Gravity's Rainbow

botany, shoes, books, and justice

In which another person assumes I do not know things

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Tonight I was talking to someone working their way through Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, but finding it slow going. I mentioned that, while I hadn’t read it, I was familiar with it, and I understood its major contribution to be the weight of evidence brought to bear on the (not entirely new) thesis. I suggested that once they were convinced, there might not be much point in torturing themselves with the rest of the book very long, dry book.

My conversational partner then spoke a bit about how they’d like to have a deep understanding of the topic and be able to back up their perspectives. I was nodding along, but stopped cold when they pointed out I did not seem very interested in that myself.

The person I was speaking to does not know my political and economic views or depth of knowledge, and yet they assume that whatever views I have are held in ignorance. I haven’t read Capital in the Twenty-First Century, but I have read gazillions of reviews, critiques, excerpts, and descriptions of the work. I wasn’t especially fascinated by this work and seeking it out – I just read a great deal in this area and so such articles were on my radar. 

Their assumption made me pretty mad, but I did not want to discuss my angry feelings. So I said that, indeed, by the time they finished Piketty they would have much more knowledge of the evidence for his thesis than I’d managed to glean from reviews.

I had hoped that they would take that opportunity to offer to share the most interesting tidbits with me as they read, or perhaps apologize. Unfortunately, they decided to twist the knife and mocked my academic training, asking if I’d learned such non-answers from my professors.

Maybe I misinterpreted some of what they said, but that conversation did not feel good

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2 Comments

  1. I know exactly how you feel. I’m in a similar position with a number of AI and Consciousness books that have been flooding the market including Nick Bostram’s SuperIntelligence. It and others basically summarize or examine at ridiculously detailed depth ideas with regard to Brain, Consciousness, Intelligence that I have been studying for decades. It can be frustrating in discussing the topic(s) with certain others.

    • It’s not that I’m an expert and they didn’t recognize that (I’m absolutely not an expert). It’s that they just assumed that I was completely ignorant.

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