Sucker-punching an optimist

July 22, 2018

Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith. - Hacker News discussion guidelines

Assume good faith—this is my habit. Whether in politics, business, or day-to-day life, I give the benefit of the doubt; I assume people aren't out to get me. Good-faith disagreements are a reality of life; dismissing someone as a "a bad person" over a difference of viewpoint is intolerant, even childish. Vigorous debate is a cornerstone of the hacker ethos—openness, repsect, sharing—and that holds sway big-time in the Bay Area, especially among tech people.

Don't be evil - Google

But the presumption of good faith can be a blind spot. People abuse trust; they steal, lie, and manipulate for personal benefit. Not everyone, and certainly not a majority, but enough that a lot of people make careers in security, fraud, and content policing.

I'm not suspicious by nature, but lately, especially with some of what's going on in politics, I'm reminded that you have to see things for what they are, even when it touches the darker side of human nature. Not all disagreements are in good faith; sometimes malice, greed, even envy are the only plausible explanations.

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