Why direct experience is a lot more valuable.

We all know that direct experience is worth a lot more than secondary experience or book learning. But why do we place so much value on experiencing something yourself?

Language is a very powerful way to communicate. However, it is not powerful enough to transfer all the tiny nuances and unique sensations that make up any specific experience. There are many experiences where the words don’t even exist to explain them.

The person who learned something through direct experience might not even be aware of many factors that are very important.
If they are aware of the important factors, they will probably not be able to verbalize them with complete accuracy.
If they are able to verbalize them accurately the person listening to them still needs to correctly interpret their words.

Finally, everything that was not said explicitly has to be imagined. Often  imagination falls short. Either because the words don’t explain enough or because the person has never experienced something similar, so cannot create a realistic representation.

All this assumes that the person explaining is trying their best to give accurate information. Often people are lying. Then the person trying to understand has to  spend a lot of mental energy to try and detect if the person is being truthful or not.

To detect falsehood, people consciously or unconsciously evaluate the language patterns, body language, the tone of voice etc. etc.

Any other medium you can use to communicate or teach someone has its own limitations, and none of them are flawless. Audio loses body language and facial expressions, video can distort how things look etc.

As a result of hidden nuances, incomplete translations, using imagination to fill in the missing information, and deceit, direct experience is a lot more valuable. Except with statistics. You should not rely on direct experience when dealing with statistics.

Even professional statisticians frequently make very basic mistakes. Statistics are very counter-intuitive because the human brain just did not evolve to think about statistics easily. I guess that means that statistics aren’t so valuable when it comes to staying alive. With direct experience your sample size is too small, confirmation bias will result in a non-representative sample, and you will mistake correlation with causation. This is what happens when people point to somebody they know who smoked their entire life and outlived all the other people born in the same year that didn’t smoke. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence.

Now that you know that direct experience is more valuable, what are you going to learn directly, instead of second-hand?

To happiness, and beyond!


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