The Evolution Gap and Rule Nine

Aug 7, 2023

Assume That the Person You Are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t

The ninth rule of Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” is “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.” This rule has significant implications through the lens of the Evolution Gap — the disjunction between our slow genetic evolution and the fast pace of social and technological innovation.

In our evolutionary past, knowledge and wisdom were essentially communal. Each member of a small tribe or community had specific roles and specialties, and their collective knowledge contributed to the survival and success of the group. Being open to learning from others was beneficial and essential for survival.

However, the Evolution Gap has dramatically changed the context in which we share and receive information. The advent of the information age and the exponential growth of accessible data have turned knowledge into an overwhelming sea of information. In this setting, it’s easy to become insular and fall into the trap of confirmation bias, seeking out information and sources that affirm our existing beliefs and biases.

This is where Peterson’s ninth rule comes into play. It encourages intellectual humility and open-mindedness, harkening back to our communal roots of shared knowledge and collective learning. The principle of acknowledging that others may possess knowledge that we do not is a counterbalance to the tendency of information siloing and echo chambers that the digital age has exacerbated.

Rule Nine presents a strategy for navigating the vastness of knowledge in our modern society. It’s a call for continuous learning, intellectual humility, and open dialogue, bridging the Evolution Gap by fostering a sense of collective wisdom and shared understanding, much like in our evolutionary past.

So, while the settings and sources of knowledge have vastly evolved, being open to learning from others remains as critical as ever. Thus, Peterson’s ninth rule serves as a guide to navigating the informational complexities of our modern world, drawing from the timeless wisdom of our evolutionary heritage.