Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Unwieldy, Cumbersome

Take a peak at this image I have linked to from the Final Fantasy Fan wiki:
I only chose Cloud as a ready-to-hand example of the Japanese trope of giant swords. I myself am not a fan of Final Fantasy, but largely because life is short, I didn't grow up with consoles and somehow, like literature, there are more classics in existence than I could ever get round to playing.

The thing is though, that this is a drawing. And a giant sword slung across your back might look cool, but if you were to put on an oven mitt and grab even just the hotplate off your bbq, or presuming some countries and cultures and rental arrangements don't put a bbq readily at hand - even a bicycle, a standard hot plate or road bike slung across your back is not going to be fun to carry.

You might even say it was cumbersome. Try and swing that thing and you might say that a bbq hot plate or a road bike is an unwieldy melee weapon. History never generated massive, gigantic swords even when the greatest scientific minds were all metallurgists and nobody could come up with better ideas than steel outerwear and steel weapons.

The Japanese Odachi, or Nodachi was as big as they ever made swords when they were all about swords at around 90cm in length, the Scottish Claymore is about as large as Swords ever got that were used or useful for anything at 120cm.

But once you're talking 150cm, and wider than your head and presumably heavier than your torso, a massive sword becomes an easy way to illustrate a concept like superhuman strength, but ultimately just an illustration.

And that's the crux, that's the juice of the example. You have something that looks cool but in practical application is so cumbersome and unwieldy that any brief existence such a thing would have history would judge to be a mistake.

Now the game of prediction is a hard one. You know, investing in the share market with it's bajillion variables, and even a game of basketball, completely beholden to the laws of physics is impossible to pack into a box so tight it becomes predictable.

And yet, predict we might, in a few limited domains. Provided we try to hit the side of a barn and not a bulls eye as such.

Change of pace, I was running the other day. Long distance, low stakes practice run, but a long run. Most of the time there are only two sources of information I measure my performance by on a practice run - how my body feels and also who passes me.

That last run was a long one, and I got passed twice. The first time was what I refer to in my head as a 'cautionary tale' one of those serious runners who gets so lean as to be some kind of skelington sent back from the future to run marathons. This doesn't bother me when a skeleton with only the essential muscle mass to move their frame forward passes me - I never want to get this good and this efficient at running myself. The aesthetic cost is too high. The fact is that in a city of millions, thousands of men and women both older and younger are going to be better runners than I am, even when I am in form.

The second person to pass me was a gorilla, a big beefy dude who looked good and would look good naked. Someone whose domain was free weights in the gym, possibly cross-fit competitions, out for a Sunday run with headphones in (which I consider cheating). This did bother me, because as a general rule big beefy dudes are not efficient runners, not unless they are sprinters doing sprints, and this guy was kicking his heels up when he ran so high that he was almost kicking his own arse.

He was really pushing himself, breathing hard, sweating. He was determined. I took it as a prompt to apply myself more, as without any competition or running companion to pace me I generally just relax into a comfortable day dream while training. So over the next 100m or so I just gradually and calmly reeled him in and overtook him again. Gradually hearing his panting breath drop off into the background.

He must have the same performance criteria as me though, because he never dropped out of my hearing all together. He sort of dropped 30m behind and then managed to keep pace, maybe I did that infuriating thing where once he was no longer on my heels dropped off my pace to match his. Hard to say.

But the next 4km or so, I listened to his heavy breathing and the jangling of his keys or something. And hear prediction comes in. This guys' running style was so inefficient I naturally began speculating as to what distance I'd have to run before he would simply have to stop and crash out of the race. Over what distance could this guy's inefficient kicking back render him no-contest to me. Because in a 100m sprint I'd probably lose. I'd guess up over 3km I might become competitive and then the simple amount of energy he'd have to exert to move his mass the same distance as my mass would compound and compound over time to the point where he'd either have to keep the soles of his feet facing away from the sun and run efficiently or just give up and go home.

In a similar vein, Penn & Teller's Bullshit did an episode about fat guys, or something where they actually raced a bunch of fat people against slender people to demonstrate that stereotypes about fat people's physical strength, stamina, athleticism etc. are perhaps mythical ones. There are indeed a number of athletic specialties that may require both a rotund frame and physical fitness, as shows up in many contact sports, American football, occasionally in boxing, basketball etc.

