The Autodidacts

Exploring the universe from the inside out

Opinions Are Optional

I have a new opinion: I don’t need to have an opinion.

Having an educated opinion on a topic is a big investment. Many topics aren’t worth that investment. Not because they’re irrelevant, necessarily; just that they aren’t relevant to me, right now.

Everything is connected to everything else. Having an opinion is like computing an orbit. I have to work out from the thing itself, factoring in everything that affects it, until I have a model that matches reality close enough. The hardest part is figuring out where to stop, knowing that every distant star exerts some minuscule force.

Since I can’t have an educated opinion about everything, it’s tempting to hastily form (or borrow) opinions on topics I don’t have time to properly consider or research myself.

I might calculate a rough orbit that factors in only large, nearby celestial bodies. If I’m lucky, I will be able to get away with using such heuristics — for a while. But in the long run, calculating orbits this way is a recipe for making more craters in the moon. Because as soon as I try to figure out something else that that thing affects, my small errors are amplified, becoming more consequential with each extrapolation, until my entire worldview is as out-of-touch with reality as a rock ‘n’ roll drummer on mushrooms.

It’s nice to feel like I know what’s going on, but it’s also very dangerous. It is often better, in my opinion, to admit ignorance right at the beginning; to wrap the entire question in yellow caution tape, so I don’t construct a teetering edifice of thought based on erroneous assumptions; to just say, I have no idea.