Thursday, April 21, 2011

Me, Wrong? Oh, Yes!

Thanks to DoctorMo's great blogpost, I just watched another great Ted Talk, by Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong. I've had a similar experience to her opening story, where my brain was stuck in a wrong ... frame, I guess you could call it. A mistaken conceptual frame. And of course, I've made some huge mistakes in my life, and in all of them, I felt totally justified in my actions, as in the Fool of the first Tarot card.

But the reason I decided to discuss this issue here, on my tech blog, has to do with the social costs she mentions in the talk (please watch it!). When we present our case to others, and they disagree, we often feel that they are 1. ignorant, 2. idiots, or 3. malevolent. This series of unfortunate assumptions is played out in our culture over and over again, whether "our culture" means the politics of the United States (I'm American, excuse my cultural scope), or the behavior sometimes observed on FOSS mail lists, forums, and IRC channels -- or even face-to-face meetings.

We lose so much when we allow this to happen. The folks we encounter in these venues are full of experience and knowledge, and if we meet them with the attitude of learning, rather than proving ourselves right, we all gain! Consider the marketplace of ideas as a bazaar, where bargaining (the exchange of ideas, experience, knowledge) leaves both participants richer and happier. Often what I see instead is gladiators battling in the Coliseum. One walks away the "victor" -- and the other one lies bleeding. What a waste! The cost of such behavior is very high, but is hidden, because all of the wonderful collaborations which could take place, instead do not.

Please take the time to watch this short talk. It is well worth 20 minutes of your time.