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Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Pioneers Get The Arrows

I've had a long running debate for decades over a wide array of topics with a certain fellow, and only just recently, after all these years, have we realized that we have completely different and incompatible epistemologies: Mine is based on understanding how things work, and his is based on trusting that other people (or systems of people) understand things better than he or I reasonably could.

I keep sending him evidence and points, and he replies with related articles that never quite address them -- a pattern wholly dissatisfying to us both! My evidence and points have no place in his epistemology because he isn't even trying to understand it for himself, because he doesn't believe he (or I) are qualified to do so. Meanwhile, he sends me article after article (whether media or academic) which have no place in my epistemology because they are intended to impress me with what the experts, officials, or the NYT (an authority in his mind) think, not by their actual data or points (which typically I've heard before and have already critiqued).

Each of us experience the other as simply not listening to a thing we say -- because we are inherently concerned with entirely orthogonal aspects!

I send him a well reasoned article expecting him to react to the points made therein, which he dismisses a priori because it isn't written by one of his vetted authorities and then replies with something related from one of his authorities which doesn't address the points. I'm left looking at the misaligned points in the article he sends me, oblivious to the author and their summary conclusions which are all he intended me to see.

The subtle but important thing about this new realization is that he, and many others who are in his camp, have until now appeared to me to be thinking about and modeling the topics, because he sends me articles that do. And to him, I have appeared to be making appeals to authority, because I send him links to publications with data and/or links to well reasoned articles that say what I would have said.

And his articles universally fail to address my points, so he looks like an idiot to me. And my articles universally lack the endorsement of his vetted authorities, so I look like a gullible loon to him.

From his perspective, my approach leads to people believing in dangerous quackery. From my perspective, his leads to people believing in dangerous quackery!

I would love to find the key questions for a questionnaire to distinguish these two tribes reliably. (And, frankly, I think they should just block each other, because there's nothing productive to come from them interacting.)

If I had to name the two tribes, I would call them the pioneers and the settlers.

And that's with the full admission that the pioneers get the arrows, and the settlers get the land. (I still prefer being a pioneer, but I'm not sure there's a great defense for that preference.)

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com