But Penn & Teller didn't run a marathon between overweight people, normal BMI and underweight people in that domain you'd probably wash out a pretty solid rule that the more weight you carry the less competitive you are at long distance running.

And so enters a predictive rule that is pretty bankable, in my opinion. If something is cumbersome or unwieldy, as time progresses it's chances of failure approach 1. I believe this is also the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Why is it worth writing about? Because we live in cumbersome and unwieldy times. Or perhaps I am simply living in a cumbersome and unwieldy scene.

I care. I care, is the real answer to that question. Not about running form per se. But good people, with good intentions are defeating themselves all around me by devising cumbersome and unwieldy solutions to serious and relatively unserious problems.

Fighting power can be empowering, but it is not the same as being powerful. People fight power and lose quite regularly, that's the nature of power after all. And a good way to predict your loss to power is if you grab up a gigantic unwieldy sword that impresses your friends by virtue of how unwieldy it looks and run off with such gusto that your heels are kicking your arse.

A friend of mine (note: I am not always or perhaps ever, necessarily a good friend) whose husband was hanging out with a lot of prostitutes informed me a few years back that prostitutes now preferred to be called 'full service sex workers' this gained no traction with me and my friend for reasons I can't quite perceive to a specific one, started to get upset that I still referred to prostitutes as prostitutes.

In  my case though my marketing training and probably my rational instincts kicked in, screaming to me that such a tactic, or stratagem was pseudo-intellectual hokum. Long before Youtube algorithms spewed up Steven Pinker's rationale for why such tactics keep getting adopted.

Al Ries and Jack Trout would simply have pointed out that 'Full Service Sex Worker' is an incredibly cumbersome 6 syllable alternative to 'prostitute' the common tongue term. Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote the best marketing book I've ever read, and much of it was poo-pooing bad ideas.

The term is cumbersome, it doesn't mean the objective of the campaign as such, is itself wrong, and that's probably the most important point. Someone generous enough to have sex with someone in exchange for money does not deserve to be degraded, abused, objectified, slandered, abducted, tortured, murdered, raped, stigmatized or excluded. All the issues surrounding the sex industry are legitimately concerning.

But rebranding your profession with a cumbersome unwieldy name is likely to result in sweet fuck all. At best, it gets adopted through voguery by a critical mass that prolongs the term. But it's a matter of time before the people that load the term 'prostitute' with all it's negative connotations are abbreviating the new name to 'fizzles' (because 6 syllables is cumbersome) and employing the exact same negative connotations.

It shouldn't be hard to trouble shoot in the pitch meeting. A simple roleplay 'Hey Jimmy, would you ever have sex with a full service sex worker?' (the social stigma is back already) 'Do full service sex workers work at a 'brothel'? Or should I be calling it a full service sex workplace?'. 'Excuse me are you a sex worker?' 'Yes.' 'Full service?' 'Yes.' 'How much for anal?' 'I don't do anal.' 'So what does full service mean then?'

I'm told, but haven't tried, that one of the great negotiation tools there is, is the question 'Now how am I supposed to do that?' because it creates forced empathy. And well intentioned people that devise rebranding strategies to try and elevate persecuted peoples standing in society may well never actually role-play how that rebranding is going to work. 

I would have been a better friend to my friend if at the time I'd known to force some empathy on her, even though she was not an advocate per se, but someone who had bought into the status and the prestige of fighting power.

And sex workers are beat up on enough, so I'm going to stop beating that dead horse. If you missed the point of the beating, it was simply that in the campaign headquarters when the strategy was devised it should have been predicted as a non-starter strategy based on how cumbersome and unwieldy the proposed terminology was.

I've also watched friends struggle with the modern 'cambrian explosion' of terminology and lingo necessary to talk about identity politics, which is in itself necessary to perceive oneself as part of the zeitgeist, which in itself is a basic human motivation for acceptance/belonging.

My marketing sense tingles again, and I've placed my bets that identity politics current success is based more on what made Nu-metal successful in the late 90s and that it has about the same longevity prospects.

That in itself is a tragedy, that most people are flailing about cumbersome terminology like 'cisgendered male' and 'non-binary femme' and 'gender non-conformist'. They sound, or perhaps look as if they contain more information than the old terminology they supplanted in some cases or appended in others. Let's dig.

