Post No.: 0274
Whenever you form an opinion – listen to others too, argue critically against yourself, and think of alternative views or counterfactual hypotheses, in order to test and refine your beliefs.
Most of us don’t listen enough and tend to automatically assume we’re correct during disagreements, and so proceed to try to convince the other party to change their views at the same time as not listen to their arguments. Someone else may be speaking but our minds are usually focused on what we want to say next rather than truly listening then pausing to think about what they said, before replying to exactly what they said. When we only talk, we aren’t taking the opportunity to possibly learn something. So it’s better to initially assume we could be wrong. We only learn when we listen. In the long-term this will pay off.
Thus a better way to approach fresh arguments from an opposing side might be to first say to them, “Maybe you’re right?” and then see if you can find support for this alternative point of view, before explaining why you think it’s wrong and why your initial view is right if you still believe it is. This can help prevent the automatic dismissal of an opposing argument (the typical thought-terminating response) before you’ve really explored its possibility. Maybe the other side(s) has a point? You may still end up not agreeing with them but at least you’ll have considered their arguments.
When we don’t do this and don’t listen openly to all opposing sides of a story enough, we tend to hold strong, overconfident, black-or-white views of one extreme or the other and false dichotomies (particularly on emotive issues or issues that are perceived to affect us personally), and we tend to arrogantly think we’re far cleverer than anyone who disagrees with us too. People who don’t know enough tend to think complex problems are easy to solve because they simply don’t know enough about the complexities of such problems. Well if you think something should be easy yet you don’t understand why it’s taking so long to do (e.g. why politicians are taking so long trying to negotiate a certain deal, or why investigators haven’t found a ‘massive’ aeroplane that crashed in the ocean yet) then that’s poor logic – if you don’t personally understand something then how can you simultaneously assume that it’s easy(?!) If you don’t understand something then it’d be more logical to assume that it’s difficult.
An overly simple mind sees things over-simplistically, such as overly simple black-or-white or extreme views. People tend to get attached too soon to what they think is a solution then stubbornly defend it from all criticism – when they should really try to understand the entire problem better first (e.g. understanding the dilemmas and stakeholders involved). We also tend to always blame other people when most large problems involve everyone to a degree (e.g. not just the corporations but those who use their services voluntarily). Uncompromisingly black-or-white stances can be a symptom of bias, conflicting interests and/or insufficient education in the relevant subject matters being discussed, because fewer things in the human world than we may think are truly black-or-white (especially in politics or economics).
So consider that you could be wrong, and admit to it (at least to yourself) if so – take the hit in the short-term so that you don’t waste any more time and energy going down the wrong path in the long-term. It’s so intuitive and easy to only see from our own existing perspective and assume that our perception of reality must be correct (e.g. it took a lot of convincing before people accepted that the universe didn’t revolve around us/the Earth). Trying to prove oneself wrong or refining our views is a productive usage of time and effort – simply confirming current beliefs means we’ve not learnt much or anything new. It’s an opportunity to make further enquiries and head down a new road of discovery. Those who are strong enough to listen, to not immediately dismiss countering or unintuitive views, those who take a hit on their ego and are ready to admit they were wrong if something shakes the foundations of their worldviews, will ultimately adapt to become the smartest. Those who wish to hang onto their worldviews and defend their egos at all costs despite the evidence and logic crumbling around them will lose respect from those who are the smartest; even though they might be able to fool other fools.
And never think that your own personal knowledge and experiences amount to the sum total of all knowledge and experiences from everyone (e.g. just because you may not think you’ve felt any adverse effects of global warming where you live, it doesn’t mean other people across the world haven’t). So always be humble in what you think you know or have experienced because no one knows or has experienced everything. Meow.
If one tends to say, “But I’ve heard that it’s like this, not like that” rather than, “Okay, I’ve heard what seems to now only be one side or just a small part of the story but I’d like to hear more of this other side or part from you too” whenever new information is offered, then one is not critically thinking or seizing opportunities. We do tend to trust more the side of the story we had heard first, we had heard from a closer source (e.g. from another member of our own ingroup), that serves our interests and/or we perceive to have personally experienced first-hand – but these are biased approaches that work against having an appropriately open mind and evolving intellect, and gaining a more complete knowledge base.
In my fluffy opinion, the best philosophers and economists, for instance, are not hardcore socialist, capitalist, utilitarian, libertarian or hardcore anything – they consider and test out all possible routes in thought experiments or small real-world experiments, and look for real-world data, before settling on a conclusion, and they are flexible enough to do this for each situation on a case-by-case basis too.
