I realized the other day that since I’ve started blogging I haven’t really stopped to reflect about the way I’ve been blogging this whole time. So I did just that and thought I’d lay out a few thoughts I have with regards to one particular ‘thing’ I tend to do (or flair I tend to write with) when I blog.
If you know me in real life I’m rather a meek and quiet individual (not sure if that’s an accurate description but that is how I think of myself). I’m very obviously introverted and am very careful about what I say. I like non-pressured constructive discussions about ideas that broaden my intellectual horizons, and I dislike debates where the point is not to expand the breadth of knowledge being discussed at that instant, but to get ‘points’ over on the other person and tell them why their particular point or argument is wrong with the cockiest attitude. This is why I detested debaters while in high school – it’s a perfect breeding ground for self-imposed intellectual elitism and auto-erotic smugness that can only be achieved by the mixture of their adolescence and the fact that someone in their life must have convinced them that they were surprisingly more intelligent than their peers; these individuals go on into their personal lives to quickly drain an otherwise interesting and fulfilling conversation by turning it into a points game to see how many arguments of the opponent’s they can mercilessly tear down. An utter waste of time talking to them.
I suppose I must have had a bad experience with debating early on in life to have such an extreme dislike and view of the sport at a schooling level. Even now I have a lot of debating heroes: the late Christopher Hitchens, Penn Jillette from Penn & Teller, Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins etc. (the list goes on) but even then the fact that I admire these individuals so much now still doesn’t in the least make me inclined to regret not following through with my high school debating career.
I remember dabbling with the intellectual sport from time to time during my schooling and tertiary years because I recognized the tremendous intellectual benefits that it yielded, but the general character of the individuals that participated in debating quickly dissuaded a younger me from ever venturing into their lair again. Although I have to qualify that the debating society at the University of Exeter had perfectly lovely members during my time there in 2013-14, but I think then I had already committed myself to many other clubs already so decided to forego that particular weekly activity.
Anyway, to get back on track, in opposition to my real life tendency to be very careful about what I say, I’ve noticed that what I write in my blogs are stated almost as fact with shocking weight behind them. In other words I’m very confident when I state my points – there’s a lot more punctuality to them when I write them in my blog. It might be the fact that it’s my own blog and that I know that on some level the people reading it are mostly very supportive friends in my immediate network, but I think it goes deeper than that.
For one – writing a blog is not like a spontaneous debate. Thoughts can be formed, written, re-written, researched, checked again and then finally submitted for publishing. Even then, you can go back and edit what you’ve written when all’s done and dusted. You’re never at risk of writing something that can’t be taken back as you would if you were saying it in a speech. In fact (correct me if I’m wrong) part of debating is looking for these temporary lapses in a speaker’s judgment while making a point, and then bearing arms to attack their argument using that minor error as a way in.
But more importantly than that, the act of writing itself is a more conducive medium for discussion. The internet has allowed for the creation of a marketplace for ideas. By this I mean that ideas can be thrown out into the internet, and usually people would comment on them. Assuming that these comments are constructive and non-aggressive (ie. they aren’t trolling) then eventually the idea will be continually refined by other related thoughts and ideas by people on the internet, and (theoretically) in the end there will be a point where everyone will agree about the state of the central idea as it sits at that moment – an equilibrium will have been reached. Thus, the collective intelligence of the internet collaborates to refine and give rise to this new improved idea, which iteratively built upon a single raw idea previously thrown out into the internet. This type of approach to thinking applied in specific contexts to solve problems is commonly known as the Wisdom of Crowds, and is a very interesting collective psychological phenomenon.
I guess in this way ideas on the internet are much like the prices of a product when it first gets introduced into a market within an economy. Through an iterative process, various market forces acting on the price of the product will continually alter its value until eventually it settles at a price in which everyone is satisfied – and a market equilibrium price has been reached.
The beauty of discussion is that someone can throw out an idea and someone else can constructively gives reasons as to why it may not be the best version of the idea yet. And as long as they aren’t trying to win a discussion-based point’s game and are genuinely trying to stretch the idea to its potential limit simply for the pleasure of the intellectual exercise, eventually they will collectively refine it towards its most sound and robust form. It’s no wonder that many ‘get rich quick’ or ‘success’ books always start off suggesting that the reader gather a small group of other like-minded individuals who are on a similar path seeking success/riches to regularly meet up for coffee and discuss recently discovered ideas about moving in the given direction (either towards riches or success, or both). Ultimately they are harnessing the intelligence of their collective entity to refine raw ideas & thoughts about achieving the given goal into its most pure form so that they can take it and apply it to their lives with more chance of – for lack of a better word – success.
I guess that’s why I state my raw ideas with such confidence. It’s not that I believe my words to be untouchable gospel, far from it; it’s merely that I am confident that these ideas are definite starting points and through various means & techniques can be refined to reveal more potent truths about life and the human condition at a later point. Hence it’s best that I state these ideas now with as much clarity that I can muster, so that later on when I come to revisit them it’s that much easier to pull them apart and reassemble them into a more intellectually potent idea to either be further processed or utilized in some capacity.
Edit: I always have a video of some sort to add to my blog post and forgot to add one last night. Penn Jillette from Penn & Teller talking about tolerance within a religious context – there’s a specific part in the video where he touches on what I’m trying to get at with this article around 3:05