“Invert, always invert.”

Recently, someone told me that my method of thinking drastically transformed. To be frank, that’s correct. I’ve become far more focused on empirical analysis of public policy and business. I’ve attempted to abandon ideology in ways of analysing problems and looking at them from different angles.

Renowned American investor Charlie Munger stated that we should “Invert, always invert: Turn a situation or problem upside down. Look at it backwards”. It is indeed a curse to be fundamentally ideological. It traps us from being able to solve problems practically. Unfortunately, many of us have fallen into this psychological fallacy.

In relation, people debate about whether the world is a social construct or an objective universe. How humanity is not entirely an objective place simply determined by facts and numbers. From my angle, both have important perspectives. Humans provide meaning to objects that create subjectivity within our observation of the world. Simultaneously, if you ignore facts and data, and only consider the intentions of people, we are being ignorant.

This is where I’d like to introduce the idea of the ‘half-glass empty/full’ analogy. The way you look at it determines how you subjectively view this object. A cup that is ‘half-empty’ sounds pessimistic albeit correct. ‘Half-full’ is optimistic but also sound. The thing is that both are empirically and logically objective, except the approach to the observation. I tend to view this as a good analogy of explaining the difference between liberals and conservatives; the utopian vs the constrained; yin and yang.

For example, let’s explore the hypothesis of income and wealth inequality (caused by hyperglobalisation). It’s objectively true that since the 1980s, the world has become both more unequal and equal – in different ways. According to Brookings, inequality between countries have gone down and 3.8 billion people have exited extreme poverty. Simultaneously, inequality within countries has gone up as countries became globalised, accelerated by lower tax rates, free trade and creative destruction of economies, fostered by technological innovation. This has unfortunately led to greater populism across western liberal democracies.

The point is that what we witness around the world is not as black and white as people think. On net balance, globalisation has been a fundamentally important part of human prosperity (Pinker, 2018). But the real problem is that policymakers have failed to consider the short-term unintended consequences of globalisation.

Therefore by inverting a problem or hypothesis, we can become better thinkers and participants of society. Consider different perspectives as a thought exercise. Don’t fall into the trap of political or philosophical ideology. Genuine empathy of different thought processes and intellectual curiosity can solve many of the world’s problems.

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