Many problems present continuum fallacies or problems regarding where to draw the line (line-drawing problems), fuzzy concepts, dilemmas or are inherently irreconcilable – making these things potentially perpetually subjective and debateable, with no single right answer. Nothing technically comes for free in an isolated system with a fixed quantity of energy/mass, thus any blessing could also potentially be a curse elsewhere (i.e. to take, something else must give)?
Most meaningful long-range predictions are difficult to make and cannot really be evaluated without the benefit of hindsight – yet everyone’s an ‘insightful armchair critic’ after the facts have been revealed. But we don’t get the benefit of hindsight until it’s often too practically late to do anything about it except criticise other people’s past decisions (when we might not have criticised them sooner to prevent their outcomes)! Lots of things are still inconclusive in the sciences – well nothing that we use inductive logic for can ever be 100% certain, and many things still knowingly require further research to be even 95% or 99% certain.
So in some cases there’s no single correct, best or absolutely certain answer (without the benefit of hindsight) but there’s arguably at least one incorrect answer – and that’s stubbornly thinking that there’s only one correct answer in such cases!
One effect of knowing ‘only a little bit’ of fragmented information is that one can start to think one knows it all – but one is not aware of the vast amount of information that one does not know. To even begin to truly understand a subject requires a concerted effort and (formal) regime to understand that subject; and one must also endeavour to keep up to date with further research and findings regarding that area too.
The true complexity of life means that there’s seldom just one single ‘magic bullet’ solution or sole source of responsibility regarding the ongoing problems of the world. Not that we should stop looking in case we find them, but more realistically and rationally, we should accept that seemingly little things matter a great deal and are worth doing because little things add up, and everyone plays their part too, no matter how big or small we think we are, in a highly-connected and complex world (e.g. when trying to solve environmental problems or just looking after our own health). This applies whether for the good or bad – every little good or every little bad helps or harms respectively. Hence we should stop this ‘if we cannot find a magic bullet that’ll rapidly and easily solve this problem then what’s the use in trying these small actions?’ or ‘if they won’t do something about it then I won’t either’ dichotomies and mentalities.
We should each consider doing all the little things that we know will contribute towards a solution to a problem, no matter how seemingly small they may seem individually. Take a multi-factorial approach to problem and solution hunting. All things, no matter how small the net effect, that contribute to a problem are the problems, and all things, no matter how small the net effect, that contribute to a solution are the solutions. It all adds up. We should therefore not be so quick to criticise or ignore ideas that don’t solve a complex problem completely and deem them as failures or non-starters – if there’s a net benefit then there’s a net benefit (so taking into account the opportunity costs, side-effects, as well as the long-term costs if we don’t solve a particular problem).
…In summary, first assume that you might be the one who is wrong before judging someone else as being dumb. For instance, don’t assume by default that people in other countries with different cultures and ways of doing things are stupid just because you’re not knowledgeable enough to figure out what they’re really doing. We might currently be too ignorant to understand or appreciate intelligent ideas even when we’re staring right at them.
Have the humility to say, “I don’t know” and then go away to do some research before passing a judgement or firm opinion. We must remain humble, curious and willing to learn, both in preparation for and after our own mistakes.
Towards those whom we disagree with and are indeed wrong, we must be empathic and constructive. We’ve all said, believed in and done things we can look back on and wonder why we said them, believed in them or did them! (And I personally cannot always blame it on catnip!)
Those who tend to automatically blame other people or things when things go wrong learn the least because they think the problem is always other people or things rather than themselves, hence they’re logically the least likely to seek self-improvement and subsequently grow.
So occasionally argue against your current views to pre-empt mistakes and save embarrassment; or let your mistakes trigger a curiosity and opportunity to learn more rather than a feeling of embarrassment, threat or defensiveness to protect a fragile ego. The only way we genuinely fail is if we don’t learn.
Do speak but listen, and listen some more. Listen far more than speak. Some say we should listen proportional to the fact that we have two ears but only one mouth.
Meow. We wouldn’t say that Isaac Newton was an idiot because he got some fundamental things wrong, or say that Thomas Edison’s inventions were rubbish because of the technology we have now! Who is to know for sure whether people centuries in the future from now won’t look back and think how wrong or naïve even the smartest people alive today were? If Newton, Edison, etc. were still alive today then I’m sure they’d still be learning and refining their knowledge and ideas – thus the only idiots are those who think they know it all and have stopped listening and learning.