Outsourcing Critical Thinking

Category
Principles
Publish Date
Status
Draft
Tags
Principles Series
Last Edit
Apr 3, 2022 01:49 PM
Word Count
745
Order ID
56
If you ever go back and watch news telecasts from the past, you’ll be struck by how detailed and informative it was. One anecdote of this shows up in Ken Burns’ recent documentary on the Vietnam War. On screen they showed and explained the battle plan, troop movements, and broad strategic plan. That’s one example, but the broader trend in detail is notable everywhere.
Contrasted to today, our news coverage is a broad mix of “higher level” content and entertainment. To the first of those: content now tends to have the thinking baked into it. Rather than being offered the details of a war plan, a budget, or a policy, we’re treated to someone explaining why it’s good or a debate where one person explains why it is good and another explains why it’s bad.
This anecdote is representative of the broader trend that as a society we have increasingly outsourced our critical thinking to others. Jonah Goldberg has mentioned this several times as an ongoing and largely negative trend. The case for it being a negative trend is fairly strong: such a trend collapses power and influence into the hands of a few, and makes it easier for bad actors or bad motives to shape the course of collective thinking.
notion image
Of course, this desire to outsource our hardest thinking is quite natural, and with the increasing volume and volatility of information, we can’t help but look for ways to reduce the cognitive burden that places on us.
And to look at why this is so bad, this cultural desire to push away critical thinking is behind a lot of the other issues we’ve already looked at. It breeds groupthink and political polarization, which enables bad ideas to spread and absurd ideas to persist. Case in point: most of us have let something as absurd as post-modernism get smuggled into mainstream thought by allegedly serious thinkers.
We’ve already covered one tool to combat this: first-principles thinking. And of course much of this One Daily Thought series is devoted to combating that by presenting tools to help you do the thinking necessary. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t advocate for a natural skepticism or contrarian bias. To quote [name], “If everybody is thinking the same thing, then no one is.”
If you ever go back and watch news telecasts from the past, you’ll be struck by how detailed and informative it was. One anecdote of this shows up in Ken Burns’ recent documentary on the Vietnam War. On screen they showed and explained the battle plan, troop movements, and broad strategic plan. That’s one example, but the broader trend in detail is notable everywhere.
Contrasted to today, our news coverage is a broad mix of “higher level” content and entertainment. To the first of those: content now tends to have the thinking baked into it. Rather than being offered the details of a war plan, a budget, or a policy, we’re treated to someone explaining why it’s good or a debate where one person explains why it is good and another explains why it’s bad.
This anecdote is representative of the broader trend that as a society we have increasingly outsourced our critical thinking to others. Jonah Goldberg has mentioned this several times as an ongoing and largely negative trend. The case for it being a negative trend is fairly strong: such a trend collapses power and influence into the hands of a few, and makes it easier for bad actors or bad motives to shape the course of collective thinking.
notion image
Of course, this desire to outsource our hardest thinking is quite natural, and with the increasing volume and volatility of information, we can’t help but look for ways to reduce the cognitive burden that places on us.
And to look at why this is so bad, this cultural desire to push away critical thinking is behind a lot of the other issues we’ve already looked at. It breeds groupthink and political polarization, which enables bad ideas to spread and absurd ideas to persist. Case in point: most of us have let something as absurd as post-modernism get smuggled into mainstream thought by allegedly serious thinkers.
We’ve already covered one tool to combat this: first-principles thinking. And of course much of this One Daily Thought series is devoted to combating that by presenting tools to help you do the thinking necessary. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t advocate for a natural skepticism or contrarian bias. To quote [name], “If everybody is thinking the same thing, then no one is.”