When Al Fin Was Proven Wrong, He Changed His Mind; What Do You Do?

Al Fin was raised to believe strongly in many things. It was only after he was old enough to become sceptical, that he learned to moderate his beliefs, and to change his mind based upon new evidence.

According to Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, it is natural for humans to feel confident in their beliefs — even if they are quite wrong.

The confidence we experience as we make a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that it is right. Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable. The bias toward coherence favors overconfidence. An individual who expresses high confidence probably has a good story, which may or may not be true.

… overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion. __ Daniel Kahneman

h/t Donna Laframboise

False confidence leads many people astray. That is particularly dangerous when many aspects of one’s livelihood are infested by overconfidence. In such situations, the need to make a living can sometimes pervert our desire to find the truth (eg in climate science).

Some of the many things on which Al Fin has changed his mind include:

  • Belief in a particular God or specific type of God
  • Belief in ideology as a worthy topic of study
  • Belief in “Club of Rome” type limits to growth
  • Belief in near to intermediate term “peak oil”
  • Belief in potentially catastrophic greenhouse gas global warming
  • Optimism for large scale wind and solar power
  • A left-liberal political orientation
  • An egalitarian view of human behaviour and human potential
  • An affinity for a hippie-communal lifestyle
  • Belief in near-term human-level artificial intelligence
  • And much more unmentioned, and more to come in the future …

All of those things were once believed by Al Fin, before he carefully reasoned his way to points of view that better corresponded to new or better evidence, or more powerful explanatory paradigms.

Changing one’s mind can be an exhilarating experience, and quite liberating. But it simply won’t do to change your mind just for the sake of changing it. You need to come upon new and better evidence, or a better way of framing the evidence. It is that “new frame” (paradigm) which can empower and liberate the mind. Even if one sees that one is more limited in certain areas than one had previously believed, the ability to see the overall picture more clearly can make up for it.

The idea is to teach children to adopt a sceptical mindset relatively early — in high school or before. You will know when they are ready to be exposed to the logical fallacies and the other essential thinking skills for Dangerous Children.

They will have plenty of opportunities for them to change their own minds, without them first having to play the chump for politicians, professors, intellectuals, celebrities, and others with powerful personalities.

The modern world is entangled by contradictory and destructive ideologies that serve only to waste our time — and hold us back from making progress toward the next level. It is that way by design.

If we want to bypass the webs of deceit that are cast out daily by government, media, academia, activists, religionists, popular celebrities and the rest, we will need to be dangerously sceptical. As will our Dangerous Children.

Remember: We may not be able to stop the momentum of economic decline caused by bad government. The necessary technological breakthroughs may not occur in time. But we can still help to build resilient and competent communities that can form a focus of recovery.

HFTB. PFTW. And don’t be afraid to change your minds when you have good reason to.

More: This Forbes article by Warren Meyer is an excellent illustration of how an intelligent person changed his mind using a thought experiment that combined publicly available data with clear reasoning and simple graphs __ via Climate Skeptic

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4 Responses to When Al Fin Was Proven Wrong, He Changed His Mind; What Do You Do?

  1. Simond says:

    Well said. The study of bias when it comes to decision making should be a key component of the education of a dangerous child. Kahneman’s book is well worth a read.

  2. Matt Musson says:

    Bruins coach John Wooden used to say, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

  3. Nathan says:

    Ah! So do you still change your mind? Or are you right about everything now?

    • alfin2101 says:

      If a mind stays vital, it is constantly changing. Every mind is different. One of the secrets to freeing your mind to change in its own way is not to care what other people think. “Being right about everything” is for someone who has stopped growing, someone who is still at least partially stuck in “groupthink.”

      The original Al Fin blog displays over 8 years some significant changes in attitudes toward a number of issues. This less ambitious blog is mainly focused on “The Dangerous Child” phenomenon.

      Hint: Dangerous Children are not overly concerned with how others think, and are too busy with their own projects to try to change other people’s minds.

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