Interesting →

Avery Pennarun · apenwarr ·

Like many young naïve nerds, when I first heard of the idea of “strong opinions held weakly,” I thought it was a pretty good idea…

The real competitor to strong opinions held weakly is, of course, strong opinions held strongly. We’ve all met those people. They are supremely confident and inspiring, until they inspire everyone to jump off a cliff with them.

Strong opinions held weakly, on the other hand, is really an invitation to debate. If you disagree with me, why not try to convince me otherwise? Let the best idea win.

After some decades of experience with this approach, however, I eventually learned that the problem with this framing is the word “debate.” Everyone has a mental model, but not everyone wants to debate it. And if you’re really good at debating — the thing they teach you to be, in debate club or whatever — then you learn how to “win” debates without uncovering actual truth.

Some days it feels like most of the Internet today is people “debating” their weakly-held strong beliefs and pulling out every rhetorical trick they can find, in order to “win” some kind of low-stakes war of opinion where there was no right answer in the first place.

Anyway, I don’t recommend it, it’s kind of a waste of time. The people who want to hang out with you at the debate club are the people who already, secretly, have the same mental models as you in all the ways that matter.

What’s really useful, and way harder, is to find the people who are not interested in debating you at all, and figure out why.