TED | Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong

Posted on April 26, 2011


Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.

Cover of "Being Wrong: Adventures in the ...

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The present tense is where we live. … We all end up trapped in this bubble of feeling right about everything. I think this is a problem.

Why is this a problem? Is it possible to step outside of this problem?

Why do we get stuck in this feeling of being right? How does it feel, emotionally, to be wrong? (Dreadful, thumbs down, embarrassing) Great answers, but answers to a different question: How does it feel to realize that you’re wrong?

Being wrong doesn’t feel like anything. Actually, it does feel like something: it feels like being right. I call this “error of blindness.”

Second reason: We feel like those who are wrong are dumb nitwits. And we learn that the way to get anywhere in life is to never be wrong. We freak out at the possibility of getting something wrong, because getting something wrong means that there is something wrong with us.

Trusting too much in the feeling of being on the correct side of anything can be very dangerous. This internal sense of rightness that we all experience is not a reliable guide to what is actually going on in the external world. And when we act like it is and we stop entertaining the possibility that we could be wrong…disaster.

A series of unfortunate assumptions that we make about people who disagree with us, who are of course “right.”

  1. The ignorant assumption
  2. The idiot assumption
  3. The evil assumption

This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from correcting mistakes, and causes us to treat each other terribly.

This also misses the whole point of being human. The miracle of your mind is not that you can see the world as it is, but that you can see the world as it isn’t.

Fallor ergo sum: I err, therefore I am. – St. Augustine.

Mistakes are totally fundamental to who we are. This is life. For good or for ill, we generate these incredible stories about the world around us, and then the world turns around and astonishes us.

And that’s how it goes…

If you really want to rediscover wonder, you need to step outside of that tiny and terrible space of rightness, and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say, “Wow. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.”

— VIA —

I have for a while called myself an “agnostic epistemologist.” I suppose that I really don’t even know what that means.🙂