Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind Dilbert, is also a very prolific blogger. And like the comic strip, he manages to write a good post about 50% percent of the time. Which is probably a much better success rate than I hit in this little rantfest.
Anyway, his first draft of A Voter’s Guide to Thinking is one entry on the plus side. Here are three of my favorite items from his list.
1. If you are comparing Plan A to Plan B, you might be doing a good job of thinking. But if you are comparing Plan A to an imaginary situation in which there are no tradeoffs in life, you are not thinking.
2. If you see quotes taken out of context, and you form an opinion anyway, that’s probably not thinking. If you believe you need no further context because there is only one imaginable explanation for the meaning of the quotes, you might have a poor imagination. Sometimes a poor imagination feels a lot like knowledge, but it’s closer to the opposite.
8. If your opinion is based on your innate ability to predict the future, you might be employing more magical thinking than reason. The exceptions would be the people who use data to predict the future, such as Nate Silver. That stuff is credible albeit imperfect by nature. Your imagination is less reliable.
I might add one other item to Adams’ list: If your source of information about the world is limited to one media channel, and your friends and family who are also limited to the same channel, you are not thinking. You’re in a cult.
Now if we can just get more than 50% of voters to do any thinking at all before they choose a candidate…
I know, wishful thinking.