The importance of intellectual sovereignty

This article is a translation of the same article also available in french.

Warning: Sovereignty is a political ideology. It is not the subject of this article.

Sovereignty is the exercise of power over a territory and a population. The idea of intellectual sovereignty defended here aims to be the development of objective and personal knowledge as a tool for free will.

The concept refers to the individual's ability to think autonomously and make decisions based on their own reasoning rather than on that of others. This implies freedom of thought, expression, and choice.

The ability to think autonomously allows an individual to understand the world around them and make decisions based on their own values and aspirations rather than simply adopting ideas or ways of thinking imposed by others.

On a societal level, if people are not capable of thinking autonomously, they can easily be influenced. This can lead to misinformation, manipulation, and a loss of confidence in institutions and authorities. On the other hand, if people are capable of thinking autonomously, they can be more critical and better able to question received ideas, consider a wider range of perspectives, and solve problems more effectively.

Mental load and intellectual exercises

The interdependencies of our information systems and the increasingly important processes of their integration into our daily lives suggest that mental balance, faced with the information overload we encounter, can only come from a blind trust in these systems and their intentions. In this context, intellectual sovereignty is gradually dispraised, as it would go against the freedoms and mental peace offered by the simplification of the concepts that govern the technologies and consumption that we have. Has knowledge and its pursuit become superfluous?

Direct consequences of a loss of intellectual sovereignty

A sovereign is someone who is autonomous and independent. One is sovereign in one's own home, for what needs to happen there. Sovereignty is therefore a method. It's having the controls in hand. The direction taken with these controls is a second step, but it can only be chosen if one has the controls. Intellectual sovereignty is therefore strongly linked to the notion of privacy and freedom. How can decisions be made that preserve the interest of a sovereign if the information acquired is delegated to subjective "sources"?

Several examples illustrate at the individual level this abandonment of intellectual sovereignty:

  • when an argument is developed solely on the basis of a briefly read headline
  • when searching for a source is "too long"
  • when critical or complex thinking is "too much of a hassle"
  • when "everyone thinks what they want" is used to dismiss a statement that would be uncomfortable, for their beliefs, to debate

These behaviors signify the delegation of knowledge to the "stranger". This is abandoning pedagogy, verification, and objectivity. This is losing intellectual sovereignty.

Excessive simplification

The use of information systems such as mass media, social networks, or government communications all have in common that they are designed for rapid consumption of information. This speed is made possible by the excessive simplification of the content. Paradoxically, today's society is facing an evolution in each person's relationship with information itself. If an idea takes more than 10 minutes of focus to be understood, it is too complex and not worth the attention. This leaves room for a certain intellectual laziness that favors belief. The reflection of this phenomenon is that we are bombarded with slogans, ultra-simplified short messages that aim to obscure all existing alternatives on a subject to provide only one. This is a form of lying and manipulation that consists of annihilating critical thinking by depriving it of all intelligence. This is an important problem. Addressing it without placing learning and knowledge at the center of our experiences leads us away from thinking in a fair and correct way.

This is not about politics or religion, but about intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to adapt, to choose means of action based on circumstances, that is, to understand, reflect and know in order to achieve one's goals when circumstances change.

In other words, and in a more direct tone, if we address your stupidity, you will be stupid. There are professionals of stupidity on television. If we are interested in your intelligence, it is because we are addressing it, so you will be intelligent.

Speaking about reality TV:

hink it's serious. I think it's very serious. Not you ladies, I know you're amazing, but I think it's terrible to stoop so low! At some point, I would like to see, from time to time on major channels, at times like this, people who are, I don't know, brilliant, who inspire us, who have something more than us, who make us want to understand things about the world, about who we are. Staging obscure discourse and mediocrity like this annoys me. That's it!

Following which, another guest (who appeared on a reality TV show) addressed Alexandre Astier to suggest that he considered actors or television viewers as "stupid" just because they do not want to "think too hard every night" but instead wish to "free themselves":

let's not confuse "trying to see something brilliant" with thinking too hard. We can't just lump everyone who thinks in the same category as those who think too hard. That's a very dangerous generalization.

Here's the complete moment on video:

Alexandre Astier donne son avis sur la

A refusal to learn?

To reject a discussion with your intelligence, with the idea that it's "too complicated," is precisely to reject reflection by redirecting it towards stupidity. From there, to conclude that the person your speak with thinks you're stupid is a shortcut that concerns you (even though you invited it).

Recently, we can observe that everyone has an opinion on Facebook, WhatsApp, emails, their iPhone, but nobody knows what an IP address, a server, a request or the cloud is. If you ask people what security is, they'll tell you it's a password. People don't know, but they're for or against a digital passport. I think we have the right to be for or against, provided we know what it's truly about. That famous encrypted QR code... what is it? It's what we call "developing one's intelligence."

Some are in denial. They think that by avoiding words, they avoid the phenomenon. They think that it's enough to flee through negation in order not to have to face the inevitable. I think that ignoring or denying reality reinforces stupidity. It strengthens it in the sense that, as contexts evolve, voluntary ignorance widens the gap between ideas that we had at one time and the necessary notions to apprehend the world today. In other words, it promotes belief at the expense of knowledge.

Others think that dive into a subject would only be a waste of time. That there's a life to live and that burdening themselves with precise knowledge deprives them of the short time they have to enjoy themselves or have a happy life, away from problems. I think that believing is not knowing and that evidence or common sense are often the weaknesses that exploit cognitive biases, not to mention being off-topic.

In the case of new technologies, they will come out of their boxes, we won't put them back in. We must think very clearly about the personal, professional, social, and family implications of these technologies. For all these reasons, I am opposed to this idea of trivializing a risk because we don't know it or don't understand its proportion. Understanding is a prerequisite for adapting. Refusing intellectual sovereignty is a form of abandoning free will.