Thursday, November 21, 2019

Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America

A good general audience book to check out for anyone who wants to forgive the news is the new book Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America. The book sort of makes this blog obsolete since it makes the same basic points I try to make. I like books where to dislike the book is to prove the authors' point and Loserthink fits that bill.


1. Don’t engage in mind reading. It isn’t a human skill. (Mind reading is assuming you know what other people’s thoughts/intentions are.)
2. Think of your ego as a tool, not your identity. Track your predictions to build up some useful humility about your worldview. Put yourself in embarrassing situations regularly to teach yourself there is no lasting pain.
3. The past no longer exists. Don’t let your attachment to the past influence your decisions today.
4. If you haven’t mentioned the next best alternative to your proposed plan, you haven’t said anything at all, and smart people would be wise to ignore you.
5. If you are arguing over the definition of a word instead of the best way forward, you are not part of the productive world.
6. If you are sure one variable is all you need to grasp a complicated topic, the problem is probably on your end. (If everything remains equal, climate change will kill us all! Everything won’t remain equal, technology and circumstances will change that few people can predict.)
7. Occam’s razor (the idea that the simplest explanation is usually correct) is utter nonsense in the way it is commonly employed. We all think our opinions are the simplest explanations.
8. Fairness cannot be obtained in most cases because of its subjective nature. The closest you can get is equal application of the law. If your argument depends on that one time something happened, you do not have an argument. You have a story.
9. If your argument depends entirely on the so-called slippery slope, you don’t have much of an argument. Everything changes until there’s a reason for it to stop. Mowing your lawn is not a slippery slope to shaving your cat.
10. Coincidences usually mean nothing. And they are the fuel of confirmation bias. If your argument depends entirely on not knowing how else to explain coincidences, you have a poor imagination, not an argument. Coincidences might tell you where to look first for confirmation of a theory, but that is as far as they can go.
11. Avoid "halfpinions" that ignore either the costs or the benefits of a plan.
Halfpinion: the act of ignoring one half of a topic (either the costs or the benefits).
12. Don’t use analogies to predict. Look to causes and effects.
13. Don’t judge a group by its worst 5 percent. If you do, you’re probably in the worst 5 percent of your own group.
14. Understand the limits of expert advice, and be skeptical of experts who have financial incentives to mislead.