The Gap and What Lies In Between

Photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash

In the London Underground commuters are warned to “mind the gap,” lest they fall between the platform and the open door to the train.The gap is dangerous. To fall into it, deadly.

Between what we know and don’t know there is also a gap. It goes by many names — the void, the unknown, a liminal state betwixt and between.We are taught to be very afraid of this gap.

As children we are told fairytales about the dangers that lurk in the dark where strangers are really wolves in disguise and death awaits those dare to veer off the well-worn path.

In school, we are trained to search for and deliver the “right” answer. Those who get the right answer fastest are rewarded with the label of being “smart.” Those who don’t arrive at the right answer in the time we think it should take are “developmentally delayed.”

Getting the wrong answer which comes with another set of punishing labels: stupid, slow, naive, lazy, ignorant.

Even worse than getting the wrong answer, is having no answer at all. We are taught that it’s better to guess the answer on a multiple choice test, than leave it blank.At least then you have a chance of getting right answer by accident.

And so we live in a society where Google will provide an the “right” answer to in less than a tenth of a second.

“Search, video and internet users in general are quick to click away if anything takes too long, even by fractions of a second.”

With Google at our fingertips, gaps in our knowledge are quickly and decisively eliminated, almost before we’ve had a chance to consider the question.

Is the first answer get always the best answer?

Not necessarily, but, according to Google’s search engines, the first answer we get is guaranteed to be the most popular one — the answer that the majority of searchers and recognized authorities agree upon.

Instead of being troubled by the resounding conformity in our answers, our egos feel reassured: No matter what we actually know, we are a tenth of a second away from possessing, “right” answer.

I think this is a problem.

This tendency does not lead us to delve deeply into questions, to hold them open. In so doing, it closes down the possibility of arriving at new answers.

It keeps our thinking conventional.

It circumscribes our imaginations so that our visions of what might be don’t stray too far from the status quo.

“Common” sense prevails, but at what cost?

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