Workin’

I keep thinking that I have free days coming up, and that I’ll be able to write all the things I want to write, and finish the drafts that I have. Then my freelance work stint gets extended with a company, or new work comes in, and before you know it, I have no free days and it’s like I’m working full-time, pretty much.

Having a situation where you’re freelancing but you keep 1-2 days per week free for your own projects is harder that I thought it would be. Freelance work is really good, though – I’m working on a much greater variety of projects and types of work than I’ve ever done before in my life – and I love working with different companies and meeting new people and adapting to different ways of working (and learning how different companies do things; it’s fascinating!).

In the meanwhile, I finished Coursera (finally!) and while I loved doing it – loved exercising my brain and learning something completely new (lots of linguistics and probability/stats in the Think Again: How to Reason and Argue course) – I also learned that it is a sincere time commitment, and that it didn’t teach me what I thought it would. I expected a course on arguments would both help me argue, and understand arguments, but I found it very theoretical and not very practical. For example, the course taught me that when you’re arguing about something, and someone else starts counter-arguing but they completely misunderstand or misrepresent the argument, so you’re not even arguing on the same point, then it may be the fallacy of the straw man.

However, in real life, I would more like to know how to deal with situations like this:

1. When there is a newer and older way of thinking about a topic, and you have a clash between people who believe those two ways of thinking, what is the best way to present an opposing opinion / argument to the old-thinkers? What is a way of addressing the old-thinkers so that they might consider the other way of thinking?

For example, on this Mumbrella piece, you have the new-thinkers understanding that, while the concept of a meritocracy is all very nice and seems to make sense (much like communism when you’re young!), the concept of meritocracy (as it currently exists) does not take into account the strange and fantastically weird secret biases that we all have and don’t know much about. So even if I, a stark raving feminist, think that I’m perfectly pro-diversity and able to judge people based on their abilities only, the fact is: I have strange and secret biases that I don’t know much about. If I am faced with a woman’s resume and a man’s resume with exactly the same contents (and only the name is changed), I may swear black and blue that I would judge them in exactly the same way, but the nature of biases is that you don’t even know what biases you have — and I might actually judge them differently. The same goes for a resume for a person with a name like John Brown versus a person with a name like Nairit Sur. I might insist that I would judge these resumes equally, but the truth is – I might not. Despite my best intentions.

Now, I know that some smart people out there must know about arguments and persuasion, and must know how human psychology works in relation to these, and what the process is for people to change their minds, and tactics for changing minds. It seems like we should know this; that it should be documented on a Wikipedia page. But over and over, we see the same pointless “arguments” – in politics, in internet comments, on Q&A – where nobody is changing anyone’s mind.

2. If someone shares their opinion, like in this piece on Jacobin, and I disagree with their opinion, I would like to know how to articulate my opposing opinion. I thought that I would learn about this in the Coursera course, but… alas. No.

Anyway! I am busy with work, and Girls Club (we have a cool photo shoot coming up), and this might sound crazy, but I was also thinking of putting together a simple site where I try to explain things that are happening in the political world, but in plain English, layperson language, with loads of context and explaining. Because I’m not busy enough. Shyaaaaa.

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