Midwits and Meta-Contrarianism
|Sachin Kesiraju||Mar 3, 2020|
An interesting mental model I’ve frequently found myself referencing is the Meta-Contrarian Midwit. Commonly described as the hipster or stereotypical reddit geek, the midwit represents the pseudo-intellectual who adopts half-baked unorthodox views to separate themselves. The midwit is motivated less by an objective pursuit of truth but more by a feeling of smug superiority that comes with assuming contrarian status. Analyzing the midwit offers an important lens for avoiding contrarianism for the sake of being contrarian.
In contrast to the midwit, the dimwit feels no desire for intellectual posturing and innocently accepts all state-sponsored beliefs and acts according to conventional wisdom and their own base intuitions. The topwit on the other hand has a deep understanding of the underlying truth and independently arrives at their own nuanced stance. I think most opinions follow this general trichotomy — the interesting observation is when the conclusions of the topwit align with the assumptions of the dimwit. The midwit in these cases rejects the simplistic truths accepted by the dimwit out of sole desire to appear superior to them. This often manifests as follows —
D: Unafraid to seem dumb M: Insecure about seeming “smart” to assert intellectual superiority T: Unafraid to seem dumb since not intellectually insecure
D: Belief in the nuclear family M: Abstains from having children to reduce carbon footprint T: Belief in the nuclear family since traditions carry secrets for deep human fulfillment beyond individual understanding
D: Appreciates the troops and military protections out of patriotic fervor M: Soldiers are murderers and we should cut all defense spending T: He who controls the violence in society controls the values. Defense spending is important for protecting our freedoms
D: Happily mediocre — indifferent about working at their normal 9-5 and has fun M: Shamefully mediocre — works same normal 9-5 but insecure about doing “more”, spends time resume-padding and has no fun T: Exceptional — works on what they love, for as many hours as they want and has fun
There are cases where the conventional wisdom adopted by the dimwit might be deeply flawed and require contrarian correction (eg: racism). In this case, the topwit might correctly adopt a rationalized contrarian stance (eg: culturally pluralistic, respects both ethnic and intellectual diversity while also acknowledging inherent genetic differences). However, the midwit is always compelled to appear superior and will attempt to assert as a contrarian among contrarians. The midwit risks becoming “meta-contrarian” and straying even farther from the truth (eg: political correctness and shit like this).
In cultures and industries where contrarian signaling is correlated with high status, I find this framework especially valuable for finding clarity independent from the local bubble. When you find yourself looking to believe something further contrary to the prevailing wisdom, the midwit model helps frame whether you’re seeking truth or merely ego-driven “outsider among outsiders” status, especially if you really enjoy doing so.
What I’ve been consuming recently
Water And Music (h/t Megh)
Açai bowls by the beach
Little late on this one (sry had to use the slip day) — I had a great time in LA last week. Learnt a ton about the music industry and the influencer economy and emerging similarities between the two. Stay tuned.