Scott Adams, God’s Debris – The Five Levels of Human Awareness

«“People exist at different levels of awareness. An Avatar is one who lives at the fifth level.”

“Is awareness like intelligence?” I asked.

“No. Intelligence is a measure of how well you function within your level of awareness. Your intelligence will stay about the same over your life. Awareness is entirely different from intelligence; awareness involves recognizing your delusions for what they are. Most people’s awareness will advance one or two levels in their lifetime.”

“What does it mean to recognize your delusions?”

“When you were a child, did your parents tell you that Santa Claus brought presents on Christmas Day?”

“Yeah,” I said, “I believed in Santa until kindergarten, when the other kids started talking. Then I realized Santa couldn’t get to all those homes in one night.”

“Your intelligence did not change at the moment you realized that Santa Claus was a harmless fantasy. Your math and verbal skills stayed the same, but your awareness increased. You were suddenly aware that stories from credible sources—in this case your parents—could be completely made up. And from the moment of that realization, you could never see the world the same way because your awareness of reality changed.”

“I guess it did.”

“And in school, did you learn that the Native Americans and the Pilgrims got together to celebrate what became Thanksgiving in the United States?”


“You figured it must be true because it was written in a book and because your teachers said it happened. You were in school for the specific purpose of learning truth; it was reasonable to believe you were getting it. But scholars now tell us that a first Thanksgiving with Pilgrims and Native Americans never happened. Like Santa Claus, much of what we regard as history is simply made up.”

“In your examples, there’s always learning. That seems like intelligence to me, not awareness.”

Awareness is about unlearning. It is the recognition that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew.”

He described what he called the five levels of awareness and said that all humans experience the first level of awareness at birth. That is when you first become aware that you exist.

In the second level of awareness you understand that other people exist. You believe most of what you are told by authority figures. You accept the belief system in which you are raised.

At the third level of awareness you recognize that humans are often wrong about the things they believe. You feel that you might be wrong about some of your own beliefs but you don’t know which ones. Despite your doubts, you still find comfort in your beliefs.

The fourth level is skepticism. You believe the scientific method is the best measure of what is true and you believe you have a good working grasp of truth, thanks to science, your logic, and your senses. You are arrogant when it comes to dealing with people in levels two and three.

The fifth level of awareness is the Avatar. The Avatar understands that the mind is an illusion generator, not a window to reality. The Avatar recognizes science as a belief system, albeit a useful one

«[A]wareness does not come from receiving new information. It comes from rejecting old information.»

«There is no implied good or bad about one’s level of awareness. No level is better or worse than any other level. People enjoy happiness at every level and they contribute to society at every level. […] There is no good or bad in anything, just differences in usefulness. People at all levels have the same potential for being useful. […] Happiness comes more easily at the other levels. Awareness has its price.»

«The great leaders in this world are always the least rational among us. They exist at the second level of awareness. Charismatic leaders have a natural ability to bring people into their delusion. They convince people to act against self-interest and pursue the leaders’ visions of the greater good. Leaders make citizens go to war to seize land they will never live on and to kill people who have different religions. […] The most effective [leaders] are [irrational]. You don’t often see math geniuses or logic professors become great leaders. Logic is a detriment to leadership.»

Scott Adams, God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment (2001)


One thought on “Scott Adams, God’s Debris – The Five Levels of Human Awareness

  1. Pingback: Top 40 Books I Read in 2016 | When We Know More

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