'Cisgendered male' does indeed contain more information than 'male', even excluding signalling that this individual is 'in the know' and 'one of us' in terms of lingo and group membership. It tells you that said individual was born with an identity that aligned with their biological sex. Their chromosomes, their appearance and how people treat them etc. Is 'cis' here to stay? Or will it be something that features in some future equivalent Bojack Horseman style flashback to the '2010s' to mark the short lived fads of the decade, like 'not' jokes in the early 90s? Is the teeny tiny little syllable 'cis' cumbersome and unwieldy?

My money is on yes. Though of all the things identity politics has hacked up, it's probably the most useful. Norm Macdonald so comically and eloquently described 'cisgender' as 'a way to make normal people feel marginalized.' the offensiveness of that statement to trans people and sympathisers being the joke itself. But like the 'Brown-eyes, Blue-eyes' experiment, that's precisely the value of terminology like cisgender, as far as I can perceive. A forced empathy exercise of employing an antonym to destroy a persons sense of normalcy...

Having said that, the studies on the wikipedia page of the efficacy of the brown-eyes, blue-eyes experiment concluded that it was not very effective in reducing racism, and may have made things worse or put individual participants and moderators at risk of elevated stress and anxiety... so. So it's a fine example of something sounding smarter than it is.

The fact is, Gender dysphoria is rare. That's what makes the prefix 'cis' unlikely to last. 98% of the population where there's reliable studies are applicably 'cis'. Even on the self-report estimates (not requiring diagnosis from a psychologist) in New Zealand it scraped 98.8% of the population are cis. And 'cismale' and 'cisfemale' do not role off the tongue as easily as 'male' and 'female'.

Moving into 'non-binary femme' and 'gender non-conformist' without fully leaving 'cis' behind, there's something to be said about minorities. The whole LGBTIQA+ community might at the upper limits be about 4% of the population. That can be an incredibly large number though in absolute terms, in a city like Melbourne 4% is about 120,000 people that's a city in itself, a whole economy, and LGBT (at least) tend not to be evenly distributed across the land but tend to gravitate geographically to places where they can be a city within a city, particulary between teens to mid-30s.

This in part was why, before looking it up, my guesstimate of the LGB% of the population was way high in around the 15-20% range when it turns out to be closer to the 2% range. So in a city like Melbourne if you frequent Fitzroy and Collingwood, you may feel it necessary to preface your perspective on an issue with 'as a cisgendered...' and use gender neutral pronouns at your barista job, but for how many train stations does that hold? Once you're out of the city limits or off social media, there's less than a 1/100 chance it's going to come up. A person living in the regional town of Sale, Victoria may not interact with a hundred new people in a year.

Outside these queer population centers, 'cis' is all cost no clarity. Now, where's the clarity in a 'non-binary femme?' I've seen this term used by someone, but not been in a situation like a party where somebody introduced themselves to me as a non-binary femme. I don't wish to cheat and look it up before hand, because for me a) that's already cumbersome and b) let's not bias an experiment in which to determine my biases.

Firstly, I notice that the two terms appear to cancel eachother out. Femme being a fancy franch word for woman and presumably has a fairly binary antonym if I know the franch. Non-binary appears to say to expect some mixture between man and woman. Does this refer to sex or gender though? As far as I know non-binary is not trans. It simply suggests they favor a spectrum of gender... It could refer to intersex - ambiguous genitalia. It may be suggesting who is generally attracted to her(?) meaning Bisexuals, heterosexual men, lesbians but proves too effete for gay men. However the same could be true of me, who is attracted to me is not really something I'd ever footnote to describe myself.

To me, non-binary femme is cumbersome precisely because it is so non-descriptive. It is in practice, less descriptive than 'Tomboy' which perhaps might overlap with 'non-binary' if it refers to conformity to gender roles. Non-binary though means nothing specific, allowing for someone to identify as non-binary femme but predicts the exact same behavior as what may have 10 years prior been referred to as 'a straight woman'. It could however also predict the exact same behavior as what 10 years prior was referred to as a 'drag queen'. That is where a convoluted 5 syllable footnote becomes unwieldy, so vague as to not be useful.

