When I wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, I included a section titled, “Do We Really Live and Learn?”
In some areas, we clearly do. A farmer tries a new technique. Even if it doesn’t work, he has learned something useful. Learning from mistakes is one of the reasons fewer and fewer farmers feed more and more people. It’s true of any successful scientific endeavor.
Sometimes we overlearn. A man drives down a quiet street and suddenly gets caught in a traffic jam. He determines never to drive down that street again. Later, his wife points out that there was a wreck on that street that day, and that it’s usually quiet. But the man refuses to ever try that street again. He has overlearned.
In other areas, humanity does not learn. We’re like a famous 1950s TV character — Beaver Cleaver. Many years ago, the TV Land network ran a commercial for “Leave It to Beaver” that nicely sums up the problem. “Why doesn’t the Beaver ever learn his lesson?” the ad asked. “He is often taught his lesson. He promises to remember his lesson. But the next day he has forgotten his lesson. Is he deliberately ignoring his lesson? Not exactly.”… more