How Not To Be Wrong

How not to be wrong: The art of changing your mind” is a follow-up to James O’Brien’s earlier book, “How to be right.” The idea this time is that he walks through a number of areas where he has been wrong in the past and has changed his mind.

It’s such a simple concept, but, as a society, we have difficulty doing exactly that. Politicians are criticised for doing the wrong thing and then again for doing a u-turn. Tribal loyalty means that people won’t change their minds if that would mean agreeing with “the enemy.” I’m not putting myself above this1, sadly, and neither does O’Brien.

He explores a wide range of subjects, from corporal punishment in schools, to stop and search, tattoos, fat-shaming and trans rights. For some subjects, he admits he was wrong, others we discover that it’s all a bit more complicated than that, and that, perhaps, anyone with absolute certainty is missing something. We’d be better off as a society if people were willing to say “I don’t know” more often.

The debates are a mixture of personal anecdotes and transcripts from guests on his radio show. It’s simply structured and competently written. His earnest, chummy, man-of-the-people vibe, also present in his earlier book, grated on me more this time for some reason. Overall I’d say that I like the idea of the book more than the execution.

Like his previous effort, it’s not a bad book but nor is it an essential read.

  1. “Fortunately,” the current government isn’t giving me much opportunity to reluctantly agree with them. ↩︎