As Emperor Palpatine said in a galaxy far far away, “your arrogance blinds you.”
While it may be odd to hear the Dark Lord of the Sith preach humility as he plans to build a planet-destroying super weapon, the guy has a point.
Ego blinds. Then, you end up driving your car into a lake. On the flip side, epistemic humility opens our eyes to reality. We see our flaws and our mistakes. Then, we can change course.
There’s a paradox in that: the people who are most open to being wrong, are the ones who are most likely to be right, and the people who are most certain they are right, are the ones who are most likely to be wrong. The studies prove this.
- The most accurate forecasters are the ones who revise their predictions the most;
- The most self-critical investment advisors receive the best performance reviews;
- The most successful scientists change their opinions faster than their peers.
That last one is interesting: a sign of epistemic humility is speed. Anyone can change their opinions slowly, over years, sneakily sliding from a wrong view to a right one so subtly that they can pretend they were on the right side the whole time.
It takes true humility to change your mind immediately – as soon as new evidence proves you wrong. However, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “if you are on the wrong road progress means doing a U-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
Recently, on a moon in a galaxy not so far away (i.e. our own moon), scientists discovered something shocking: the crystals are about 40 million years older than we thought they would be, which means that the moon itself is about 40 million years older than we once thought it was. The researchers found new evidence and they formed new opinions instantly, with no ego-driven delay.
That’s what it means to think like a scientist. The bright side is, you don’t have to be a scientist to think like one. Anyone can, as Bruce Lee said, be water: anyone can be intellectually flexible, and reap the rewards: better predictions, better decisions, and, most importantly, better results.
As Ryan Holiday famously wrote, it’s the ego that’s the enemy.