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Posts Tagged ‘epistemology’

I had to take a break, for work reasons. I’m 6 weeks from a major deadline and have been running on all cylinders. The blogging has been put on the back burner, and my mind is mostly elsewhere right now.

Sometimes I find myself in a state of utter doubt and agnosticism. I’m not talking about religion, but life in general– beliefs, values, ideals. I step back from cocksure arrogance to deep introspection and questioning. It’s not a problem– it’s a good thing– but it makes it difficult to write with authority.

This difficulty provides an interesting insight into our society. We overvalue confidence, not just from writers and opinion people, but in general. Confidence is usually a good thing, but sometimes it isn’t, and when it’s not, it fails us badly. The 2007-08 stock market crash was brought about my overconfident traders, rating agencies, and investors. It wasn’t a shock to anyone who knew much about financial markets. Yet people were surprised when the market tanked, having bought into the lies of overconfident bullshit artists in finance and real estate.

Look at the popularity of characters like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O’Reilly. Although their views match those held by many within their target demographic, it’s not their ideology and opinions that make them cultural “forces to be reckoned with”. It’s the confidence with which they say, not what they say. The same is true of large-company CEOs. For the most part, it’s not their executive vision or managerial skill that makes or breaks their careers. It’s the confidence that they project.

Of course, no discussion of overconfident bullshit peddlers is complete without discussing the phenomenon of “game”. Roissy defines game as “psychosocial dominance”. That’s a reasonable working definition, but I’d call it, instead, “sociosexual confidence”. Game is the ability to project confidence in a sexualized social environment. Confidence in other areas of life is neither necessary nor especially relevant. Most “nerds”, for example, exhibit strong cerebral confidence, reasonable social confidence in general, but a lack of sociosexual confidence. This, more than “social ineptitude”, as most nerds are socially normal, prevents them from getting women.

Confidence is a good thing, usually, but why is it a requirement for certain interactions? Answer: many, if not most, people are very weak. They get their opinions from the loudest and most authoritative-sounding source. Unsure and confused about sex, they sleep with those who are able to convince them that others find them desirable. Unaware of what’s worth doing and what’s not, they would rather have 9-to-5 jobs that are an extension of the school-driven “here’s work, now do it” model than accept that they’re out on their own, left to figure things out for themselves. (Note: you’re on your own even if you work for a large company and have a boss; you also have a boss even if you work for yourself.) We all need motivation, but weak people tend to lack the ability to generate it intrinsically; they get it from the confidence of others.

As for strong people; are they always confident? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is no. Strong people tend to be confident, but not uniformly, and not naively. For example, those who are highly intelligent (intellectually strong) tend to have cerebral confidence, but are not always completely sure of their knowledge. Some of the smartest people I’ve known have been the most humble. I would say, in general, that strong people tend often to be self-aware, which makes them often confident in their ability but without assumption of superiority, dominance, or infallibility. Thankfully, most of life admits a middle ground. For example, it’s possible to believe that one is capable of fulfilling a job without assuming that it will be easy and require no effort. It’s also possible to believe that one is generally intelligent without assuming that one is always “the smartest guy in the room”.

However, with sociosexual confidence, I’m not convinced that most people perceive a middle ground, which we’d consider “high beta”. To be seen as “alpha” requires the overreaching, aggressive, and unrealistic style of confidence. It requires an unfounded sense of superiority, which the more sensitive and introspective people can’t feign.

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