And thus this paragraph on 'Gender non-conforming' becomes in itself, cumbersome and redundant. Adopt a low enough bar for GNC behavior and I am Gender non-conforming, owing to my penchant for transvestite lifestyles. I've been known to wear women's clothing, albeit in an artless manner that people for the most part accept. With a broad enough definition, my own dad, an impossible ideal of masculinity for me to grow up in the shadow of, is also a transvestite. Is a guy crying sufficient to be GNC? Or a woman playing sport? Given the ever shifting norms of the gender roles, does one have to stay ahead of the gender role tide to continuously renew ones licence? GNC, NBF sound like they contain more information than we are used to, in a similar phenomena to the conflation bias in statistics, they actually provide less information.

At best these cumbersome and unwieldy terms invite us not to assume, presume or expect. Which I've argued before is a 'pro-anxiety' stance. But given these effects, some people may say 'mission accomplished'

Enter the most contentious predictor of lingo longevity - heuristics.

This is kind of the part where I just have to uneloquently say: tough. There is a wealth and abundance of scientific research out there from eye tracking studies, to years of art history, to biology, to psychology to fMRI scanning and so on and so forth, that shows all of us use unconscious heuristics to determine somebodies sex.

More contentious but still more scientific than those who would contend with them, is the evolutionary psychologists (and biologists) that wield great explanatory power in the phenomena of gender roles.

Heuristic = rule of thumb. Example - If a persons hips are wider than their ribcage, we percieve them as female. If their ribcage is the widest section of their torso, male. These are measurements are eyes, as part of our brain does unconsciously and prejudices us towards that person. It prepares us with expectations, predictions etc. and I expect and predict that trans people are no exception to these heuristics. To hark back to the numbers from earlier, if someone gave you a hundred photos of randomly selected different people and asked you to sort them by gender. Even if you intellectually acknowledge that you can't presume to know someone's gender identity just by looking at them, if you simply hunkered down and relied upon your heuristic mechanisms, by guessing on instinct alone you would anticipate that you would guess correctly 98-99 of the photos.

Consider also that the errors are more likely to be from androgynes rather than trans people, because you are probably discerning enough to recognise the gender role someone is attempting to conform to even if their biology is fighting them.

There are few things in our lives that require higher than 98% accuracy, if you are a surgeon maybe, or a military sniper (and I'm not sure that's the case. Certainly not if you're an air-force drone bomber pilot). But even in most professions most people specialize in, they don't achieve 98% accuracy, hence asking people to adopt and employ terminology to fight against snap decision heuristics that are 98% accurate is what is most cumbersome of all.

Gender dysphoria in all its forms is going to be debilitating. The brunt of that cost is going to be born by the individuals that experience directly subjectively. Some kind of insurance scheme that asks the wider part of society to bear a tiny portion of the cost the individual does might spread the risk and relieve the debilitating aspects some what - eg. to impose a cost of education on why not to violently police gender roles on everyone in a community - may over time remove debilitating stigma and also threats to personal safety etc.

But again, go back to that pitch meeting and try and sell 'ad prefix, or change the pronouns used for everyone you interact with to move from 98% accuracy to 100% ambiguous.' Which doesn't seem to even capture the unwieldy nature.

If I as a caring individual was perusing over the strategic options of identity politics and saw a strategy that said 'change the language everyone speaks, forever.' I'd keep looking down that list, because English maybe, but when it gets to the gendered pronouns of Romantic languages like Italian and Spanish... fuck that cumbersome shit.

In conclusion, this has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of any underlying motivations of cumbersom and unwieldy solutions. That gorilla that was chasing me for 3km or so, probably had more determination, more mental strength than me. He was certainly in a holistic sense fitter and in better shape than me, he just couldn't run me down once I'd been alerted to his presence because he kicked his feet too far up as he ran. He couldn't catch me simply because he was inefficient.

Fighting power is not the same thing as being powerful, even if you feel empowered.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Open Mind

An open mind is kind of like a triangle, a concept everyone is familiar with but there's a pretty solid question as to whether it exists in nature.

I'm riddled with bias and prejudice myself, and one of those areas in which I, and you, are going to be prejudicial is how we differ on what 'having an open mind' means.

