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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

The power of minor opinions: Life hacks by Charles Assisi

A view held by a small group of people can often be perceived as the view of the masses. Does social media amplify just the minority?

columns Updated: Sep 07, 2019 20:13 IST
Charles Assisi
Charles Assisi
Hindustan Times
The lady holding the scale of justice pointing at the termination of tyranny
The lady holding the scale of justice pointing at the termination of tyranny(Google)
         

What important truth do people disagree with you on?

This question occurs in Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, a book by Peter Thiel. An entrepreneur and venture capital investor, Thiel writes, “Actually, it’s very hard to answer… It’s intellectually difficult because the knowledge that everyone is taught in school is by definition agreed upon. And it’s psychologically difficult because anyone trying to answer must say something, she knows to be unpopular. Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.”

Common answers to this question include: ‘Our education system is broken and needs to be fixed’ and ‘There is no God’. But these are bad answers. The one on fixing education, for instance, is a statement, not a question. And the one on God is a position around a debate. These are not questions.

How do you then begin to frame a question about your truth? An interesting mental model is to first examine what everyone seems to agree on. “If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth,” as Thiel puts it.

Some thinking on Thiel’s assertions later, it was time to ask myself what important truth most people disagree with me on.

Most people believe the internet is a democratic place. But I think of it as an echo chamber where the voices of bigots and minorities are amplified. Voices of the majority go unheard either because they don’t know how to shout, are afraid, or are indifferent. This isn’t very different from how things are in the real world.

I call it the tyranny of the minority. My experience is that their dictatorships can be pushed back when questions are asked.

1. Whenever any entity has asked for my email address, I provide a disposal email address provided by creators such as Harakiri Mail (www.harakirimail.com). What do you need my personal address for?

2. Only idiots post all things personal on social media platforms. Is it difficult to comprehend this information can be used by a few entities to manipulate how you view the world? That is why I maintain a personal website. While WordPress.com is highly recommended, I’ve opted for the minimalistic Squarespace.com. It’s easier to maintain.

3. And how can anyone opine without considering what an opposing view may be? Our minds are wired to seek narratives that support what we believe in. There is no better place to seek out opponents than the internet.

I must admit, though, that efforts to deploy these rules in the physical world are frowned upon by the missus. She thinks these ploys to protect my privacy are the actions of an unsocial man facing a mid-life crisis!

(The writer is co-founder at Founding Fuel and co-author of The Aadhaar Effect)

First Published: Sep 07, 2019 20:13 IST