all posts tagged 'critical thinking'

Deciphering clues in a news article to understand how it was reported

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I’ve personally been bewildered by the story that’s been unfolding since Sam Altman was fired by the board of directors of the OpenAI non-profit last Friday. The single biggest question for me has been why—why did the board make this decision?

Before Altman’s Ouster, OpenAI’s Board Was Divided and Feuding by Cade Metz, Tripp Mickle and Mike Isaac for the New York Times is one of the first articles I’ve seen that felt like it gave me a glimmer of understanding.

It’s full of details that I hadn’t heard before, almost all of which came from anonymous sources.

But how trustworthy are these details? If you don’t know the names of the sources, how can you trust the information that they provide?

This is where it’s helpful to understand the language that journalists use to hint at how they gathered the information for the story.

Simon’s analysis here is quite astute.

I can confirm that my journalism school taught us a great deal about how to build trustworthy relationships with sources and how to protect them with anonymity.

They also taught us that it's important to try your hardest to not use anonymous sources in your reporting. Using anonymous sources requires a great deal of trust on behalf of your reader, which is hard to obtain in this day and age of "fake news."

Anyway, this article does a great job of breaking down the intent behind some of the jargon you see in news reports. It's worth a read if you are interested in increasing your media literacy (which everyone should be).

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How to Think: The Skill You’ve Never Been Taught

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Good decision makers understand a simple truth: you can’t make good decisions without good thinking and good thinking requires time.

Good decisions make the future easier, giving you more time and less stress.

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This Is The Sign of a Great Thinker

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Wisdom isn't found in certainty. Wisdom is knowing that while you might know a lot, there's also a lot you don't know.

Wisdom is trying to find out what is right rather than trying to be right.

Wisdom is realizing when you're wrong, and backing down graciously.

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This Is How To Change Someone’s Mind: 6 Secrets From Research

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We need more discussions where no one is demonized, shamed and both sides are open to changing their mind. Not only is it more pleasant, but that harsh stuff doesn’t actually work. It just makes enemies more vicious. Yes, some topics will always be controversial and things won’t always go smoothly, but they don’t have to go badly.

Now it would be great if someone had taken the time to pull all the insights from peer-reviewed research, professional negotiations, cult exiting and applied epistemology into one book… Oh wait, someone has.

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The Burden of Skepticism

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Carl Sagan:

If we teach everybody, let’s say high school students, the habit of being skeptical, perhaps they will not restrict their skepticism to aspirin commercials and 35,000-year-old channelers (or channelees). Maybe they’ll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Then where will we be?

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in the schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy?

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Mental Models: The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions

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When a botanist looks at a forest they may focus on the ecosystem, an environmentalist sees the impact of climate change, a forestry engineer the state of the tree growth, a business person the value of the land. None are wrong, but neither are any of them able to describe the full scope of the forest. Sharing knowledge, or learning the basics of the other disciplines, would lead to a more well-rounded understanding that would allow for better initial decisions about managing the forest.

I think I first learned about the concept of mental models a couple years ago from John Siracusa, and I had it tucked back in my brain to one day find a list of mental models that I could study.

Fast forward to this article which was resurfaced recently in the excellent Farnam Street email newsletter.

I think I’ll be reading and re-reading this post several times in the years to come.

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