On being wrong, publicly

Whenever I write, I’m constantly paranoid I’m obviously wrong in some way I don’t know.

This surprises me about myself. I’m 23, I’d expect that by know I’ve fully internalized that there’s nothing wrong with giving a wrong answer. Wrong answers are but a way for you to figure out what actually works. Then why am I so paranoid about it here?

In school, when you give a wrong answer, there’s someone who asked a question in the first place. Here, I’m offering answers myself to questions nobody asked me. This is creating new opportunities to be wrong.

Questions had obvious right/wrong answers when you were younger and there were essentially no worrying implications of giving a wrong answer. The questions I’m grappling with now increasingly don’t have black and white answers. Not only do people not agree on the answers, they even question the way we get to the answers. Every answer feels like it is either for/against some agenda and has some political undertone.

Good students in Indian education systems exert non-zero influence over their peers due to Indian society’s obsession with academic success. “Be more like Sharmaji ka beta”. In 12th grade, I was given an ultimatum to stop playing as much video-games because the teachers believed I was being a bad influence on other kids. I was made aware that when you’re in a position of power, you need to be responsible with what sort of example you’re setting, with the sort of opinions you hold. I’ve been very conscious of that since.

As of this moment, I’m unknown so nobody respects me enough to care what I have to say or what opinions I hold. So I can write with impunity. But I strongly suspect that to change in the near-future. Do I not owe myself to prepare for that future (which I believe is inevitable) where a non-zero number of people will care what I have to say? Should I not retroactively be more careful about the opinions I write about and the consequences of expressing them?

There is an obvious way out of this. It’s the same reason I gave my teacher’s as a defense. That I cannot be held responsible for other people blindly following what I do. They’re close to being adults themselves, they can think for themselves. While true, it didn’t truly sit well with me then and it doesn’t now.

Writing is baring your thinking. If this blog/website achieves any level of popularity, it means that potential employers or potential coworkers are going to be reading this. What if I write something whose reasoning is just ridiculously incorrect? Is that not a sign of bad thinking? In school, you only were judged on whether your answer was correct or wrong. With writing, you will also be judged on the thinking that led to that answer also. I’m 23. I shouldn’t get or expect free-passes anymore. I cannot claim that I’m still learning to reason properly.

I read essays by Paul Graham, Taimur and I wonder why none of them seem more wrong than others. Why don’t I read their earlier essays and feel that “Psh. This person was so obviously wrong here.” Were they always this confident? So they started writing after they became confident in what they were writing?

Having an confidence-tag seems to be one way to signal confidence in what I’m writing. Signaling that I’m a “Strong opinions weakly held” person seems to be another.

Controversial opinions are different and given my interest in IQ and education, also important because those topics generally veer into this territory.

I strongly identify as a “yearn to see the world as clearly as you can” person. Given an issue, I want to get down to the objective truth regardless of the potential implications. But writing on a blog where you publish that truth is different. It means you are taking on responsibility for the correctness of the truth you are publishing. I’m not afraid of digging too deep, I’m afraid of digging too deep and publishing the results of that.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

I think of this quote very often. I’m exactly the right type of person to fall into this.

And then there is the whole idea of the blog being your own space on the internet and therefore you should be free to write what you feel like. What is the point of a space for your thoughts if you cannot be honest in it.

Jan 2021. Built with Tailwind and Jekyll.