Mental Update #2
Italian Creativity and Newspaper Amnesia
In our last episode, we explore why Italians never finish construction on their homes, the rise of the Open / Closed political paradigm, and the real cost of standing up to your tribe.
Tune in here.
Think Clearer | Newspaper Amnesia
Last week's post on "Transitory Inflation" got me thinking… what role do mental biases play in sustaining a false narrative, such as transitory inflation?
By my estimation, a lot. And faithfully trusting inaccurate news sources is the starting point.
After waking up on a gorgeous Saturday morning, you brew a pot of jet-black coffee and begin scrolling through the latest headlines from your trusted source, the Washington Post.
One headline, Fatal Bridge Collapse is Coming to An American City Near You, grabs your attention.
After all, you're a civil engineer with 15 years of experience, currently overseeing the yearlong construction of three bridges. You know the top 10 reasons any bridge in America will collapse (and how to prevent it).
One more sip of coffee and you are speedreading through the article, parsing one bad take after another, and thinking...
The failure conditions cited as "chief concerns" only apply to a few bridges in a few cities.
The odds of these failures occurring are substantially smaller (rare vs. imminent) than what is reported.
The article doesn't cite maintenance work. performed by companies like yours, which is mandatory, ongoing, and remediates most of the problems.
You mentally mutter "Did the writer even interview a project manager?!!!"
Just as your brain begins to work on THE definitive treatise on modern bridge construction that YOU WILL DEFINITELY send to the WAPO editor, a different headline catches your eye, Cryptocurrencies to Be The Greatest Cause of Greenhouse Gasses by 2025.
!Poof! the treatise is forgotten.
Your attention darts towards the new topic, while your ego whispers, "You were right! Bitcoin is going to ruin our finances and burn down every last tree in the rainforest! I must know the truth."
In seconds, the inaccurate reporting of one subject is replaced by the illusion of pristine accuracy on a topic you know next to nothing about.
You're suffering from Gell-Mann Amnesia.
False Narratives seek and thrive in Gell-Mann Amnesia.
Readers get hooked on a news feed, recognize and instantly forget inconsistencies / inaccuracies, and assume the "source" must be accurate on topics they know little about. Here, False Narratives can hide behind people’s ignorance and desire to feel right, rather than be accurate.
There is a Simple Cure
Most forms of Amnesia require (...years of...) treatment from a qualified medical doctor. Fortunately, a healthy dose of skepticism and a few truth-seeking questions cure Gell-Mann Amnesia in seconds.
Here are four questions to ask of ANY article from ANY source.
Is this fact, opinion, or both?
What questions weren't asked/answered but should have been?
How might the conclusions change if the author’s understanding of the first principles isn't accurate?
What is the steelman argument for the opposite conclusions?
You don’t have to stop reading your favorite news source to drop the illusion that the authors get things wrong time to time (or most of the time).
Just ask better questions.
How to NOT Argue This Holiday Season
The holidays remind us that there is never a better time to learn the art of deep conversations without the necessary arguments.
Learn the process, in the time it takes to drink a hot coco, here.