Embrace being proven wrong

⇠ back | date: 2022-04-13 | tags: culture, politics | duration: 02:56 minutes

I recently posted an article on my Twitter feed about the shortcomings of Flatpak. It resonated with me and my opinions on a subject that, it turned out, I didn't know enough about. I had conversations with people who were far bigger experts in this area than me, both some in favour of Flatpak, and some sceptical, and came to new conclusions.

Don't get me wrong: I'm still not 100% convinced. I still have criticism of Flatpak, as I think anyone can have about anything.

But I opted to delete my tweet because I didn't feel comfortable with the hyperbole of the article. Worse even: in some corners of the internet the article had garnered a reputation for "speaking truth to power", feeding into a weird Red Hat conspiracy theory that I felt even more uncomfortable with.

Discourse neurology

This style of rhetoric, the "taking apart an argument so I don't have to think about it too hard", has become very common in modern discourse. This is driven by the "fight or flight" response of the amygdala in our brains1. A feeling of physical anxiety floods us when we are on the defensive, for whatever reason. And all logic goes out the window.

Many of the arguments you see online (and many offline too, don't get me wrong!) center around this emotional response and it is one that our culture fosters as well.

Admitting to being wrong is seen as a weakness and connected to shame, a loss of status, and humiliation. And so, we are never wrong. We attack our intellectual oponents in order to relieve ourselves of the responsibility of having to engage with an argument that makes us uncomfortable. This is how filter bubbles get created too2.

Hope for the future

But that's not how it needs to be. And that's what this blog post is about.

Because let's face it: we're all wrong about most things. There are too many things to be known, and too little time to know them all. And because society favours whitty comebacks at surface level discourse, this doesn't change the fact that we are filtering ourselves from properly engaging with arguments that we might find uncomfortable.

There is an antidote however: radical vulnerability and humility.

Being wrong is an opportunity to learn something new and to broaden your perspective on some topic you didn't understand previously. Approach arguments that make you uncomfortable with an open curiocity and you will find yourself agreeing with more things than you previously thought.

And this isn't about just changing your opinions either. By engaging more openly with things you disagree with you can actually increase your resolution on ideas that you hold dear. I'd also like to point out that not all ideas are equally valid. Fuck you if you think this justifies debating nazis...

Ultimately I want to approach life with a curiocity that doesn't exclude me from new and exciting things that may be happening in the communities I'm in, or from ignoring uncomfortable truths about how the system we are forced to live in works.

And maybe, if enough of us do this, we can make this world just a little bit better too.