Conversations, Arguments, and Intelligence

I have had this tab open on Chrome for a few days now and finally had an opportunity to read it. I didn’t want to peruse it because I knew that it will be of great value. Not something that would cause a dopamine rush in the immediate but something that I will have to read, let marinate, and then apply. This article/essay is written by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and the first president of YCombinator. His work has come across my newsfeed quite a few times. I don’t know how I feel about Paul Graham (who is the founder of YCombinator) but I really enjoy Sam’s opinions and work.

Good and bad arguments. Arguments are critical to growth but there can be good and bad arguments. I have tried to summarize a few thoughts about conversations in general.

The Impact of Good arguments:

  • Good conclusions
  • Learning new things for everyone involved (new ways of thinking)
  • Building new relationships with people that can challenge ideas
  • Philosophies rather than about particular scenarios

The Impact of Bad arguments:

  • No conclusions, illogical dialogue flow
  • About things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things (this might be the most important point)
  • No set rules for dialogue
  • Conversation in bad faith sometimes under the pretext of playing the “devil’s advocate”

Communication in General​

Knowing what to say and when i.e. the importance of communicating clearly stems from intelligence to absorb the situation quickly and generate insights. This is somewhat related to wit and coming up with humorous responses. However, keeping in mind a caution not to be generous to myself, and at the risk of indulging my narcissism I will say that this form is not the only form of intelligence. I say that because while I might not be the quickest to respond in a given situation, I do usually take a more holistic and complete view than do other people around me. I think both ways of thinking and/ or intelligence are important and one is not more important than the other. Also, in all candidness, it might also be important to say that awareness and slow thinking is sometimes more important to evaluate a given situation, especially if long-term thinking is of any value.

Most challenges arise out of a lack of understanding the situation clearly. The problem arises because challenges do not get defined at an early stage in the solution process. If there is one thing from my role in consulting it is to take 80% of the allocated time in understanding the problem at hand and 20% of the time in coming up with an answer. One could almost say that part of understanding the problem actually makes it easier to come up with an answer and that is why it only needs 20% of the time. A majority of which (the 20% time noted above) is basically a framing our understanding of the problem and its solution per the audience.