For example there's probably a road all people follow along to some extent: not jumping to conclusions, hearing someone out, allowing somebody to say their piece etc.

But eventually it seems possible to part ways on the definition, I head off to my campfire one I might share with you, or you may branch off to sit around a different fire.

For example, there are parties that feel having an open mind translates behaviorally to suspending critical thinking. To receive arguments with no argument. A lack of filters to assess the quality of information received. Even so, this is a treatment of information that is often asked of an audience rather than practiced by the speaker.

A'sail fully unfurled to catch the slightest bit of bullshit in the breeze.'

The campfire I sit around is one where having an open mind does not require the suspension of critical faculty. It means to observe the actual evidence and make judgement upon that and that alone.

Which sounds like what a judge might have to do in a court of law... except there have been plenty of case studies and rigorous experiments to demonstrate that Judges are often prejudice, even by their blood sugar levels and mood. Most people are incapable of practicing the above definition. Including myself and my knowledge of my emotional competency.

I doubt two people could easily share the same understanding of a closed mind - there's again some low hanging fruit easily gathered like 'disregarding testimony based on skin colour.' and so forth, but what about 'not-deferring to an expert authority.' or 'disregarding something because it is part of mainstream medicine?' these are the basis of fun arguments being had constantly now, where one person's open mind is another person's closed one.

Perhaps the open mind exists only as an ideal. I have a core belief that reality wins, the truth will out. This is tempered somewhat “The market can stay irrational a lot longer than you can stay solvent!” by Maynard Keynes, which goes broader than financial examples of fictions versus reality. Consider someone with access to nothing but Nazi propaganda in the lead up and duration of World War 2, the truth of the Third Reich's superiority took a while to play out, in which many people managed to die before it was resolutely defeated by the cold hard reality.

With that in mind let's talk strategy. Why even talk about open minds? Shouldn't there just be an acknowledgement of our own prejudice and biases, that being extant in ourselves probably will also describe other's modes of thinking just as well as our own and respect that. So is asking for an audience to keep an 'open mind' a kind of pathetic plea to simply surrender to your argument and let it into their map of the universe?

Rather, the open mind is a strategic ideal - a higher ground to stand on emotionally where we are not cornering ourselves for an onslaught from reality. Because that's the thing, Youtube is littered with videos that bear titles 'x DESTROYS insert out-group's ideology' and spoiler alert - nothing ever gets destroyed in these videos - somebody talks for a bit generally. But reality will destroy people just as it crushed National Socialism in Germany, British Occupation in India, the civilian population of ancient Pompeii, the Vikings ... and you can bet that when the writing was on the wall there were people in all those situations that couldn't be convinced by anyone that it was. 'Vesuvias is just letting off a bit of steam' someone would have said of the plume of smoke that morning.

Any ideology can be pressed and cornered against reality. An open mind might be considered a form of recognizing the lay of the land, or a kind of intellectual spacial awareness. In matters of strategy I tend to defer to an expert practitioner like Musashi Miyamoto who writes:

"Discerning the order in which the opponents attack, deal with those whom press forward first; keeping an eye on the whole picture... Intent on herding opponents into a line, when they seem to be doubling up, sweep in powerfully, not allowing a moments gap... if you get a group of practitioners together from time to time and learn how to corner them, it is possible to take on one opponent, or ten, or even twenty opponents, with peace of mind."

And now imagine being in a room, perhaps a school hall/gymnasium, and having Musashi attacking you, hearding you and I feel in that experience I would learn that I know nothing about the concept of even standing in a room safely. Putting a weapon in my hand I have no confidence of preventing me from discovering that I'd been cornered, disarmed and dominated and possibly walked into the last room of my life.

So by the metaphor an open mind is being able to perceive the walls of your reality, so you can pivot around the center of a room rather than be driven into a corner owing to a closed mind. To me, that's why you want an open mind. You don't want prejudices that you can trip over.

Given most people's poor statistical intuitions for example, most of us (and I can testify that I myself) get the Monty Hall problem incorrect. It takes an open mind to accept that one should always switch, and this can be demonstrated and proved mathematically - and yet I'm told to this day many people who have had the Monty Hall problem explained to them still refuse to accept that a participant should always switch.

