Communicate Authentically

September 28, 2020

My interest in what other people think of me is purely instrumental. It is intrinsically irrelevant to me. This is unusual. Most people care what other people think of them.

There are advantages and disadvantages to caring what other people think. You are less likely to be wrong when other people are right. You are more likely to be wrong when other people are wrong. Caring what other people think means prioritizing looking smart over actually being smart.

Looking smart is more important than being smart when your performance is difficult to measure. Large organizations experience less competitive pressure than small organizations. Politics takes its place. The bigger an organization you work for, the more important appearance is to getting promoted, and vice-versa. Sheeple tend to flourish in large organizations. Weirdos tend to thrive better independently.

Authentic vs Instrumental Communication

Authentic communication is when you explain the truth as you see it. Instrumental communication is when you attempting to influence other people. When authentic communication diverges from instrumental communication, you must choose one over the other or stay silent.

I always communicate authentically or stay silent.

There are two kinds of lies: literal lies and ontological lies. Literal lies are factual errors. Factual errors are trivial to fact check and therefore easy to detect. Nobody should tell literal lies—not even liars—because they ruin your credibility.

The best way to influence someone is to craft ontologies that favor your position and then argue in terms of these ontologies. Ontologies are the ways we classify things together. For example, Russian classifies "navy blue" and "cyan" as different colors whereas English lumps them together into a single "blue". If you want to influence someone in the long term then it is better to tell ontological lies than literal lies.

It is easy to separate truth from falsehood in your head because they differ by only a single binary bit; they are parity inverses of the same idea. Ontologies work differently. Talking about Communism makes Communism feel more real to your unconscious…even if you are arguing against it. Even arguing "Communism is not real" strengthens the "Communism" ontology in your brain. Informatically, it is easier for a radical to flip sides than to become a moderate. Thinking in terms of an ontology strengthens that ontology in your mind.

The most powerful way to strenghten an ontology in your mind is to communicate thoughts in terms of that ontology. This is why taking notes helps you remember complex ideas even if you never read the notes.

As a corollary, you are never obligated to argue against another person. Opposing an ontology strengthens the ontology in your mind, compromising you in the long term. Speak the truth. Ignore falsehoods.

It is possible for authentic communication to perfectly line up with instrumental communication. This happens when you are a genuine person communicating in good faith. But if you falter then authentic communication diverges from instrumental communication and you must choose one over the other or stay silent.

Might it sometimes be worthwhile to sacrifice a small bit of authenticity for instrumental power?

Happiness comes from being true to yourself. You cannot be true to yourself while sacrificing authenticity.