English Summary/英文概要： ‘We think of our opinions as rational, where in fact they are almost arbitrary - deeply embedded in our biology and psychology. Why do we disagree? Because it’s the secret of our evolutionary success.’
We are very excited to share the clever and insightful proposal for Opinionated by Turi Munthe.
This will be a book which explores why we think what we think, a question which has always obsessed Turi, a journalist and tech entrepreneur. In order to answer this question in a meaningful way, Turi sourced funding to build the website Parlia, which aimed to be the Wikipedia of opinions - a resource we could all consult and contribute to, in the hope of understanding all sides of any controversial debate and perhaps sympathise more with those whose opinions we disagree with. For various reasons, it didn’t work, but the site’s thousands of users did provide Turi with a wealth of data about who they are and what they think, which unexpectedly revealed a great deal about how we come to form our opinions in the first place.
We tend to think that our judgements are the result of a rational process; based on our experience of the world, our extensive reading and education. And of course that’s true, to some extent. But it turns out there is a lot more to it. There are a vast range of external factors that have an influence also - from our genetic make-up, the culture around us, our physical appearance and even the geology of the land where we live - which can make people more or less likely to believe certain things. Even our preferred type of peanut butter (right wing voters choose smooth) or how we eat an ice cream can, it turns out, give a pretty good idea of some of our most cherished beliefs.
In the Vendee in France, the map of voters on the left and right coincides exactly with a map of the area’s geology, and those in the granitic north tend conservative while those in the limestone south are more socialist. The very land our ancestors grew up on can have a role to play in what we think today. In the same way, many of our beliefs are inherited from our parents, and still others may come as part of a package with the personality traits we are born with. Some of us even adopt beliefs which make no sense at all because they give us an identity, and a sense of belonging to a specific group.
In the end, Opinionated makes the case for rational debate and, above all, conversation. Once we realise that some of our own most deeply held opinions might be the result of something in our environment which is beyond our control, then perhaps we’ll be more inclined to listen to, and consider more seriously, the views of those we vehemently disagree with and dismiss out of hand. Turi suggests that it’s not about what we think, it’s about who we are. And this realisation has never been more urgently necessary than it is in the world today.
Turi Munthe is a journalist and media entrepreneur. In the former role he has written for the Economist, the Guardian, the TLS and the Spectator, inter alia, and appeared on the BBC, CNN, al-Jazeera and NBC. In the latter he founded Demotix, the world’s largest network of photojournalists, later sold to Bill Gates’s Corbis, as well as Parlia. He is on the board of Index on Censorhip and Italy’s largest media company GEDI, publisher of La Stampa. He is a French and Italian native speaker, and speaks Spanish fluently.
Alongside the data from his website Parlia, Turi has spoken to experts in their fields from behavioural economists to clinical psychologists, artists to pollsters, and has mined the latest research from around the world. His writing style is accessible and engaging, and this book is guaranteed to spark lively and thought provoking conversation. Helen Conford pre-empted world rights from Doug Young at PEW and will publish in February 2025. Approximate length 80,000 words, we aim to have an edited manuscript in spring 2024.