The Great Mental Models: The Quality of your Thinking Depends on the Models in your Head
Shane Parrish

Ended: Sept. 18, 2019

Second-order thinking, as valuable as it is, must be tempered in one important way: You can't let it lead to the paralysis of the Slippery Slope Effect, the idea that if we start with action A, everything after is one slippery slope down to hell, with a chain of consequences B, C, D, E and F. Garret Hardin addresses this in Filters Against Folly: Those who take the wedge (Slippery Slope) argument with the utmost seriousness act as though they think human beings are completely devoid of practical judgement. Countless examples from everyday life show the pessimists are wrong...If we took the wedge argument seriously, we would pass a law forbidding all vehicles to travel at any speed greater than zero. That would be an easy way out of the moral problem. But we pass no such law. In practical life, everything has limits. Even if we consider second and subsequent effects, we can only go so far. During waves of Prohibition fever in the United States and elsewhere, conservative abstainers have frequently made the case that even taking the first drink would be the first step towards a life of sin. They're right: It's true that drinking a beer might lead you to become an alcoholic. But not most of the time. Thus we need to avoid the slippery slope and the analysis paralysis it can lead to. Second-order thinking needs to evaluate the most likely effects and their most likely consequences, checking our understanding of what the typical results of our actions will be. If we are worried about all possible effects of effects of our actions, we would likely never do anything, and we'd be wrong. How you'll balance the need for higher-order thinking with practical, limiting judgement must be taken on a case by case basis.