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Entries tagged 'cat:Opinions'

5

There is this thing that I've noticed happen when I'm speaking about something I've heard or read about but don't feel like an expert on. I believe that one should not spread information unless one truely understands it as well as how the information was gathered, what knowledge it builds on, what relevance and meaning it has in the context it likely will be applied in by the person who receives the information, and a few other principles that are hardly possible to honour every time. Those principles cannot be applied to everday conversations like smalltalk, without eliminating the interaction. (That's another topic, though.) So I don't apply them in general conversations with colleagues and customers and often overlook them in conversations with friends and other peers. So it is almost inevitable that I at some point say something I'm not 99.99% sure is correct the way I present it. It happens a lot with "interesting facts" and "what most people don't know". What happens then is that I feel in the wrong to some degree - because I have not made absolutely sure that I'm neither wrong nor going to be misunderstood - while the person I'm speaking to (if they see me as a peer, take me serious and are listening to me) takes what I say as new information and fits in into what they already know and believe. They don't know about the tiny feeling of guilt that I have. So I am regularly surprised when I speak to someone and seem to influence their set of beliefs inadvertently.

How to convince somebody of something is quite a complicated question psychologically. I've read enough about it to know that and to know that I'm not interested in learning how to do it in any professional way (or with style). But there are some interesting aspects to know about how easily people can change their mind in some situations and how tough it is to make somebody change their mind in others.

There was an experiment done that is often referred to in social media sometimes as an interesting bit of knowledgle and sometimes as an argument of an almost political nature, hinting at the stubbernness or irrationality of people with different beliefs (usually beliefs that deverge from the widely accepted set of scientific knowdlege). The simplified conclusion of this study is often presented as this: Presenting a person with a firm belief evidence that their belief is factually wrong makes it even stronger (see Backfire Effect). The conclusion that people draw from this sometimes is: Arguing rationally with somebody with an irrational belief will have the opposite from the intended effect. That is not usually true, though. Not only are cases where that happened rare even in the study that is referred to, the effect could also not be replicated when several researchers tried.

Sometimes I come across a person and learn of a belief of theirs that I find problematic for some reason or another. An extremist attitude to societies basic questions, fascist ideas formulated into political demands, a conspiracy narrative that results in hostile behaviour, things like that. These are usually beliefs with a large foundation that was built over years if not decades and they are often embedded in a world view that justifies and explains anything that might appear to others to oppose ethical code or the reasoning behind the belief. But "often" is not "always". And even if those things are the case is the assumption that simple, rational arguments won't have a positive effect is an erroneous one that is made too quickly. Yes, it seems like a hard undertaking to craft responses that take the opposite of your own beliefs into account properly, not as the hallucination of the enemy camp but as an equal to your own opinion. It also feels like the work necessary to formulate a response that foresees all the expectable counter-arguments and to answer all the antagonistical follow-up questions. That's the things I expect to be confronted with after objecting to something somebody said in a conversation. Correctly so. But if forging a plan to optimally convince the opponent to abandon a belief of theirs is not what I want to do, then it's not necessary to put that much work into it. You can just respond honestly with a simple thought and even end the conversation if it becomes too cumbersome. When a topic has an emotional component, it's easy to forget that keeping this on the level of a regular conversation with no expectation that it will have any meaning to anybody other than passing time.

The insight that I keep having and intend to remember in applicable situations more often is that it is not necessary but possible to convince somebody to take on a different view on something. My mind is not short of explanations and explanation attempts from opposite viewpoints and I'm ready to share them with others to encourage a broadening of their thinking. If it's my own view, a belief based on my own experience, I'm often more reluctant to share it if it opposes somebody else's belief. But it is worth it. Provided both conversing parties bring forth the necessary trust to take other's assertions seriously, a calm, rational objection is far better than cutting the topic short. The latter can easily have the same effect as saying something like "Oh, you're one of those." Derogatory remarks should be avoided just like dismissing a concern, be it ever so irrational. Ignoring an argument for being too absurd or discrediting a source without a reason, talking down or being in any way not as respectful as you would like to be treated yourself in an emotional discussion will not get you closer to invoking insight nor to learning something useful yourself. Those aren't new ideas. The realisation that is, as a conscious insight, new to me, is that I'm far more likely to influence somebody's thinking than I assumed. If a respectful discussion can't be maintained for after small talk got out of the area of the mundane, I don't need to maintain it any longer. One sincere offer of a different view on something is better than none, and better than one with a snarky remark about anti-science belief systems appended, which will likely not make your conversational partner want to think about any of what you said. Say something positive and let it sink it. The hours and even night after you talked can do a lot for making a new idea a familiar one that can or needs to be integrated with ones world view.

I will not continue to give tips on how to convince people of anything. That's not what this entry was supposed to be about. And I'm not experienced enough to give good tips. But I want to leave a book referral here. I can't recommend it, because I haven't read it. But it appears to me that Lee McIntyre knows what he's talking about in his book "How to Talk to a Science Denier". I conclude that from what he says in book introduction (YT, IV.

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4

Here's a controversal conviction that I've developed over the past couple of years: Humans are not able to operate a car savely at road speeds. Ergo, humans should not be allowed to drive.

