Open Like Software

Over on Google+, Jacek Wesołowski posted such a wonderful comment on my previous post, Open Minded? that I had to share it here.

Could we define open mindedness as a form of disciplined reasoning that acknowledges and accounts for one’s inherent and learned biases, i.e. non-evident tendencies and assumptions? That would make one's mind open in the same sense software can be “open”, that is: open to scrutiny. An open minded practice would then be one that actively seeks out assumptions and tendencies in one's own reasoning and revises them.

Another trait of open software is that it’s open to modification that wasn’t in the original specification. An open mind in this sense would assert the right to deviate from ideological tropes, for instance you could be for women's rights and against abortion-on-demand.

In practice, when I’m occasionally having the thought that “someone’s not being open minded”, it's usually because one of my adversaries has said something that can be understood in more than one way, and then one of my friends has jumped on it and interpreted it in the most discrediting manner they could think of. In this scenario, the friend is failing to be open minded, because they’re refusing to consider other, less convenient interpretations. Meanwhile, the adversary is merely failing to be clear.

An example from our field would be that one time when some Ubisoft exec said that adding a female character to a particular game would be difficult due to specific schedule considerations of that project, but the left-leaning public quickly morphed that statement into “women [in general] are too hard to animate”.

Open mindedness seems like one of those things where you cannot examine yourself, only others. The mistakes and failures in my own reasoning are either invisible to me, or something I won't or can't admit to. Otherwise, I would have already corrected them, or at least marked them for future consideration.