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Jared Lunde
UI Engineer & Creative

Forget what I said

A serious request for grace.

Irrational beings. We spend countless hours unleashing every opinion we have to other people. All the while, we judge every opinion we hear. We rate their significance. We ask "Should I trust this person?". Sometimes we don't think at all. We just accept an opinion as true, based on its source or our own beliefs. We are creatures of evolving communities, so our opinions must adapt when the results are tangible, and so the judgments we make are important. To be more rational in your judgments, know that you are irrational.

"Owing to the fact that all experience is a process, no point of view can ever be the last one"

William James

Truth is contextual. Time is a destructor of opinions. The correctness of an opinion changes with time as a community's actions converge elsewhere. The same community that lifts you to high status for espousing some belief may relinquish your status for having had the opinion years later, even if your own viewpoint has changed in stride, even if a sizeable portion of that community privately believes your opinion to be correct.

Truths are in constant competition. Between interpersonal perception and economics, no truth is safe. Your opinion, correct in most measurable merits or correct in your community of expertise, may be outcompeted by less-merited opinions that are simply more viral. Some combination of the availability heuristic and the backfire effect will beat your opinion before it even gets off the ground.

Opinions are far from worthless. They shape who we are, what we do, and how we feel. Shape-shifters who skillfully model their world earn great social and economic rewards for being correct more often or for longer periods of time. For that reason, it is important to know when to let go of your opinion.

Let it go. Because an opinion can only be correct for a period of time or in a certain context, the rational approach is to drop your attachment. Sounds easy enough, right? But it's not. Most of us are terrible at separating our self from what we hold true. But it's the only way to be free of any ego that is holding us back.

Remember to forget. You are unlikely to be the only conscious being with opinions. Solipsism aside, there's an entire world around you making interpretations of its own perceptual space. A world that is going to change its own opinions and actions as it receives information. Be kind to this world. Give it the grace you desire for yourself when you are less correct. And learn from it, adjust your priors.

This feels right, right now. I cannot pretend this is an original piece. William James, quoted above, has entire essays on truth and process philosophy - essays that are certainly worth more of your time than this. Humans have no doubt grappled with the issues of truth and opinion since the beginning of conscious thought. In my own perceptual space, at this point in time, William James seems correct to me. But I could be wrong. Or it could not matter. And that is the point.

So please, I beg you. Forget what I said. Allow me to shape-shift. I promise I will do the same for you.

A picture of beautiful 3D shapes depicting "shape-shifting".
Photo by Michael Dziedzic. Source