My mind was open enough when first exposed to the Monty Hall problem to be persuaded I'd made an error, and later when passing the meme on at a campfire to someone with a fractionally less open mind (and probably someone worse at explaining it - being me) I actually ran a simulation for the person that made it quickly clear that you should always switch.

That person in this domain though, by being willing to run a simulation of the Monty Hall problem - had an open mind, by my definition. This was not Galileo's prosecutors refusing to look through a telescope lest their faith by corrupted by evidence.

So moving into the realm of pure opinion, how do I think the ideal of an open mind be achieved?

1. Think of Yourself as a Dingus.

This requires the opposite of mindfulness, but time travel. Jump back ten years and you tend to think of your former self as a bumbling idiot, your present self as some kind of intellectual bad ass. But time travel forward - a feat of imagination rather than imaginative memory and you should be able to prospect that in ten years time some improved version of you is going to regret some of the stupid decisions you are making.

It may also help to study a little history, and appreciate that some of the former smartest people in the world believed some real garbage or did some really stupid things - like Isaac Newton blowing all his money on a financial market bubble, Pythagoras' crazy religion he ran, and Socrates annoying so many people he got sentenced to death for it.

Less personal but still related is to get an appreciation of the half life of knowledge and maybe also that true knowledge is obtained via subtraction rather than addition - it's easier to determine what isn't true than what is, so if you develop an appetite for finding out what beliefs you hold are incorrect, you can better perceive reality faster than someone who is constantly trying to add new ideas to their map of the world.

2. Avoid the Ad-hominem

So I have this prejudice against Youtube's algorithms. Not just youtube's but algorithm's in general that try to push content toward me based on what I appear to like. This is very annoying to someone who has the aforementioned appetite for knowledge based on subtraction. If the algorithm was any good, it would learn that if I've just watched a key note presentation on some topic, then the video I next most want to see is one that refutes all the claims that have been made in the video I just watched.

Sadly no, and increasingly of late, this means that if I watch video's of a certain nature, the Youtube landing page quickly transforms into something that suggests I'm a male-rights-activist who has nothing better to do than hate on Islam. And it's because of a stack of correlations and polarization such that if you watch a psychologist or economist talk about psychology or economics, very often they've weighed in on identity politics.

The correlation is not what you might think though, the correlation is actually that white men aged 40+ still dominate most of the sciences and academic professions and economic think tanks and perhaps even literary journalism.

And here is where I feel it is important to avoid an ad-hominem informal fallacy. Case in point - Jordan Peterson. He's a fairly cranky old academic recently guilty of committing a slippery slope fallacy against a Canadian Bill to have gender identity and gender expression added to the Canadian Human Rights legislation.

Lest you already be committing the 'fallacy fallacy' his argument, that forcing people to acknowledge other people's preferred pronouns is an infringement on freedom of speech and that to not respect someone's identity expression through use of their preferred pronouns was morally equivalent to using racial slurs - actually holds. It just wasn't any part of the legal realities of the bill that passed. Much the same that if someone said that should Australia potentially legislate for Marriage Equality people could start marrying their siblings is not a valid reason to vote 'No' but that also doesn't mean incest is a good thing.

But here's the thing, Peterson succinctly, though uncharitably, describes the character of much of modern feminist writing:

"It's so comical watching the feminist postmodernists in particular rattle on about the absence of gender reality and act out the archetypal devouring mother at exactly the same time. For them the world is divided into predators and infants. And the predators are evil and need to be stopped and the infants need to be cared for. Well, that's what the mother does, but adults are not infants, and all you do is destroy them when you treat them that way."

To me if you were a feminist or even just a progressive thinker, that's probably the most insightful piece of feedback as to what gap there is between your ideology and reality - the adult-infant gap.

But a progressive business owner who is instructing their baristas to use gender neutral language when interacting with customers is not the kind of person who will sit and open mindedly read or listen to Jordan Peterson, even when Peterson is speaking within his domain of expertise based on thousands of hours of clinical practice.

Thus never realizing that adults aren't infants and most can cope with the 'trauma' of 'microaggressions', that catering to the needs of a customer base that is hypothetically likely to organize a boycott of your business by their own interest group is a powder-keg customer base you probably don't want to be dealing with, and that if your area has a high concentration of Queer customers it is likely to be gentrifying and their scene will be driven out by increased rents soon even if your business isn't.

