May 30, 2019

The ambassador and the engineer

By Ben Hoffman, here (a):

Imagine you’re an engineer, at an engineering conference. You see a group of your colleagues, including someone working on your project, in an intense conversation. They’re asking your friend questions, and your friend obviously has to think hard to answer them. Your intuition is going to be that something good is happening here, and you don’t want to interrupt it.

Now, imagine you’re a diplomat, at a diplomatic conference. You see a group of diplomats, including someone representing one of your allies, in an intense conversation. They’re asking the allied diplomat questions, and your ally obviously has to think hard to answer them. Your intuition is going to be that something bad is happening here, and you want to derail it at all costs.

I think that most people perceive most conversations as more like the diplomatic conference, than like the engineering conference. Challenging someone’s narrative is not a way to improve everyone’s world-model and make everyone better off; it’s a social attack against the person being challenged, a bid to lower their status and exclude them from the group. And people who want the group to get along will try and rescue the person being challenged. To divert attention from the stress-point.

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