📆 April 11, 2022 | ⏱️ 5 minute read

On The Intellectual Dark Web

To the frustration of ideologues, I reject most politically-oriented labels and I encourage others to do the same. Why? Because the world is extremely complex and most political ideologies are far too simple to explain completely what’s going on.

If I say “I’m an X”, whether that X stands for democrat, libertarian, anarchist, or some other label, it always always always comes with baggage. When I accept a label, instead of people becoming interested to learn my thoughts, they think they already know. So why must I have a label? If you want to know what I think about any given topic, let’s talk about it. I don’t want to take this half-assed shortcut of giving you a word that’s associated with all these opinions that I don’t necessarily hold.

I’m confident about my beliefs on a few topics because I’ve taken the time to learn a lot about them. Religion needs to be replaced with secular spirituality. Proprietary software is harmful. Cryptocurrency is a disaster. The War on Drugs is a mistake. Free will is incoherent. Extreme wealth inequality is causing a lot of problems. Honesty is almost always the right choice. Etc, etc.

But then there’s this enormous space of topics where I admit I know nothing and if I were to say something about it then I’d be making things up. What’s the best economic system? I have no clue. How big of a problem is racism in America? I don’t know. How does reality relate to consciousness? I don’t know. How do we best fix the ecological and environmental crisis? I don’t know and I’m not afraid to admit that.

When I read books or listen to podcasts, I am continually impressed by all the areas of study I know nothing about. I have a healthy appreciation for the sheer number of topics I know nothing about. Our world is a dynamic mess and during a short human life, there’s only time to understand a small fraction of it.

People want an ideological framework that explains the world in simple terms. I see it again and again. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but the world isn’t simple. No single ideology can explain everything of relevance. It can’t. I’d rather admit that I know very little about the world than attach myself to an ideology or set of ideologies that oversimplify.

The only belief I’m fully committed to is that beliefs should be based in evidence. Other than that, I’m willing to reconsider anything, in principle. In practice, I’m a human with limited mental resources and limited time left on this planet. If you start showing me “evidence” that the Earth is flat, I’m not close-minded for not wasting my time re-examining that claim.

I don’t see that attitude coming from others though. People cling to these political labels, these ideologies, and they decide ahead of time to never admit that the other side has a point. Conservative-leaning people learn I’m not conservative and they start criticizing Biden, expecting that I’m going to immediately jump to his defense. Well I won’t.

I readily admit conservatives have some good criticisms of Biden and I don’t feel the urge to defend him. I don’t even like him. The only reason I voted for him was because, unlike Trump, he’s not a literal fucking fascist and a lesser of two evils argument made perfect sense in 2020. I know Biden is a dumb, ineffective, dime a dozen politician, but at least he acknowledges the problem of climate change. I’ll happily admit almost every failure conservatives want to pin on Biden, and none of that makes me regret voting for him, given the alternative.

The reason I bring this up is because politics has become so polarized that as soon as I say I’m not a conservative, conservatives attack me on wanting open/porous borders and all the other things faux news told them progressives think. This is such an unproductive way to have conversations.

If you wanna talk politics with me, let’s put the labels aside and stick to specific issues. Don’t assume I hold all these beliefs I never espoused. Just treat me like an individual, like an independent, thinking person and I’ll treat you with the same respect. Then, just maybe, we’ll get somewhere.

The Intellectual Dark Web

Interestingly, there’s a growing number of people that feel the way I do, who have lost patience with the blind, rank partisanship of all the major news networks on every issue, the uncivil shouting matches, and the lost art of civil discussion. They make up what’s now called the “intellectual dark web” (IDW). I include people like Anthony Magnabosco in the IDW, people who are having civil, fascinating discussions and showing others how to have them.

When you finish reading this, maybe go watch a few of Anthony’s Street Epistemology (SE) videos. I plan on making a follow up journal entry dedicated to SE, but I think introducing new techniques like SE into discussions is key. There are people in politics like Andrew Yang, who are promoting new ideas for moving forward. The most popular podcaster in the entire world who interviews people from all walks of life, Joe Rogan, seems, to my eye, absolutely dedicated to having civil discussions. IDWers like Sam Harris go on major news networks and almost never lose composure. People like Sam are the very definition of nonreactive and they’re nigh-impossible to drag into shouting matches because they’re just so damn reasonable.

There’s a reason podcasters like Joe Rogan are doing so well right now. It’s not just that Joe makes an entertaining show. It’s also that people are disenchanted with the highly directed, highly controlled, boring partisan conversations. The key distinguishing feature of “members” of the IDW is, whatever their political/ideological affiliations are, they’re all committed to civil, honest discussion. I think we need more people out there like that right now.