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Book Review - Loserthink, Scott Adams
The reality, which science has proven in lots of different ways, is that we routinely make irrational decisions and then try to rationalise them. That’s why the people who disagree with you so often appear to be not just wrong, but totally bonkers. And importantly, they think exactly the same about you.
Do you experience Loserthink? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a human - so you probably do. Loserthink is the latest book from Dilbert creator and political commentator, Scott Adams. It’s a guide that will help you escape what he calls your ‘mental prison’. We all like to think that we’re reasonable people. Ask anyone you know and they’ll say exactly that. How is it that we all believe we are reasonably reasonable people, yet when we use our reason to reason, others have completely unreasonable reasons compared to our reasonable selves? The reason for this is, one of you - if not both of you, could be under the influence of Loserthink.
So what is Loserthink? Adams defines Loserthink as unproductive ways of thinking. This isn’t specific to stupid people. You, your friends, parents, intellectual heroes whom you think could never be wrong, can succumb to the power of Loserthink:
You can be smart and well informed while at the same time being a flagrant Loserthinker. That is not only possible; it’s the normal situation. My observation, after several decades on this planet, is that clear thinking is somewhat rare. And there’s a reason for that. No matter how smart you are, if you don’t have experience across multiple domains, you’re probably not equipped with the most productive ways of thinking.
Adams teaches us how to think differently. Thinking like an artist is very different to how an engineer, an historian or a leader thinks. And these people think differently to how a psychologist or economist may view things. You don’t need to be an expert in any of these fields to reap the benefits of their thought processes. A quick understanding of any of them and you will have improved your chances of not experiencing Loserthink. I have a bit of a background in evolutionary biology and psychology. These two subjects alone have helped me view the world and understand things in a different way. If I didn’t know much about these subjects, the world would not make as much sense. The idea is that you can take a basic understanding of how any of these experts think and apply it to your own life so that you aren’t stuck in the mental prison that you have built for yourself.
The book is essentially divided up into three parts.
Different ways of thinking
How to escape your mental prison
The golden age filter
If you took social and corporate media at face value, you would reasonably come to the conclusion that the world is falling apart. There’s rampant racism, poverty, state sanctioned violence, political unrest, climate change, etc. It’s no wonder it seems like mental health issues are the highest they’ve ever been. If you’re constantly being told that the world is on the brink of destruction, it’s hard for this to not mentally hurt you.
…you have been sold a negative view of the future because of the business model of the press. If the press has a choice of scaring you or telling you everything is fine, one of those paths is more profitable. Fear sells.
A brief read of The Golden Age Filter chapter would help change your mind. It’s hard for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel with social and corporate media in the way. The tunnel may be long, but the light on the other side is blinding. Adams explains why we should be optimistic about what the future holds. He touches on education, crime, climate change, war, health care and race relations. All of which, if you only saw what the media had curated for you, would have you believe it’s going downhill. Fast. But there’s much potential for us to go the other way. COVID-19 has accelerated this process. For instance, it has shown the world that we can learn and work remotely which will only get better as we reinvent and reiterate on the systems we currently have.
Although one could spend a whole chapter talking about any Loserthink subject, Adams spends usually no more than half a page on a single one. He gives us a good enough insight so we know how it works all without draining too much of our mental willpower. I love books that don’t drag on forever and all of Adams’ books that I have read have this quality. This means that young people can pick this up and learn just as much as the adults.
Adams’ greatest skill is not the complexity of his ideas, but the simplicity of them. After reading a few paragraphs you can walk away thinking “… I kind of already knew that”. It’s one thing learn something new, but it’s another thing for something to be articulated in a certain way and you realise that you intuitively already knew it to be true. It’s learning something that you had known all along.
Loserthink is overall, a pretty good book. Adams’ short chunks makes it an easily digestible read. It’s great for those with only a few moments to read something. If you instead like to sit down and read for a long stretches, you’ll breeze through this in no time. You don’t know how much Loserthink you’re experiencing until it’s pointed out which is why it’s important for everyone to read a book on critical thinking.
I’ll leave you with one of the most important takeaways that should be itching the back of your brain every time you think you’re sure of something.
Being absolutely right and spectacularly wrong feel exactly the same.
I give Loserthink 4/5.
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