This ad-hominem one is probably the biggest obstacle to a closed mind out there. I'm sure it applies to me, and there's some widely yawning gap in my ideology that I fail to perceive largely because I am repelled for some other reason by the very people who tend to articulate that gap in my understanding well. It's very hard for me to describe my own blind spot though, becuase I can't see it, I just follow my first bit of advice though and presume it to definitely be there.

I generally don't have time for ufologists like Dr. Steve Greer, whose documentary 'Sirius' opens with a voice-over that explains what a 'dead man's trigger' is and why Greer need's one. The equivalent of watching a documentary featuring me opening with, 'few people are in possession of a tiger repelling rock, but tohm is so hated by tigers that he carries one all the time. See, even now he is still alive having not been killed by tigers.' I wouldn't be inclined to listen to me if that was the introduction to me as a speaker, which brings me to my final piece of advice.

3. Try being Empirical

Which is to say, test things, test your beliefs, run thought experiments, attempt to practice what you are preaching and in the many cases where it's impractical to run an experiment to convince yourself, try to defer to people who have run the experiments.

There's a few caveats to this. Economics is a wretched science, it's political import means it is almost inevitably bastardized in it's findings. In fact it is far more informative to find economists like Mark Blyth or Yanis or Richard Thaler or finance people like Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Peter Schiff, Robert Schiller ... criticizing economic theory than to ever defer to whoever writes the economics columns in the finance section of your newspaper. The economic status quo is unreliable at best.

To a lesser extent, I can also personally testify that Market Research is very often not empirical research. It faces the same conundrum as somebody employed by an addict to prevent their employer from entering an opium den.

That said, it's okay to defer generally to people who are peer reviewed and have generally invested much more time and energy into obtaining their knowledge than you are willing to. Though I generally don't respect academics, there is something to be said about the buffer their sheltered from practice lifestyle affords them in not being biased - it's why I feel an open mind can reject 'climate change skeptics' who are generally employed lobbyists, professional politicians and partisan newspaper columnists, and considering the 'vested interests' of climatologists trying to perpetuate their research funding is not the act of an open mind but a closed one - because the vested interests are so assymetrical, much like the facts are to the debate.

Perhaps there's a large and important caveat, a kind of ad-hominem but applied to fields of study, schools of thought. There's definitely a hierarchy of the sciences - the 'hard sciences' rank above the 'soft sciences' and even within these categories, physics reins over chemistry, chemistry over biology etc. in the soft sciences it gets more contentious, but as someone who holds an economics degree, imo psychology ranks far above economics, such that an economist trying to argue what a rational utility maximizing individual would do in a situation should shut the fuck up when a psychologist then describes what a person tends to do.

And having said that, even lowly, wretched economics I would probably rank above something like gender studies, for at least in economics you can find tenured professors of economics in universities that will criticize economics ability to describe reality, and economics at least is often tested (and disproved) in practice. Gender studies is just too young, too nebulous and basically not practiced out of tiny insular subcultures. Having said that, I've never studied it myself, nor even read a syllabus, so I don't really know what is going on there, but if an economist should defer to a psychologist over descriptions of human behavior, a gender studies major should definitely defer to a psychologist, anthropologist and biologist.

Most importantly, if you feel I'm singling out the recent phenomena of the popularity of Gender studies, it's because a distressed friend sitting on the pointy end of some closed minds described why so often progressives are not deferring to what psychology knows about people, and that's a form of perfect thinking - I'm paraphrasing but the rationale was 'psychology can be dismissed because it is part of colonialism, and therefore oppression.'

Perfect thinking is the best indicator of a closed mind: you have the perfect partner because whenever he turns abusive it's not him but the mental illness he struggles with. The rational is perfect but the reality you may get cornered against is potentially life-threatening. Doctors poo-poo alternative medicine because they are profit driven, therefore Western Medicine can't be trusted. It's perfect, but again the reality you are closed to is potentially life threatening. All knowledge generated by colonial powers is suspect as it is used to sustain oppression, is a perfect way to disregard virtually everything modern life is based upon, the only remedy I can suggest is watching the people's front of Judea debate what the Roman's have done for them again.