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How to Know if Something is Wrong with Your Brain - Dilbert Blog

How to Know if Something is Wrong with Your Brain

When people are wrong – about anything – they usually don’t know it. I assume that illusion applies to all of us. So it is fun to find instances where you can know for sure whether you are right or wrong. I’ll give you an example today so you can know which group you are in.

In my blog post immediately before this one, I discussed the idea of exploring alternatives to marriage and child-rearing that might include some sort of cooperative, tribal-type of situation. I wasn’t specific.

The way you can tell if your brain is defective is by checking the reaction you had to my vague idea. Any one of these reactions is a sign of a brain that is not up to the challenge.

1. “Wow. Just wow. So wrong. This is your dumbest idea.” 

2. “That’s like communism/kibbutz/hippie communes that have been tried and failed.”

3. “I would never let the state raise my kid!”

Those are all of the wrong answers. If your reaction was one of those, your brain isn’t tuned right, or it isn’t up to the task of analyzing this situation. Here’s an example of what a healthy, well-tuned brain would say when presented with my blog on considering marriage alternatives:

Healthy Brain Reaction

“That’s the sort of thing that can be tested on a small scale with volunteers. We could A-B test different approaches in a small group until we find some alternatives for marriage that work well for some types of people.”

Regular readers will recognize that as the High Ground Maneuver. You can’t make a decision by comparing one option to nothing. But you can certainly test different approaches until you have something to compare to the current situation.

Economists and engineers are trained to test ideas and compare options to alternatives. The general public is more likely to judge without comparing. 

Example:

Me: “Do you want ice cream?”

Normal person: “Yes! I love ice cream!”

Engineer: “What are the other options?”

When my step-kids were younger, there were several nearby families with kids of the same gender and age combination going to the same school. This made coordination easy. If one set of parents had the boys over for a sleepover, and another family had the girls that night, two other sets of parents – sometimes more – had a date night opportunity and the kids were delighted. And it was easy to find a parent driver for any situation because the kids tended to go to the same sports and birthday parties. Texting made it all possible.

That’s the simplest description of a “tribal” benefit. In our case, we had extraordinary luck because the families with kids similar to ours were all fun and dependable people who lived nearby. Was our situation similar to communism? I don’t think so. It was just efficient.

Our situation only worked well because texting was ubiquitous. In the age of the Internet, I assume there are lots more opportunities for efficiency. We can organize in ways never before possible. It won’t be long before self-driving vehicles are delivering children, picking up your laundry, and bringing your food. All we need is the right apps. I would think there are lots of ways to make parenting easier without going full-communist.

Getting back to my three examples of brain problems, here’s why each of them is a brain mistake.

1. The “Wow tell,” as I call it, or any strong reaction followed by a dismissive insult is always an indication of cognitive dissonance. A genuine reaction based on reason almost always includes a hint of the reason for the objections. Example: “That idea would break the budget.” That’s a reason, even if it is wrong. But “Wow” is cognitive dissonance.

2. Any reference to pre-Internet analogies (communism, Hitler, etc.) are ridiculous. Analogies are not a component of reason. If something reminds you of something else, that doesn’t mean anything. It just means you were reminded of something. And any analogy from the pre-Internet age is unlikely to make sense today.

3. If you think you would never let the state raise your kid, you better be home-schooling. Otherwise, the state – along with other kids and the media – are already raising your kid. But the state is not necessary for creating alternatives to traditional families. Individuals could form any kind of collective arrangements that made sense to them. The government would not need to be directly involved.

Does anyone object to volunteers testing alternatives to marriage and traditional families so long as they leave you alone?