How Not to Be Stupid

“…stupidity is the cost of intelligence operating in a complex environment…

[Stupidity:] overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information…

When it comes to overloading our cognitive brains, the seven factors are: being outside of your circle of competence, stress, rushing or urgency, fixation on an outcome, information overload, and being in the presence of an “authority.” Acting alone any of these are powerful enough, but together they dramatically increase the odds you are unaware that you’ve been cognitively compromised.

…if these factors are present, don’t make any important decisions.”

Interview with Adam Robertson in “How Not to Be Stupid.Farnam Street. January 2, 2019.

Really Reading Means Being Open to Change

To really read any discursive text, whether a philosophical tract or a legal contract, is a disturbing and cognitively disorienting experience, because it means allowing another person’s thoughts to intrude into your own and rearrange your beliefs and assumptions — often not in ways to which you would consent if warned in advance. Even when you deliberately decide to learn something new by reading, you put yourself, your thoughts and your most cherished suppositions in the hands of the author and trust her or him not to reorganize your mind so thoroughly that you no longer recognize where or who you are. It’s very scary; hard, painstaking work of determined concentration under the best of circumstances. So particularly with philosophical texts, the whole point of which is to reorganize your thinking, people often don’t really read them at all; they merely take a mental snapshot of the passage that enables them to form a Gestalt impression of its content, without scrutinizing it too closely.”

—Adrian Piper. Interview with Lauren O’Neill-Butler. “Adrian Piper Speaks! (for Herself).” The New York Times. July 5, 2018.

Excellent interview throughout. For this part, I think you could extend the point to any kind of lived experience. Authentic experience is breaking from the automatic, the prejudicial mental models that we have created to navigate the world and experiencing the world in a way that might fundamentally change us rather than limiting our vision to our existing worldview that renders anything outside of it invisible.

Echo Chamber Test

“[D]oes a community’s belief system actively undermine the trustworthiness of any outsiders who don’t subscribe to its central dogmas? Then it’s probably an echo chamber…

…An echo chamber doesn’t destroy their members’ interest in the truth; it merely manipulates whom they trust and changes whom they accept as trustworthy sources and institutions.

And, in many ways, echo-chamber members are following reasonable and rational procedures of enquiry. They’re engaging in critical reasoning. They’re questioning, they’re evaluating sources for themselves, they’re assessing different pathways to information. They are critically examining those who claim expertise and trustworthiness, using what they already know about the world. It’s simply that their basis for evaluation – their background beliefs about whom to trust – are radically different. They are not irrational, but systematically misinformed about where to place their trust.”

—C Thi Nguyen, “Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult.” Aeon. April 9, 2018.

The central idea isn’t that we all need “epistemological reboots”, although it’s often not a bad idea. The central idea is of intellectual humility, such as the possibility that you could be wrong. Philosophical skepticism, like that of Descartes, is taking it to the logical extreme, that not only can you be wrong, you might be wrong about everything. For example, everything we believe is real could be a Matrix-style simulation. We cannot exclude that possibility, even if it isn’t terribly useful in our day to day existence.

There Are No Reasons

“Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

Trainspotting. Directed by Danny Bole. London: Channel 4, 1996.