How to Avoid Being Suckered Again

With deception on the rise, we all have to wise up. But how?

Posted May 03, 2020

One minute, not so long ago, the sucker born every minute was you. And if there's one rule that both the thugs and the humanists agree is a top priority, it's don't be a sucker!

Don't be a sucker for your sake. That alone is reason enough. 

Don't be a sucker for everyone's sake too. It’s infectious. Anyone who looks to you for orientation can be suckered in, including your kids. Being a sucker is like galavanting around, knocking things over, and spreading disease.

You can’t sucker-proof yourself completely but you can improve your suckered-prevention skills. We give kids 20 years to learn suckered-prevention. Some don't make it in all those years—suckers get suckered every nanosecond, though it’s not their fault. 

The suckered-prevention curriculum has gotten more challenging in our current information sandstorm blizzard of possibilities. 

There's also a new suckering tactic discovered every minute. 

Throughout the history of suckering and suckered-prevention, there's always been this fundamental problem: No matter how skeptical you get, you can’t keep up. That’s because every successful new suckering tactic spreads forever thereafter. If we figure out a successful new way to con people, it proliferates across all cultures and is never forgotten. 

It’s hard to keep up. A sucker is born every minute. Each of us has to learn suckered-prevention from scratch. That means there's going to be a Malthusian suckering gap: Suckering tactics proliferate exponentially while suckered-prevention expands arithmetically. 

What then is the most efficient way to learn suckered-prevention? I'd say you start by working on preventing self-suckering. Conning yourself costs you most directly. Alas, learning to not self-sucker is the hardest. When we con ourselves, our emotions gang up to deceive us. Emotions evolved to be very convincing. When others try to con us, we have some emotional distance. When we con ourselves, we don’t. 

If you can rationalize anything, you're making a sucker of your future self. I'd guess at least half of all regret is about self-suckering, regretting things we’ve talked ourselves into. Learning to stop self-suckering and learning from having been suckered—together they make for an efficient sucker-prevention education

A 360-degree skepticism scan helps too. Not a blanket 360 cynicism, a simple and simplistic claim that you can’t trust anything or anyone. That’s really just self-suckering in disguise: “I don’t have to believe anyone. I can just trust my gut.”

Rather a laser targeted 360-degree vigilance that can figure out what to believe, what to doubt, and how much. Think of it as attentionomics, using your limited supply of attention carefully, allocating it so you trust and distrust, listen and ignore, embrace, and fight realistically. 

Attentionomics goes way back to the origin of life. All organisms try to attend to and ignore in adaptive ways, ways that fit their survival to their circumstances. 

For us humans, it has gotten much harder to adapt to reality because language floods us with alternatives.

Here's an example of careful scanning assuming that any profitable perspective, however false, will find plenty of loud voices to air it with absolutely convincing polish. Remember that and you won't self-sucker into saying, "They are so confidently convincing, they must be right. I can ignore all other perspectives."

Finding something that feels right doesn't mean you're free to drop your skepticism. A paid pundit is spouting every nanosecond and they've accumulated all of history's spouting suckering techniques. And you? You were a sucker born one minute not so long ago. 

Keep that 360 scan moving. Grease your turret so it can scan in all directions for all tantalizing invitations to be a sucker. And direct your scan inward too, because again, self-suckering feels the best and is the worst.

Your future self will thank you. As will others not contaminated by your self-suckering.

Here's a four-minute video on how we can become suckers for any cause—left, right, religious, philosophical, whatever.