On changing one’s mind. (From ORD Camp some years ago.)

A few years ago at ORD Camp I participated in one of my favorite conference sessions ever. I don’t remember exactly what we called it, but something like “I Was Wrong: Share One Big Thing You’ve Changed Your Mind About”. There were about fifteen to twenty people in the room. I asked everyone who felt comfortable doing so to speak for just a couple of minutes about some important matter on which they had changed their mind.

I took notes during the session, and said I would blog about it. Then I got really busy with my company, and the next thing you know, the Earth had travelled another 2.9 billion miles or so.

Now it’s almost time for ORD Camp 2018, and I’m finally getting around to writing that blog post. Sorry for the delay, everyone!

Although my notes record who said what, I’m not sure everyone agreed to have their name associated with what they spoke about, so this is anonymous (except for what I said). Also, most of the items below are not literal quotes: the session was spoken, and I mostly wasn’t transcribing verbatim. When I put something below in double quotes, that means it was in double quotes in my notes, so it probably represents an actual quote or something close.

I started off the session with this:

Religion is a rational response a widespread human need that I myself feel. Being religious does not mean someone is un-rigorous or un-intellectual; it is, quite often, a sign of being well-adjusted. Although not religious myself (and unsure whether that’s due to preference or to inability), my reaction to religiosity now is something like jealousy, whereas when I was younger it was some combination of incomprehension and unarticulated contempt.

(I’m okay admitting that now. However far away that younger self was at the time of the session, he’s several years even farther away now that I’m finally getting around to writing this post!)

After that, other people spoke about things they had changed their minds about. Each individual item below is a summary of one person’s contribution.

Humans are not infinitely malleable with respect to ability; practice is not all.

Absolute, black-and-white answers are not all.

(Did that last one sound obvious? Maybe it is, to you. Remember, this was a session about things that individual people had changed their minds about. For this person, black-and-white answers had been important for many years… until they were not.)

Engineers find real-world thinking repugnant but rigorous.

“I no longer believe that activity in a project leads to good software.” Great software development does not necessarily lead to a great product; instead, inactivity leads to stable, good software.

The free market is not the only tool in the social toolbox. It is just one of many! (E.g., emergency services.)

I used to believe in God; now I am an atheist, except when doing art.

The U.S. Constitution is rally horribly broken. It needs to be flushed down the toilet. No other countries use it as prior art!

Mythology is not boring — it’s not! You have to have the backstory; don’t just get it from TV.

His poor memory about childhood didn’t bother him — until waking up after a 10-hour post-party blackout. Eventually he realized it’s not important to know every moment in your life, except for effects on yourself or others.

The shift from believing to not believing — does it result in hope? Innocence? Cynicism?

Social isolation led me to libertarian politics when I was young. Then I went to Japan — it was mind-blowing. Public interactions worked: society was not off-putting, people were trustworthy. Traits that I had thought were human were cultural!

Gun control — not such a good idea after all.

Fate — it’s not a thing. What I had thought was fate was a long run of good luck…

Had to change almost everything she believed growing up. Change of beliefs is good — it creates depth of personality and better sympathy.

Reading over these notes, fragmentary as they are, reminds of how interesting that session was. Thanks to everyone who came. I hope to see you again soon!

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