Jan Martinek: words && bytes
interested in understanding

How to be wrong (for beginners)

November 18, 2014

Being wrong is quite easy, though it requires some effort—at first. This short introduction may help you to overcome some of the initial hurdles.

Let’s start with the easiest part: just say something. Look around you, watch things and people move and talk. Say something about the things and people you see around you.

Next comes the tricky part. Say something while someone else stands close to you — in other words, so that they can hear you saying it. They may suddenly look at you and frown, but that’s just right!

I lied a bit about the tricky part, sorry. Nevertheless — it’s been a rather empowering experience to manage to finish the supposedly difficult assignment so effortlessly, wasn’t it?

Well, you’re there, the learning process has already started. You said something. Someone listened. If you’re lucky enough, someone disagrees with your very valid observation. (If you’re stuck at this step, try expressing an opinion. However, try as much as you can to avoid that rather dangerous path.)

Now comes the tricky part. Look at your fellow. Their worried eyes, wrinkled forehead, raised eyebrows. You may discover a resemblance between that face and your own; this face you’re well used to see in the morning. Just the toothbrush is missing and that’s all right. They’re human as much as you are. And that human disagrees with your perfectly well suited description of what’s happening. What’s wrong with them? There has to be something wrong with them!

And now, back to you. Imagine looking at yourself, your tense forehead, eyebrows lifted and eyes already nervous. Yes, we left your body standing there and we’re looking at it in this suddenly transcendental experiment. Why? Look at your face again. That’s exactly what your companion sees, looking at you. That’s exactly what they see, thinking about what’s wrong with you! Doesn’t that remind you of something?

If this was too Michael Bay for you, I’m sorry about it. The camera stops rotating around those two people looking at each other and you can safely return to your body. Yet, what has been seen cannot be unseen: two people think there’s something wrong about the other one. What are the odds that one of them is right every time?

The statistics might speak harshly, but the odds are quite low.

With a little help from the magical science of statistics, try to imagine that in some cases you’re the one who is wrong. It’s possible. I might have to repeat that in italics: imagine that you’re the one who is wrong.

Stretch your imagination. A little bit of pain is to be expected. You’re at the point where it’s only you. Then again, you’re too far in the forest to come back without a catch. You can win this. Close your eyes and feel the force! Embrace the structure of the tesseract! Imagine you can be wrong.

Made it?

This is how it’s done. After some discussion with that other person, you might arrive at the conclusion that in fact you had been wrong. Wow! Such an obviously implausible proposition just a few minutes ago. Your imagination just opened a whole new world of possibilities.

In any further case, just try to imagine you’re the one who’s wrong. Sometimes you’ll even find that you were right. What a feeling! At the same time, you will avoid the deadlock situation of the doubly asked question: „what’s wrong with that idiot“?

It’s really your imagination that opened a magical door in the seemingly seamless wall of a deadlock situation.

Be proud of it.