reality? Will it crash and burn or will it adapt? The next four years in the US will give us a glimpse.)

All I’m saying is that if “we” want to win, we must stop fighting. It’s not a battlefield. If we are the smart class, the only way we can win is by becoming smarter. We have to learn to model people — to feel the way they feel. We have to learn to be them and look through their eyes, without losing what makes us us.

And you know what? It’s not only that this is the smart way: it’s the easy way. Bashing uneducated people for being lazy achieves nothing: it just makes you both bitter. But if you approach them as a fellow human, if you’re listening and thinking with them, you will discover that what separates you two is often amazingly shallow. Just a change of tone, just a different order of arguments, just using a different synonym here and there may often make all the difference when you’re trying to persuade.

Little tweaks go a long way… it’s only that finding the right tweak is so hard. Obama was able to win, in part, because he has a natural talent for choosing the right tone and words. Too bad this talent is so rare. But what is all our science, our smarts, our rationalism worth if we’re unable to reliably master this skill — now that (literally) the fate of the world depends on it?

The two baskets (another political aside)

Let’s take a very blurred view at the world. A sort-it-all-into-two-baskets kind of view.

First we have the sad basket. People are really acting weird lately. Need I go into details? Madness, madness everywhere. Sane rational people seem to be on defense and losing.

Not just by being outnumbered, mind you. The very assumptions of the sane rational people are being aggressively uprooted. “Trump won” is not the worst part; the worst part is how the sane rational people were so sure he would not win. “We,” so used to being right, suddenly found ourselves in the wrong. “They,” the very embodiment of ignoring reality and general absurdity, somehow, infuriatingly, ended up more right than us.

Fear, uncertainty, doubt. (Remember that phrase?)

But then there is the other basket: the fun basket, the wow basket, the (mostly) technology basket. All at about the same time, several big things that were kind of good ideas stopped being just good ideas and started actually moving — in a big way. Solar and wind are taking off. Electric and then self-driving cars are taking off. 3D printing is not quite taking off but may be close. And AI in general is really, finally, unbelievably, taking off.

“Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Rational people seem to have solved things. Kudos for them! Now, if they want to go on with their fun without further nasty interruptions, they urgently, desperately need to solve other people.

Like, figure them out. Grok them. Understand them.

Otherwise the fun basket may well end up drowning in the sad basket.

Hint: rationalism is warm and cuddly, but it may not be the best tool for the job (more on that later).