If there’s one thing that almost everybody agrees on, it’s that almost everybody else is dumb. You know what I mean. You’re much smarter than average, right? Well, everyone thinks so, for one of two reasons.
- You’re smarter than almost everyone else
- You’re wrong
You and I fall into the first category, of course, but all the dumb people think they’re there too. How can you really tell which you’re in? Or, to be more precise, under what circumstances can someone be wrong about their own aptitude? The answer “because he’s an idiot” does not suffice; it’s circular logic.
A person whose self-opinion is wrong doesn’t have to be stupid; rather, his defining characteristic is that his feedback loop is broken. For some reason, either nobody tells him when he’s being an idiot, or he ignores people when they do. He’s convinced himself that everyone else is crazy, or that they simply don’t appreciate his genius, or maybe he only talks to people who already agree with him.
What does that mean for you? Besides meaning that you can’t attribute peoples’ meta-stupidity to their stupidity, it means you can’t assume that people are stupid for disagreeing with you. You throw away your own feedback loop when you do that. You have to expose yourself to the ideas of people whom you currently believe to be wrong or stupid, and you have to honestly try to prove yourself wrong.
“Know your enemy,” we say, but I submit that the true purpose of this is not to better defeat him; it’s to make sure you’re on the right team. You don’t have to take Anne Coulter seriously, but you do have to figure out why some people do.