Kathryn Schultz’ TED talk, “On Being Wrong” has been very popular on TED.com, totaling nearly 3,000,000 views. On a site about “ideas worth spreading” this gem seems to have been well worth it indeed.
Kathryn Schultz shows us the value that being wrong has. “I’ve spent the last five years thinking about being wrong. “, she says. Schultz points out that the terrible feeling we have when we are wrong does not occur when we make a mistake but when we realize that we are wrong. She makes an allusion to the classic Looney Toons Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff only to fall when he realizes he is not grounded. Schultz’ talk was among the more humorous TED Talks I’ve seen and is worth the watch even if just for the banter.
I live my life assuming I’m wrong about everything until proven otherwise. This causes me to explore and question everything. It makes me think things like “I wonder if a processor built entirely from NAND gates is faster than one built with higher-level chips?” and many another far less technical questions. I often take my profound questions to my friends or a colleague and either get a quick answer or a 4-hour conversation out of it. (I like to think my friends like these questions but perhaps not so much when I insist on continuing the conversation during their free time).
If I get a quick answer to one of those profound questions, I think it over for a bit then return with a counter argument trying to spark a noteworthy conversation. Often the results of these conversations prove that (wouldn’t you know it) I was wrong about something. So what. I learned something that I didn’t know before. This college thing is paying off at every turn!
In class, I tend to keep out of the discussion until the professor poses a real stumper and several seconds go without an answer. At this point, I make the jump. It’s a chance to see if what I’ve gathered so far has been effective. I make my conjecture and sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t. None the less, I’m certain that at least one other student thought similarly. The professor’s explanation of why I was wrong will benefit the whole class.
I’d say I’ve got this being wrong thing down. As Kathryn stated, when someone doesn’t agree with us, we immediately think they are either misinformed, stupid, or lying. But not taking the moment to consider someone else’s view, or holding on too tight to one’s own beliefs makes them the ignorant fool who lies to themselves. Be wrong. Be happy. Learn.
“I err therefore I am” – St. Augustine