I’m working on an idea, I’m not sure what it’ll be, but the working title is “Strong opinions, weekly held.” It’s a play on the decision-making framework by the futurist Paul Saffo. In Saffo’s case, he uses it to make decisions based on incomplete information, which I think makes perfectly good sense. Too many people act as if there’s a finite set of data they can accumulate, it’s just a matter of collecting it all, to make correct decisions.
At first, I was thinking of a podcast where I just talk about an opinion I currently have about some topic. I have a tendency to form strong opinions about trivial things or topics I know little about for a short period of time. But that’s really just talk radio, and the world doesn’t need anymore assholes like Ben Shapiro or Alex Jones.
Instead, it might be more interesting to hear other people tell me about a strong opinion they have about a particular subject. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a controversial topic like abortion. In fact, it might be more interesting to hear someone that has a controversial opinion about something everyone else doesn’t.
Another take is to ask people to unpack their opinions. So why is it you feel so strongly about something? Have you really given it a lot of thought? Have you ruled out any biases? Are you holding onto an opinion out of a deep personal conviction or set of principles? Are there ever situations where it’s okay to have a static opinion that cannot be changed? Is there really such a thing as an unassailable position on something? Can any opinion be changed, or challenged? Do you have an opinion or is it a belief?
The reason all this interests me is because it seems like we’re living in a world of rampant narcissism and much of it is driven by everyone forming opinions that are self-centric.
The big question I want to ask is whatever happened to ambivalence? What is so wrong about having mixed feelings about something?
I have heard the truest sign of intelligence is to hold two opposed ideas in your head at the same time. I don’t know if that’s actually based on science, or just a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald (as I have just Googled it). But it’s an opinion I have held since college. I had a roommate who was getting his PhD and could take any side of an argument and drive you batshit.
At this point, what I’m thinking is having a guest, not myself, talk about an opinion they have and being willing to have it challenged. My goal isn’t to change their mind, or deepen their conviction. It’s more about getting people to admit and embrace ambivalence instead. It’s okay to have mixed feelings about something. It’s okay to admit that two different things can be true and falsifiable at the same time. Exceptions to all rules are important because it’s better to know the rules before you break them, than it is to just enforce or violate them blindly.
Addendum Think of this as the antidote to people like Joe Rogan – someone who has opinions but not necessarily principles.