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Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant 
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant
Harry Marks wrote:
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Digging into the beginning of the book, the first thing I came to was the Mann Gulch fire. And oddly enough I had just been reading about that in Michael Lewis' fine book, "The Premonition" about the beginnings of the covid crisis and the difference between the response of those who were primed to look for threat and those bureaucrats who were primed for same ol, same ol'. (Yes, the same Michael Lewis of Moneyball and The Big Short.)

The group who had realized what a devastating effect a pandemic could have (reacting, as Lewis would have it, to George Bush, Jr. having read about the 1918 Spanish flu in the wake of 9/11 and allocating some money to study what could go wrong) had a culture of passing around bits of news, insight, concern, or just picking each other's brains on whatever problem they were dealing with (definitely a scientist's approach, in my view) and when someone ran some numbers on the likely numbers of infected individuals in the US in Feb 2020, after it was realized that it could be spread asymptomatically, they re-told the story of the Mann Gulch fire to convey the idea that the flames were on their way, just over the ridge, and would engulf the country before anybody in authority had moved to do a thing about it.
Robert Tulip wrote:
This insight from Grant is deeply important for the morality and productivity of culture and politics. Conventional societies see the maintenance of a rigid social hierarchy as a key political objective. That means admitting error is to lose face – Napoleon’s dictum never to retract or retreat. Unlike prosecutors, politicians and preachers, scientists need a respectful, collaborative, inquisitive culture. By extending scientific method into all areas of society, leaders can affirm the value of a constantly questioning approach, promoting a far more democratic and inclusive world.

It is worth thinking about why a collaborative and inquisitive culture must be a respectful culture. There is an awful lot of gatekeeping in academic culture, and it threatens the possibilities for collaborative and inquisitive progress. When we consider how valuable it is to engage, one on one and thoughtfully, with those inclined to prefer their own conspiracy theories to any established consensus, we can recognize that the disrespect often starts at the center, where scientists are busy jockeying for influence and grant money and may be as resistant as anyone else to re-thinking.

Fareed Zakaria wrote an insightful column on the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. A key fact for him is that the National Security Council met on the situation in that country 36 times since April 2021. What decisions were made by that body that has grown so large over the last 20 years? Apparently, none. What attempt was made to bring in information from the outside that might upset some of the ruling assumptions? Zakaria thinks the bureaucracy hunkered down, protecting turf that had political approval at the WH and Pentagon.

Grant said that companies don't make decisions, people do. That may be true in one sense, but in another sense the company or organization (perhaps especially in government--and academia?) exerts influence and sometimes control over individual thinking. Groupthink is real.



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Harry Marks
Mon Aug 30, 2021 6:54 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant
Robert Tulip wrote:
A general reflection.

My view is that the underlying evolution of morality is seeing the steady rise of evidence as a primary moral principle. Atheists observe there is no evidence for the existence of God. The 'woke' ideology objects to the rampant injustice in the world, citing abundant evidence. However, this whole process creates a psychological fallacy, namely that people claim their opinions are factual knowledge based on evidence, where in reality they are often subjective beliefs based on emotion.

This fallacy is immensely attractive, because it establishes a simple framework of good and evil, an implicit system of faith. It is far harder to logically examine all our assumptions against evidence than to accept a tribal loyalty as the basis of our beliefs. The ethical framework of evidence and logic as primary values can often lead to ideas that people across the political spectrum find unacceptable.


Evidence is surely A principle of morality (one of the commandments in Torah says that the rich man is as much entitled to just treatment under the law as the poor man is) but it is not THE principle of morality. I might argue it is a "red line" of morality. Anyone who knowingly goes against the evidence is in grave peril. I think the current state of tribalism in America is a signal of that peril, but it also represents a confusion of large truths. On the one hand there is traditional social organization and mores, and on the other there is the moral logic of reason. People who cannot square that circle may feel, with some justice, that the ends of promoting their vision of a sane and just society justify their means of choosing the attractive-sounding lie over the evidence.

But they would be wrong.



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Robert Tulip
Sun Sep 19, 2021 10:59 am
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