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You Can Have Your Nonconformity

Posted on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 10:20PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments Off

A good friend linked me this Reason.com Scott Adams interview.  Scott Adams is a smart guy with a lot of interesting thoughts. He’s a contrarian. I so relate.

Being a contrarian is freeing. Contrarians are necessarily relieved of the nagging responsibility to think like everyone else. Contrarians are equally relieved of the pressure to believe what is said in the media. For that matter, contrarians are relieved of the responsibility and pressure to believe what anyone says.

Being relieved of the responsibility and pressure is not the same as rejecting everything anyone says. But you get to trade in the guilt of nonconformity. You can have your nonconformity and eat it too.

Contrarianism is mind-expanding. As I’ve mentioned here several times, I’m reading Jane McGonigal’s book Super Better. McGonigal is a game designer and Ph.D. who has extensively studied the effects of game-playing.  In Super Better, she points out that if your objective is to put a small ball in a small hole, carefully placing the ball in the hole, at very close proximity, with your hand, is the most effective strategy. Yet in golf we start hundreds of yards from the small hole and hit the small ball with sticks. This is an incredibly ineffective way to get the ball into the hole. Of course, using rules to create artificial obstacles is the essence of all games.

The contrarian would argue (correctly, in my humble opinion) that creating artificial obstacles is also the essence of life. We humans love to make things more complicated than necessary. Complexity makes us feel smart. Well, it makes us more than feel smart. Sorting out complex problems myelinates neuropathways and so actually makes us smarter. The question is what kind of smart do we want to be, the kind that wrestles with complex problems or the kind that sees simple solutions? Einstein, who solved some complex problems, said, “Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler.”