Switching lenses

October 29, 2018

Another thought on pathological optimism: "switching modes". It's an ability I'm trying to develop.

My friend's mom, a Black American, was voting in the US midterms in Atlanta. As he explained it,

they had a 3+ hour wait because they didn’t have power cords for the voting machines. She asked a guy and he said “oh well the state never gave us cords for these so when the battery dies that’s it”

I make a point of assuming the best intentions, so my first inclination is to take the explanation at face value. But something else could be going on; maybe someone is trying to suppress votes?

Most people I know see it one way or the other; it doesn't occur to them, as a matter of habit, that not only might other people see things differently, but that both could be right. Such half-truths melt my brain—there's something so difficult about training one's brain to habitually see both sides. Not "he thinks X, she thinks Y, but I agree with Y", but "he thinks X, she thinks Y, I think it's something like 65% X and 35% Y".

I find it incredibility difficult, yet useful, to see things this way, a sort of quantum superposition for everyday opinions and gossip.

Rubin writes about "switching lenses" a lot in his book, In an Uncertain World; I might be thinking about it because I'm reading that book again (one of my favorites).

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