by Henry Oliner

One of a few themes that I return to in this blog is the fascination with poor decisions from very intelligent people. It has led me from  reading history to reading about the way we think and the blocks to sound thinking.

Nassim Taleb in Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and Antifragility address the weakness of even the best minds in understanding probability. Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow goes further in explaining psychological blocks to sound and critical thinking and how our heuristics and necessary thinking shortcuts mislead us. The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli is an excellent summary of the many blocks we have to clear thinking that leads to poor decisions.

In normal and calm circumstances, we have various emotional and psychological blocks to understanding our world. Some of these psychological blocks are credited to evolutionary psychology that we developed in difference times that are poorly suited in a world of rapid growth and exponential change.

One of those changes is the proliferation of media including social media. At a time where we need to question our certainty, clarity and understanding we are deluged with absolutism, demonization, and tribalism.  Outrage and hyperbole have replaced objectivity and logic.  More than ever we react emotionally and rationalize afterwards.

Perhaps the Trump derangement syndrome would have more credibility if it was not preceded by the Bush and Obama derangement syndromes.  Rage only magnifies the existing blocks to critical thinking.

The easiest solution is to extract yourself from the noise of the news and social media or at least be conscious of the time you spend there and balance it with time in books (with a portion in print for at least 20 years), concerts, museum and movies.

Be aware that it is not easy to understand what is going on around us. Modern life is complicated and interrelated.  Rage indicates a certainty that does not exist. Hyperbole is a sign of ignorance, not understanding.

If you find yourself in the grips if either, wait for a day before you hit ‘send’ or ‘post’.  Go for a walk.  Read a history book of a period at least a century old.  Get some perspective.

If you proceed with your invectives anyway because you have a big mike and no editor or filter, at least understand you are likely setting your cause backwards. Rage only loses potential supporters and solidifies the opposition.

And it makes you look like an idiot.