The Scout Mindset

by Julia Galef

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Featured image for The Scout Mindset

It felt like the internet, or at least the corners of it that I frequent, was all over this book a couple of years back. And it sounded right up my street, but I didn’t find a copy of it until I spotted it in the library a couple of months back. But even after I borrowed the book it took me a long time to actually read it. And this is all relevant and somewhat ironic.

The book is all about figuring out what’s actually true in the world. The scout mindset is one that values being right, a mindset where you change your mind when you are wrong, where you don’t over commit to an opinion that you aren’t certain on. A mindset where you judge after the facts not before them. And this is in opposition to what the author calls a soldier mindset, which is one where we defend our position simply because it’s our position. The central difference between the two mindsets is how we deal with new information that doesn’t fit with our current view. A scout asks if they can believe something, a soldier asks if they must believe it.

The irony of me taking a while to get to reading this book is because I thought I knew it all already, and even though I knew that people whose opinions I value had a high opinion of it. I definitely think I have a scout mindset where I think about things for myself and don’t like to go along with the crowd when I’m not sure and am happy to change my mind when I figure out more about what is the truth. But I did read the book in the end because I was too curious about whether I could learn to do more and better. And I think I did. We all have a bit of the soldier in us as well as the scout and this taught me a bit about how that works which I think will make me a better scout. But one of the main things I got from the book was a bit of understanding about how those people who really aren’t scouts at all tick.