I drive a lot in my current job. I may not be the best of drivers for many reasons but I tend to accept and abide by the rules if in doubt (and in general, because that's what rules are for). I've learned to save gas and breaks by coasting just right. I've learned to adjust my speed not only to road conditions but also to amount and type of traffic. I don't use apps that warn of speed cameras or police check points because I don't have to. I drive sensibly. I'm not payed more if I get to the customer earlier. I gain quality of life if I drive calmly and defensively. By the measurements that I learned in driving school, I'm a relatively good driver. In practice, when I share a road with other drivers, in the real world, I don't think I can count as a good driver though.

Most people seem to make their own rules for the road and assume that everybody will drive by their rules. They drive 5 km/h over, 10 km/h over, 20 km/h over. They assume a right to overtake because they chose to drive 50 km/h over the limit. They expect you to jump a red light if it's been red for less than two seconds. They assume right of way if no sign reminds them of the rules. Not everybody does all of those things. Most people try to respect the rules as they are put down by law (maybe except driving 5 km/h over). But some people, sometimes, follow their own rules, which is when everybody who doesn't gets in their way. That is often argued to be aproblem of "those drivers" being selfish, stupid and/or respectless. But the truth is likely that all of the people who sometimes drive according to their own rules do so because they are convinced that it's the right thing to do. In fact sometimes drivers spend thousands of Euros to argue in court that their own rules where the right ones to follow as opposed to the ones written down in the relevant law. They get angry and frustrated at people who strictly respect the official rules as the other way around. Of course I'm simplifying a lot here to make my point. I'm not describing any particular example for that reason. But I reckon most people don't break rules and make it harder for others on purpose. Two exceptions: Some people sometimes do have the intention to harm others and try to do so by driving a car. And people sometimes spontaniously decicde to provoke other drivers after they felt provoked or feel like somebody should do something about the behaviour of another driver. I can't say anything about the first exception. That's not the topic of this entry. The second exception I'll come back to later when I talk about stress.

So, when driving intend to drive sensibly according to the rules they deem the correct set, and still clash with other drivers, as it constantly happens on busy reads, that means that either simply setting up rules and hoping that everybody will follow them as well as possible isn't enough or that people are always going to make their own rules. I think the latter is close to the trouth considering the amount of work that goes into trying to make people abide by the defined rules (teaching classes, enforcing physically, convincing by extra signs, commercials, punishment, …).

It is so common for drivers to breaks the rules that certain rules are expected to be broken by the vast majority of drivers most of the time. Driving below or at the speed limit is a very easy way to tease other traffic participants. Driving 100 or 80 km/h in the rain where that is required by law is seen as traffic obstruction by most people. Not stopping at a stop sign in a driving test will immediately revoke your chance of getting a licence. But stopping at a stop sign after you got your license tells others that you're a bad driver or an ass. Hardly anybody ever does it. Good driving doesn't only come down to following the rules like I may have made it sound just now. But the fact that despite all the investments some people see the rules as something that should be generally followed and others drive with the assumption that some rules obviously will and should not be followed creates a constant conflict that seems almost impossible to resolve. Maybe truely impossible as long as so many so different infdividuals control cars on the same road.

Another thing, probably the more important one when it comes to explaining why I believe that humans can not drive cars acceptably well, is how hostile male drivers become when driving under stress. And people are stressed. Working full while also having a life is regularly stressful and I don't need to list the range of hundrets of reason why people get overly stressed every day. It's a point that's often made: People chance character when driving a car. They are capable of atrocious thoughts when driving under stress. They are easy to develop hate at other road participants without being able to communicate much with them. It's a known problem. Men build up rage while driving unless they do some really stupid thing. Knowing about your own tendency to react that way to other drivers being on the same road you're going on doesn't prevent you from reacting with anger to repeated small inconsistancies in other drivers behaviours. And with contempt at people who make up their own rules and ignore your rule set. And with hate to manouvers that you see as an indication of a respectless attitude in other drivers. And with rage at the constant occurance of such situations.

Of course rage is not a constant state while driving. And you might say that, all in all, it does seem to work out relatively well because people aren't having accidents every other day. Accidents with injuries are rare with modern cars. But I think that ####### injuries and ######### deaths per year are about 100 % more than it should be. Above that though, I think that the hostility and trauma that driving under stress generates constantly, whether you are one of the agressive ones or one who swollows without externalising your anger, is enough reason to prohibit humans from driving cars at speeds abover 20 km/h. But of course that is unrealistic. Too late, after humans have been driving cars since they exist.

The common assumption seems to be that this problem will solve itself when selfdriving cars become a common reality and over the then following 20 years most cars will be replaced with ones that don't require a human driver anymore. Only poor people will drive themselves, and later only vintage car enthusiasts. But That's still science fiction. Closer than ever, yes. But not a reality that is here yet, and possibly not even on the horizon.

The solution is simple: Make driving illegal. Force people to find other ways of getting where they need to go. People have to walk more, drive bikes and if they want to ride carriages with horsed more often and for more practical reasons than nowadays. The economy will collapse from the sudden change what's possible at short notice. But the problem that people drive badly will be solved.

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