How to Identify One’s Own Blind Spots?
Every day I read countless people on topics ranging from the 3E's to geo-politics, gardening, nutrition, etc, etc. and inevitably find that no matter how brilliant someone may be in a certain area (or extremely rarely, as with CM, a broad range of disciplines) that writer has at least one serious blind spot. And so I tend to graze at the grand buffet of analysts out there picking and choosing those whose knowledge and judgement I wholly trust on certain matters even if I think they are badly mistaken on others.
Like many on this site I suspect, I like to flatter myself as being a "systems thinker" with a joined-up way of analysing this mad world that we live in. Nevertheless, it seems highly unlikely that I am the only one with a fully-formed holistic understanding of everything (!) who doesn't have at least one, possibly serious, blind spot.
Over-confidence in one's take on things, apart from annoying the hell out of those around you, can, in my case at least, result in a rigidity of positions held on matters and unwelcome surprises when things don't play out as expected.
My question to all, therefore, is how does one go about objectively identifying one's own blind spot(s)? I suppose it is a mote and beam thing…
Hey debu, that’s a great question, and I don’t think there are easy answers. The more I read, the more I look at myself and the more I look around, the more convinced I become that we are anything but rational, and yet for some strange reason when I assess others I often forget that. Being more rational in complex topics generally comes at great effort.
Let me suggest an exercise in finding some of your own blind spots. You probably know or heard about people who think that we shouldn’t eat animal products, and if you’re not one of them you’re probably pretty sure that these folks are crazy, that we need animal products for full health, that it’s OK to eat animals, that they are treated well, etc. I believed many of those justifications too for decades. I suggest you take my word that all of that is false, then look for the data, and don’t stop until you find sufficient evidence for these points:
* Eating animal products is not necessary for optimal health (hint: position paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics . Bonus: this talk on why plant-based diets are actually scientifically superior.)
* That everyone eats animal products doesn’t mean that it’s justifiable to do so today in a society in which alternatives are plentiful.
* That carnivorous animals eat other animals means nothing about the ethics of humans eating animals when they don’t need to. (Hint: We have a choice.)
I can guarantee that if you don’t give up half-way, and if you don’t fall for the confirmation bias of looking for arguments against veganism (there are plenty out there, and most are wrong yet won’t appear wrong at first glance), you will find gapping blind spots in your perception of this topic. You choose the red or blue pill. And, if you decide to act on that knowledge, even if just by reducing your consumption of animal products (tip: start with reducing chicken), it might even save your life one day (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, all the big killers, scientifically connected with the Standard American Diet).
Here’s another resource. Good luck!
On another topic, one book I’ve found invaluable on the topic of markets and people who comment on the future is Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Taleb. Too many gurus out there who think they know more than they actually know about the future.
Hi Debu, they are not called blind spots for nothing . With all that is out there probably 98% is trivial anyway; so the first question seems to be what is non-trivial, important, critical for you and the ones close to you.
When you have that more or less clear you can move to the next step of trying to identify blind spots. There is probably no easy answer but I guess you get some hints by asking yourself what you have no interest in, or what you find annoying in the issues that you find important. Trying to be around people that have a completely different views and trying to understand where these come from could possibly also help.
I sometimes see more by not looking directly at what I want to see/ try to understand… The older I get, and the more I ‘know’, the more I realise that my blind spots are actually black holes cut through with a fine net of what I do know. The further you reach, the larger the ‘hole’ and the finer and fragile the net becomes. Life, the weirdest thing…
There are some eastern spiritual practices that in part processes designed to guide you into discovering your own blind spots, as blind spots extend into parts of your life that extend well beyond one’s attempts to make sense of current events. Its part of what makes us human. When you can ascertain and deeply own your own blind spots, you are making real progress towards understanding yourself and the human condition and the state of the world.
BUT – There are plenty of widely esteemed spiritual teachers with patently obvious blind spots that they did not fully own!!! (I know from both personal experience and 2nd hand information).
In one sense, its a problem without a solution. But in another sense, they are a natural part of the human condition. They are only a problem if you expect humans to be rational, and especially when that rationality becomes essential for managing the worlds predicaments skillfully. In this sense, they become pathological when a particular culture/worldview enables them to manifest (via the collective sum of our actions) as myriad threats to world-wide well being.
Your close friends view you and your ideas from the outside, and can help you identify possible blind spots.
Also, blind spots, as you describe them, are the product of nature and nurture. So look at your family. What blind spots do your parents have? Often your own shortcomings result from an over correction of a shortcoming of your mother/father, and that overcorrection is often fueled by the same underlying issue. For example, a woman who takes too long to tell a story and also hordes useless junk, might have a son who becomes conversationally pushy and quick to de clutter. Ultimately it’s the same genetic anxiety that governs the two behaviors.
Your close friends view you (and your ideas) from the outside and can help you identify possible blind spots. Ask them to be honest, and promise that you will be greatful and accepting.
Also, blind spots are the product of nature and nurture… So look at your family. What blind spots do your parents have? Often our own shortcomings result from an over-correction of a shortcoming of our mother/father. This overcorrection is often fueled by the same underlying issue. For example, a woman who takes too long to tell a story and hordes useless junk, might have a son who is conversationally pushy and quick to de clutter. Ultimately it’s the same genetic anxiety that governs the behavior. I’m guessing this could apply to our thought processes as well.
Finally, be mindful of your schooling and formative influences. Who was it that taught you how to think? Who are your intellectual role models? What were their blind spots?
inevitably find that no matter how brilliant someone may be in a certain area (or extremely rarely, as with CM, a broad range of disciplines) that writer has at least one serious blind spot.
Everyone seems so sure they have the truth, backed up by data, and are so are convinced others lack credibility. Hubris comes to mind…
So how do we know who is right on issues like energy, economics, environment anyway? Easy: compare written, verifiable predictions to reality over months, years, decades, a lifetime. A good way to do this? Invest! If one can quadruple their net worth over, say, 40 years (via investing alone) they probably lack very many blind spots. If not, they probably have quite a few.
Another way to test the truth? Price prediction. That is, try to guess the price of something against a basket of goods at some time in the future. Price prediction has demonstrated the folly of many’s ideologies over a long period of time.
Another way to test for truth? Seek out opposite opinions, rather than mock them. That is, hang out with those who disagree with you. Give those opinions, no matter how odd or disproved, a chance. Anything is possible in the future, so be skeptical of your own opinions. In other words, be careful when you hear: “we’re very aligned philosophically“. The future is very, very hard to predict, and confirmation bias, groupthink, and ideology are an ever-present dangers. One can only trust empirical, hard-data, written predictions. And very long term results.
Hey, Guys; did you put the seat down?
Memetic Tribes and Culture War 2.0
“My friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe, and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country, a cultural war as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.” — Pat Buchanan, 17 August 1992