Dear Buster Benson,
Yup! That’s my response to everything you said. Let’s take it piece by piece.
Triangulating your perspective
“…when a problem or question space is too chaotic or ambiguous to handle with a single perspective, it’s possible to try to triangulate it with multiple perspectives.”
You compared this to how one camera can’t see the whole earth. But if we set up cameras in the right places, we can. And this is the same thing as a friend telling you you have garlic stuck between your teeth. You can’t see your teeth, so we hope others around us let us know. In fact, it can feel disappointing when you discover the issue by yourself hours later. It can even feel like maybe your friend isn’t really your friend, since they’re not helping your perspective!
Benefiting from the opposition
And this goes straight into your point about free-floating mindsets. You said this:
The people/animals/contributors are usually arranged in an oppositional manner, challenging the weaknesses and being challenged by the strengths of the other contributors. They may dislike each other, or even hate each other. They may wish that their mutual struggle would be resolved once and for all, removing the influence of the other contributors so they can have their way.
It’s not hard to see politics in that point. Of course the left just wants to win, and would appreciate if the right would just go away. Same in the other direction. But when the system is healthy, the fact that a whole bunch of people never get 100% of their way is a feature, not a bug. You go on to explain the benefits of this, and it reminds me of a recent Wait But Why essay that touches on the same point.
Wait But Why also mentions the legal system. Some people think it’s insane that defense attorneys appear to turn a blind eye to how guility their clients clearly are. But the theory is that both attorneys are supposed to fight hard for their side, and that’s what leads to the truth being uncovered. If your defense attorney threw their hands up and said “nah, you’re guilty” then the system would topple over and become much more corrupt and biased.
Good spirited scrimmages with the opposition
It is tough because it requires some serious wisdom to strive for something by seeking out its opponents and acting in self-interest against them. At the same time, we think of scrimmages and training and practice as this exact thing. Can fools-mindset be one that adopts scrimmages as not only practice but the real deal?
When Obama became president, a lot of people were talking about him relying on a “team of rivals,” a technique used by Lincoln. I think this is exactly what we’re talking about here. You need to set up a system with your higher intellectual mind that says “I need people to challenge me” so when your primal, tribal, easily offended mind tries to take the wheel, you have some sort of way of keeping yourself headed in the right direction. I think I can speak for all of mankind when I say it’s really tough!
So what does a scrimmage even look like? I can think of debate teams, with agreed-on rules and judges and stuff. But other than that, I think we’re all pretty much winging it. And that’s the exact wrong approach for something like this. You need structure, and fairness, and respect, and no way to blame the stupid referee with his stupid opinions. It’s tough!
How might we?
You mentioned serious play at the end, and boy did you step on a wonderful land mine with that one! I love using the term “design play” and I have a book I love called Deep Play, and I’m about to give a talk/workshop on this in Melbourne this June! I’m considering writing a book about this stuff too. So this is totally my jam, to say the least.
Let’s say we agree that finding this oppositional tension is important. Let’s say we agree that it requires logical and fair structure instead of just hoping for the best every time you get mad at someone on the internet. What then? Let’s design a process or tool. Let’s figure out who’s made progress in this space. I think about this idly a lot, but I don’t have an answer.
How might we help people work on this? And to kick things off, I’ll use one of my favourite design play techniques: asking the reverse question. So Buster, or anyone else who would like to join in: if we wanted people to get good at improving their ideas through oppositional challenges, what’s the worst possible way to do that?