Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Outsourcing Disaster

In one of the chapters in one of my books, I wrote a section of advice to a teenager about not outsourcing your thinking. Because the good human inclination to learn from others is so prominent, it's easy to fall into the bad human inclination to outsource your own thinking to others - and that makes you very susceptible to significant damage to your own thought systems, as you open yourself to all kinds of nonsense.  

The distinction is an important one: when you are learning from others, your thinking is heightened and highly engaged, as you interpret facts, opinions and ideas, and apply your own mental cognition to the accountability process. Learning from others ought to feel a bit like being in a courtroom, where you rigorously examine the data in front of you and arrive at accurate conclusions. To that end, truth is to epistemology as justice is to a court of law.

Outsourcing your thinking is different: it is uncritically accepting the thoughts and opinions of others without any kind of self-imposed critical evaluation or accountability. Outsourcing your thinking makes it inevitable that you will fail to engage in the full complexity of ideas, and that you will be a lazy-minded reviewer of the world who latches on to the sloppy views, beliefs and sound-bites of those to whom you've outsourced your thinking.

The rise of Corbynism is perhaps the best recent example of the mass outsourcing of thinking to an intellectually incompetent, political dangerous cult of personality figure. Within a very short time, Jeremy Corbyn went from being a rank outsider in a Labour leadership contest to a celebrity figure so ubiquitous that he was able to draw the attention of a crowd of credulous Glastonbury festival goers who believe he is the best thing since sliced bread.

Once something big happens like the emergence of a political cult, or religious cult, or Gaia cult, there is a pool of adoration waiting to outsource their thinking to someone who will feed their minds with ideas like dolphins awaiting their feed in a zoo. What emerges is a kind of mass hysteria where the thoughts of the dominant figures seamlessly become part of the cultural milieu that supports it, until it operates from a hermetically sealed discourse that indolently enshrines those ideas as part of their identity, and shuts them off from any contra opinions that may rattle their epistemological framework

But there's another important element to this. As well as divesting yourself of accountability for your opinions, there's another big reason why you shouldn't outsource your thinking to others. You may well be smarter than them, and as a consequence, they are unworthy repositories for your outsourcing. In fact, given the types of people who command a following based on superficial and intellectually lightweight views and beliefs, there's a fair chance that a great many of the sheep are smarter than the shepherd herding them.

To finish, here's an off the top of my head list of ideas, terms and belief systems that act as socio-cultural receptacles into which a lot of people have poured their outsourced thinking, from which they would be solemnly advised to recoil immediately, and over which they should look to restore their own intellectual sovereignty in pursuit of a change of mind:

All religions except Christianity

Young earth creationism

Intelligent design

New wave atheism



Climate change alarmism

Trickle down economics

Economic Protectionism

Intellectual Protectionism


Price fixing

Positive discrimination

All women shortlists

Diversity quotas

Equality of outcome

Subsidies and bailouts

Contemporary Feminism


Identity politics

Male privilege

Unfair gender pay gap



I'm sure there are more, but it's been a tiring weekend, and that's all I can come up with for now. If you've outsourced your thinking to the extent that you are on side with any of the above, there's a whole new world of lucid discovery awaiting you when bring your thinking back in house on these matters.  

Developing an outsourcing mentality will soon become habitual inability to interpret and process yourself - you'll merely parrot ideas, phrases and beliefs that you've picked up from others, and in the end you'll put on a mask and the face you wear will grow into the mask until the two are indistinguishable.

A good indication test:

1) Think of an objective view you hold that your smartest friends think is plain wrong

Then another:

2) Think of an objective view you hold that your least smart friends think is plain wrong but your smartest friends think is right

Score yourself one point for every example you can think of in each category.

If you are an outsourcer of your thinking you should find you score high in category one and low in category two. If you are a master of your own cognitive domain, subjecting everything you hear to a rigorous, balanced analysis, you should score low in category one and high category two.