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  • You believe that the Sun is much larger than the Earth,

  • that the Earth is a roughly spherical planet

  • that rotates on its axis every 24 hours

  • and it revolves around the Sun once every 365 days.

  • You believe that you were born on a particular date,

  • that you were born to two human parents

  • and that each of your human parents

  • was born on an earlier date.

  • You believe that other human beings

  • have thoughts and feelings like you do

  • and that you are not surrounded by humanoid robots.

  • You believe all of these things and many more,

  • not on the basis of direct observation,

  • which can't, by itself, tell you very much

  • about the relative size and motion

  • of the Sun and the Earth,

  • or about your own family history,

  • or about what goes on in the minds of other humans.

  • Instead, these beliefs are mostly based on

  • what you've been told.

  • Without spoken and written testimonies,

  • human beings could not pass on knowledge

  • from one person to another,

  • let alone from one generation to another.

  • We would know much, much less

  • about the world around us.

  • So learning about a topic

  • by asking an expert on that topic,

  • or appealing to authority,

  • helps us gain knowledge,

  • but, it doesn't always.

  • Even the most highly respected authorities

  • can turn out to be wrong.

  • Occasionally this happens

  • because a highly respected authority is dishonest

  • and claims to know something

  • that she or he really doesn't know.

  • Sometimes it happens just because they make a mistake.

  • They think they know when they don't know.

  • For example, a number of respected economists

  • did not expect the financial collapse of 2008.

  • They turned out to be wrong.

  • Maybe they were wrong

  • because they were overlooking some important evidence.

  • Maybe they were wrong because they were misinterpreting

  • some of the evidence they had noticed.

  • Or maybe they were wrong

  • simply because they were reasoning carelessly

  • from the total body of their evidence.

  • But whatever the reason,

  • they turned out to be wrong

  • and many people who trusted their authority

  • ended up losing lots of money,

  • losing lots of other people's money,

  • on account of that misplaced trust.

  • So while appealing to authority

  • can sometimes provide us with valuable knowledge,

  • it also can sometimes be the cause

  • of monumental errors.

  • It's important to all of us to be able to distinguish

  • those occasions on which we can safely and reasonably trust authority

  • from those occasions on which we can't.

  • But how do we do that?

  • In order to do that,

  • nothing is more useful than

  • an authority's track record on a particular topic.

  • If someone turns out to perform well

  • in a given situation much of the time,

  • then it's likely that he or she will continue

  • to perform well in that same situation,

  • at least in the near term.

  • And this generalization holds true

  • of the testimony of authorities as much as of anything else.

  • If someone can consistently pick winners

  • in both politics and baseball,

  • then we should probably trust him or her

  • to keep on picking winners in both politics or baseball,

  • though maybe not in other things

  • where his or her track record may be less stellar.

  • If other forecasters have a poorer track record

  • on those same two topics,

  • then we shouldn't trust them as much.

  • So whenever you're considering whether

  • to trust the testimony of some authority,

  • the first question to ask yourself is,

  • "What's their track record on this topic?"

  • And notice that you can apply

  • the very same lesson to yourself.

  • Your instincts tell you that you've just met Mr. Right,

  • but what sort of track record do your instincts have

  • on topics like this one?

  • Have your instincts proven themselves

  • to be worthy of your trust?

  • Just as we judge other people's testimony

  • by their track record,

  • so, too, we can judge our own instincts

  • by their track record.

  • And this brings us one step closer

  • to an objective view of ourselves

  • and our relation to the world around us.

You believe that the Sun is much larger than the Earth,

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A2 TED-Ed track record authority track record trust

【TED-Ed】How do you know whom to trust? - Ram Neta

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    wikiHuang posted on 2013/12/01
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