Isqua Istari

The Wise Wizards

How to Change My Mind

Posted in Articles by Ziggy Saturday January 24, 2015 at 18:20

Our mind is one of our most valuable posessions (right up there with our heart, our soul, and our body). As such, it is also kept the most private and secret.

Communication is the process of exchanging mind-stuff. People usually call this stuff “ideas” so let’s go with that. Because ideas are, basically, what your mind is made of, communication is a risky business. You wouldn’t want someone to take control of your body, or put stuff in there that you didn’t want, right? The same is true of the mind.

A lot of people have told me that I’m stubborn. They tell me that I refuse to change, and won’t admit when I’m wrong. This has unfortunately been true fairly often in the past. I’m trying to improve in this area, and one of the ways I’m hoping to do that is to give people help doing so in a way that is easy for me. This is it! The key that will allow you to mind control me! I’ll bet you’ve always wanted to do this right?

Oh, and while I can’t promise it will work on other people, but I rather suspect that it will, so this might just be the general solution to mind control.

With that said, I hope you understand how vulnerable, trusting, and dangerous of me it is for me to do this. Honestly, I’m a bit frightened, because I’m about to tell you…

How to Change My Mind

Now, obviously, you first need to know what it is you’d like to change about my mind. This requires some communication and observation beforehand, but let’s assume you’ve already done that. Since my mind is made of ideas, what you’re doing is basically taking an old idea out of my mind, and putting a new one in its place. Just putting the new one in isn’t enough, because the old one is already there, and it’s probably solidly entrenched (stubborn, remember?) and the new one will just bounce off.

Some people are a strong enough presence in my mind that they can just pick the old ideas up directly. They say “Believe this instead of that” and I’m like “Okay!” and it’s done.

Unfortunately, you are not one of these people.

What you need is a lever, to pry this old nasty idea out of my mind. Something to multiply the meager influence that I’ll give you into enough to move the mountains of my mind. Fortunately, I’ve got just the thing. Like all levers it has three parts, two ends and a middle. The ends, I call “Evidence” and “Pragmatism” and the middle I call “Reason”. Since this whole article is an attempt to get this idea into your mind (“It’s a trap!”) I’d like to be sure it’s the right idea, so let me explain in a bit further detail.

Evidence

This is just anything that I think is true. It’s the short end of the lever, the prying bit that gets under the old idea and breaks it loose. I’m comfortable with the Bible as evidence, so I promise that at least works well on me, but I’ll accept a lot of other kinds of evidence as well. Come up with some support for why my old idea is bad, or why your new one is better.

Pragmatism

This is anything that I want. It’s the long end of the lever, the part you push against when you’re making your point. I like not being in pain, living a long time, having food and respect, that sort of thing. I probably want most of the same things you want, so your own desires are probably a good place to draw these from. The more fundamental the desire, the longer the lever arm, so the less effort you’ll have to spend to get those old ideas out of the way.

Reason

This is anything that makes sense. It ties the two ends together, and keeps them from flopping all over. This is logic, mathematics, and geometry. If you want to get fancy, I’m also particularly susceptible to arguments by metaphor. You want this to be as robust and rigid as possible, since all the force of your argument is passing through it. If the reason breaks, you’re not going to be moving anything.

Exchange

It’s not good enough to have a great lever though. You’ve got to get it to the right place, and you’ve got to get purchase.

It’s very difficult to prove that a true thing is true. But it’s much easier to prove that a false thing is false. If you want to get a bad idea out of my head, I suggest that you show that the idea contradicts with any one of pragmatism (it isn’t what I want), evidence (it isn’t actually true), or itself (it just plain doesn’t make sense) and you’ll be right where you want to be.

So, once that old idea is broken loose, how do you get your shiny new idea in its place?

The short answer is that you can’t. It’s impossible.

Certainly, you can present your idea to me, and I might select it, but it’s also fairly likely that I’ll choose something else instead. If you think the idea I choose as a replacement is wrong, you can make a new lever to pry that one out and present your idea again. The odds stack, so if you do this for long enough, eventually, it’s very likely that I’ll accept your idea as true. But there are no promises here.

All you can do is make me change my mind. You can’t actually make me believe that you are right. So, maybe I was misleading when I said this is mind control. It’s more like mind… eviction of problem tenants… but that’s way less poetic.

Anyway, this means that, even if you try for a very long time, we are bound to have…

Disagreements

Disagreements are normal. They are healthy. I’d love to believe everything exactly the same as everyone else, but, let’s face it, that’s not going to happen. However, if we agree a large enough body of evidence, and a large enough portion of pragmatism, and use sound enough logic, you can use the same lever very quickly to root out a ton of bad ideas in my head. If the lever works well enough, I might start using it on myself! Then you won’t have to do anything!

But even if you found the perfect lever to make my mind exactly like yours, you can’t communicate it perfectly. Communication itself is imperfect, so as long as we are relying on language, there will always be disagreements. I mean, hypothetically speaking, I might already agree with you and you just think we disagree because of communication errors! It’s happened to me multiple times before.

So, don’t worry if we disagree a little bit. As long as the big things are the same, everything should be fine.

As long as we’re talking about errors and what not to do, here are some pointers on:

Things that People Often Try but Just Aren’t Going to Work on Me

No offense, but I kind of feel like the whole “you won’t change your mind” thing isn’t all my fault. Most people that try to do this use flawed techniques and tools. I can’t list them all, but here are a few of the most common ones.

Authority

This is basically saying “You should believe this person because they are more important than you.” While I don’t disagree with the sentiment that there are a lot of people more important than me, I feel like, if that person wants me to believe them, they can be troubled to make a lever that will work on me. Just because someone is a Pope, a president, a priest, a scientist, or even just a friend, doesn’t give them direct authority over my mind.

I’m happy to take these people’s views into consideration as evidence, but if what they have to say conflicts with existing evidence, pragmatism, or reasoning, I’m going to throw it out no matter how exalted their station. Important people are wrong all the time.

Emotion

Feelings are the way that one part of you motivates the rest to pay attention. They can originate in any part of yourself, and are very personal. But they are not perscriptive. All emotions do is draw your attention to things, good or bad.

I’m not in the habit of changing my ideas just because emotion has drawn attention to them. Doing so is a great way to arrive in:

Crazy Town

Population: Your insane mind wandering the barren wastes alone and unloved forever.

So, I’m not going to change my mind just because you or I feel strongly about something. It’s like moving to a new house every time you notice your street address.

In addition, you don’t even need to appeal to emotion to get me to pay attention to you. If I’m talking to you, then I already have all the emotional impetus I need (usually curiosity) to hear you. You simply don’t have to get mad or excited to convince me. You can if you want to, and I like feeling things as well, but simple emotion is not going to change my mind.

Consensus

This is basically the same as authority above, but people seem to think of it differently, so I figured I’d mention it. Large groups of people thinking the same thing are often wrong. Again, I’m happy to consider consensus as evidence, as long as it doesn’t conflict with existing evidence, pragmatism, and reason. But consensus, by itself, is not convincing.

Is It Worth It?

You’ll have to be the judge of that. While it’s by no means impossible to change my mind, it is a significant investment of time and energy. I’m happy to be friends with you even if we disagree on lots of things (though I generally won’t if it contradicts pragmatism), so I don’t think it’s a huge deal if we disagree. I get along just fine with atheists, religious fundamentalists, celebrities, homeless people, and everyone in-between. Sometimes, the (perceived) disagreement is simply not worth the effort to correct, and that’s okay.

But there’s something else you need to know. If you try to change my mind? All the time you’re at work levering away at my ideas?

I’m going to be prying at yours.

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