Be right or “be right”, getting the truth on your side or winning an argument ? We find people doing both in many domains, both in science and everyday’s life. When you are lawyer, winning an argument is the end game. For some time I wanted to be one which explains why I have been like that for a while when younger. I listened to people mostly to crush their arguments because it feels good to be right. Even though the intention was not glorious, I became a pretty good listener. It allowed me to be a bit more aware of my surroundings and pay more attention to people and their opinion as they can help my reflexion going forward.
Over time this dragged me into looking more for the truth rather than for a truth that would suit me. Actually, it made me closer the scientific mindset built during studies and allowed me to be a little more objective. Constantly trying to be right instead of searching for the truth never served science. However, objectivity allows to think better as the focus is on facts and not emotions.
I ran into that TED talk with Julia Galef about trying to be right even when wrong to win. I found it really interesting mostly because I used to have that soldier mindset at some point. Even though going through scientific studies and cultivating myself as much as possible I probably have a bit left. Grabbing a theory and trying to prove it true is not a bad thing as Science progresses from research. But it becomes terrible if you keep hanging on it even when proved wrong. Indeed, you may find reasons to keep your theory breathing but it will not make it less wrong.
I will let you have a look at the video first as she talks about it way better than I can then go back to how this can apply to Computer science.
Scout mindset. If you skipped the video, you should go back to it to figure that out. If you do not want to check it out for whatever reason, the scout mindset is what sets you to look after the truth rather than being right. Yearn for facts and proofs rather than feelings and spoofs (I am not looking at the Brexit voters at all). History taught us that being too much in that soldier mindset that she describes can be extremely damaging. Many exemples exist around the world, Nazis, Ukip, Turkey now ? But let us go back to why you are here, Computer science.
In IT the main domain where that scout mindset will be of use is basically any aspect of software development. Wether it is about picking a working methodology, building a new feature or simply bug fixing. The main issue when you build something is that you will naturally be more defensive about it wether you did good or not. And it is very hard when developing something on his own to detect flaws otherwise you have not written that code in the first place. As a way of going through that we have pair programming which works mostly when the collaborators have opposed views. You can also discuss with tech people among your friends and acquaintances as they may provide you a fresher view. Discussing with colleagues during a standup meeting or during a coffee break can help you to open your mind a little more.
I feel like I have been confusing in this article so I will try to sum up a bit. There is a couple of things to retain actually. First, yearn for facts, clues as it is what makes research progress in any domain. Second, to listen to people. Not just hearing them, but paying attention to the input they can provide even if you do not agree. Often people that you would usually ignore because you think you are better than them or whatever. Listening will save you time or open your mind with their knowledge, a knowledge you may not have. Being able to find a solution that makes you being right feels good, even if it is not the best one. Being right is like victory, it always feels good but it does not necessarily make you progress.
I hope you enjoyed the article, for more food for thought I recommend you to check out the TED Talks which contain a lot of interesting topics about everything. I personally focus on Technology, Society and Science subjects but there is a lot more than that. Who knows, maybe some day you will see me in one of those videos. On those words, have a nice evening, day, weekend or whatever this is to you. And oh yeah, get a free meme.