Mind Readings: Swimming in Idiotic Conspiracies

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Mind Readings: Swimming in Idiotic Conspiracies

The single biggest intellectual mistake of the last 50 years is the assumption that all opinions and points of view are valid and deserve attention.

Mind Readings: Swimming in Idiotic Conspiracies

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Christopher Penn 0:15

In today’s episode, let’s talk about why we are swimming in idiotic conspiracies like we are drowning in these things.

There’s so many to pick from to.

But some of the weirder ones are things, you know, traditional ones you’ve seen as almost as internet memes now, like people who believe the moon landing was faked, or people who believe the world is literally flat, not a tabloid sphere.

Why? How did we get here? How did this? How did any of these things gain any kind of traction? This will be mildly political.

But I would argue that the single biggest intellectual mistake of the last 50 years particularly in the culture, I live in the United States of America.

Is this unfounded? And I think, frankly, dangerous assumption that all opinions and points of view are equally valid and deserve attention.

No, no, all opinions and points of view are not equally valid.

All people have the right to express their opinions and points of view.

That is true, that is a freedom of expression, right? Many governments around the world guarantee that right? Whether or not you actually can or not, as demonstrated, at least saw the paperwork.

But we have conflated that with saying that all opinions are equally valid.

And that’s just not true expertise exists for a reason, right? Someone who is expert in something, and somebody who just sits behind a desk making YouTube videos, but doesn’t have any actual expertise, their opinions are not the same, their opinions are not equally valid.

And the way we get to drowning in stupid conspiracy theories is the belief that those two things are equal.

It’s false equivalency.

I am not in any way shape or form a qualified medical practitioner, I put together a COVID newsletter.

I started doing it in January of 2020.

Now two and a half years into this adventure that I didn’t ask for.

And people have given very kind feedback about it saying it’s the expertise we trust.

Oh, I’m not an expert.

I can read and I can curate, and I can recognize expertise and others, but I myself am not an expert.

I am not a qualified medical practitioner.

And if you were to say, take someone who is an immunologist like Dr.

Akiko Iwasaki at Yale and me, the marketing guy, our opinions are not the same.

They’re not worth the same, they should not carry the same weight.


Iwasaki his opinions should vastly outweigh mine.


She has spent 30 years studying how viruses work.

And yes, can experts be wrong, of course, that’s part of expertises is learning and growing.

But in general, we have abdicated our responsibility for critical thinking as a society and said, these two opinions about are equally valid.

Oh, this is this is Chris the marketer? Yes, he he copies and pastes mostly from what actual experts say.

So we’ll give Chris the marker some credit for at least recognizing who the actual experts are.

But the actual expert like Dr.

Iwasaki her opinion is just inherently more valid, inherently more valid.

When you see a news story on the news about, you know, top secret documents.

I have never, ever served in any official capacity in the United States government and law enforcement things like that.

Is my opinion about whether a document should be top secret or not as valid as someone say, at a law enforcement agency whose literal job is the enforcement of that of those regulations? No, my opinion is not as valid.

I am still free to express it.

But if there’s a fairly good chance of what I’m going to express as wrong, or at least lack nuance.

We see this even in business and in marketing.

Right? We see this where As someone who is loud, someone who has a big following someone who has an engaging presence can become seen as expert in something they are not actually expert in.


Christopher Penn 5:17

Whether it’s marketing automation, Google ads, Google Analytics, NF T’s, you name it? Because we’ve lost the ability to discern actual expertise, and think critically, the person who is loud tends to be seen as the expert.

So what’s the remedy? How do we learn this? How do we teach ourselves? How do we teach our kids this our business partners? The first thing we have to dig into is understanding what expertise really is.

How much time and effort and focus has a person spent to understand a topic not broadly but deeply, to study something for years and years and years.

Until they know the ins and outs.

One of the hallmarks of true expertise is not knowing not just knowing the right answers, knowing the right answers is important.

Knowing having good information is important.

But knowing what’s going to go wrong, right? When if someone who is truly experts say in virology and immunology, they would be able to say like, Okay, this mutation here in this virus, not as big a deal, because it’s not on an open reading frame.

Right, which is a portion of the viruses RNA.

An open reading frame is a part that has activation potential can do stuff, and there’s a whole big chunks of it that don’t.

And so that person who is a viral expert could look at a mutation in a viruses RNA and say, Okay, it’s not an open reading frame.

So the likelihood of this being a problematic variant is lower than if it did occur on this open reading frame or on this part of the spike protein.

We, as lay people should still be able, even if we don’t know the details, we should still be able to listen to that and go.

You not only do you know what’s right, you know what’s likely to go wrong.

Right? So if I listened to someone talking about virology, and they just saying mutations, mutations and all these things, and they’re not talking about whether it’s on an open reading frame or not, I would say this person doesn’t seem to have as much expertise as Dr.

Iwasaki who can tell you all about how different things occur.

Or my friend Sarah, who’s a PhD in biology can talk about how RNA replicates and stuff, I don’t have a PhD in that.

Right, I just I just have smarter friends than me.

The second thing, besides learning how to understand and respect expertise, is disposing of that point of view that all opinions are equally valid.

Without disposing of the right for someone to express their opinion, you have or should have the right to express opinion.

But you should also have the right to be contradicted and to be told that you’re operating with incorrect information.

And it is that that we have to solve for to reinforce that expertise exists for a reason that reading the headlines, or listening to our favorite commentator on YouTube is not the same as having domain expertise.

And encouraging people encouraging everyone to have domain expertise to be really good at something.

Maybe you’re really good at plumbing, right? Maybe you’re really, really good at electrical work, maybe you’re really good at painting.

But the more people have a true area of domain expertise, the easier it is to relate to those people and to say to them, and give examples to them, like someone who is a true expert farmer.

They can look at a harvest of wheat very early on and say there’s a lot of potential issues with this crop.


They know, weeks before a layperson whether crops going to be any good or not.

And so when you’re talking to that person about say virology

Christopher Penn 10:02

to break that mindset that all opinions are valid, you can say, well, could you see a case where someone like me who’s a layperson wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a good head of wheat and a bad head of weak wheat? You know, 10 weeks into the season, they probably say, oh, yeah, for sure.

I mean, the color here or the the moisture content here is going to be a big differentiator.

And I wouldn’t know that as a layperson, I’m still don’t know that I’m making that up.

But then you could say to him, and so could you see how Dr.

Iwasaki his opinion about the SAR cov two virus is much more valid than this other person on YouTube who doesn’t have a PhD who is not an expert in viruses, just like I’m not an expert in wheat.

So if we encourage people to have domains of expertise, and we respect their domains of expertise, it should be easier to get them to respect others, domains of expertise.

Anyway, that’s why I think we’re swimming in idiotic conspiracies because we’ve lost respect for each other’s domains of expertise.

And we’ve got this bizarre, unfortunate belief that all opinions are equally valid.

We can unwind that as long as we try.

Thanks for tuning in.

I’ll talk to you soon.

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