Ali Almossawi: How To Win More Arguments | E49

#49: How To Win More Arguments with Ali Almossawi

The key to winning more arguments is understanding what makes for a bad argument. When arguing, we often let our emotions get in the way and say anything to help sway opposing perspectives towards ours. This leads to irrational thinking and flaws in our arguments. Learn to recognize these abuses of reason and gain the ability to poke holes in your opponent’s arguments! This week on YAP, Hala chats with Ali Almossawi, the author of multiple books including An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, Bad Choices and the Point of Pointless Work. Ali also has a flourishing corporate career and works in cybersecurity at Apple. Tune in to learn how Ali manages a successful side hustle and full-time job, and gain insight on various bad arguments and the logical fallacies or errors in reasoning people make when arguing.

#49: How To Win More Arguments with Ali Almossawi

Hala Taha: [00:00:00] This episode of YAP is sponsored by Fiverr. I've been using Fiverr for years. In fact, I got the YAP logo made on there, and if you've seen my cool audiograms with animated cartoons, I get those images from Fiverr too. They have affordable digital marketing services and over 100,000 talented freelancers to choose from. The best part is that it's super affordable.
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You're listening to YAP, young and profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn and profit. I'm your host Hala Taha. And today we're speaking with Ali Almossawi, the author of multiple books, including an illustrated book about arguments,
bad choices and the point of pointless work. Ali also has a corporate career and works in cybersecurity at Apple. Today, we'll be picking Ali's brains on how he manages a successful side hustle and a full-time job. We'll go deep into his insight on bad arguments and the different logical fallacies or errors in

[00:01:00] reasoning people make when arguing.
And we'll get an introduction to computational thinking and how algorithms can help you think smarter. Hey Ali, thanks for joining young and profiting podcast.
Ali Almossawi: Hi, Hala. How's it going?
Hala Taha: Good. I'm so excited to have you on. We have so much to talk about.
Ali Almossawi: Likewise.
Hala Taha: Before we get started, I would just like to introduce yourself to our listeners.
You're the author of an illustrated book of bad arguments, which is a book on computational thinking. And the point of pointless work, your books have been read by 3.25 million readers translated into 20 languages and have sold over a quarter of a million copies in print. But technically this is your side hustle.
You also work full-time at Apple. Is that correct?
Ali Almossawi: That is correct. Yeah. My first book came out in 2013. It was a book on a magical thinking and mistakes people make. And then there was another one, a few years later on computational thinking. And then the

[00:02:00] last one was just a kind of a part memoir. And it was a shortish book about just the experience, my experience in publishing.
But yeah, as you say, it's all been the side passion project.
Hala Taha: Very cool. Tell us more about your background and your career journey so far?
Ali Almossawi: Sure. So I got into a programming probably in middle school. I I remember coming across a phone book that someone had done in a language called basic, which is no longer around and it was all there wasn't much of a UI to it
it was all text-based and a terminal. And I saw that in. And realize that, wow, that's something that I can do as well. I don't need to be in a lab. I don't need to have special equipment. I can just do it at home. We had a 2 86 PC, I believe at the time. I did that for awhile. And then I quickly moved into a programming languages that allowed me to build user interfaces.
So they look at the fancier as with time. And then around the same time. I was also I'm into reading a magazine, so a lot of computer magazines and I submitted one of the applications that I

[00:03:00] wrote at the time to one of those magazines. And it was featured that I was very excited about that.
And I thought, wow, let me know. Maybe I can do things that can compete with others in this space. And I remember around the same time the internet was taking off at least in my world. So I started reading up on how to register a domain name and how does DNS work and how does do web hosts work and all these things that we might take for granted nowadays?
But I had to find out, how to find out about them initially. And it was a really nice experience because there weren't many resources available online. There wasn't anyone around me who was doing any of that. So it forced me to really understand those concepts so that I could
understand how those various moving parts work together to to make this internet thing work. So I did that for a while and Google ads happened around the same time. So they were offering money to website owners in exchange for ad clicks. And I thought I'll give this a go. I don't know if anyone is going to click on ads or not.
I would never click on an ad. So who's going to click on an ad on a website,

[00:04:00] but I set that up and I know some things, and I think their algorithm was much more generous in the older days. So I got all this revenue, all of a sudden that made me realize that not only is this stuff fun, but also it can be a source of income.
So it made me ambivalent about wanting to go to a college. And I never was an academia, even though I was good at school, I wasn't really into kind of picking a college or thinking about standardized tests and how to do well on them and all of that. I thought I'll just go to college, get it over with, I think going back to
doing this stuff, but I went to college and I realized in my first year that I was studying computer engineering and computer engineering is part software, which I knew a lot about and part hardware, which I didn't know anything about. And I realized there, and then that, there is a ton of things I don't know anything about, and there's actually value in slowing down and actually reading about this stuff and seeing how it's applicable and how the world works.
And so on. So that is how I started falling in love with academia and

[00:05:00] school and realizing that there is value in this other world as well. It's I enjoyed the fast pace of industry, but I also came to appreciate the slower pace of academia, at least in that experience of mine.
Hala Taha: So how did you get into writing?
What first motivated you to be a professional writer?
Ali Almossawi: It was by accident. I was not, there was no plan for me to turn into a writer. And in fact, I was very careful about not using that term to describe myself because I thought I'm not a writer. The bad arguments project was a website initially. It was the summer of 2013, I believe, or it might've been 20 12, 20 13, I think.
I was just, I was doing stuff on the side. Some of it, would stick. Some of it would not stick. And this just happened to be at another project that I thought would be interesting. I had some notes from my high school and college days about mistakes people make during arguments. And I thought, would it be interesting if I were to put this in a kind of a book format and add silly illustrations with animals in them and just

[00:06:00] post it online and see what happens.
I did that. And within a few weeks, it got picked up by IO nine was the first blog, and then there were other websites and blogs that picked it up and it just turned into a book by December of that year. So within a few months, once it did turn into a book again, I started reading more about the medium and about the industry and I thought, wow, there is a whole new readership or audience in publishing that I, there was very different to the audience that I'm used to with the internet.
So that got me interested in writing. And then my second book on computational thinking is an actual book. I would say, because I started with an idea that I thought about how can we with an audience in mind, how can we put together something that's compelling for that audience and novel at the same time?
And that's how it happens. So one step at a time.
Hala Taha: Very cool. Very interesting. So I recently had a guest on the show. His name is Jonas Koffler, episode number 45. He was the author of hustle alongside Neil Patel. And he suggests that when you work for another company or

[00:07:00] another person, you're essentially renting your dream and that you can't
own and rent your dream at the same time. So like you just mentioned, you achieved a ton of success in publicity with the book of bad arguments that essentially went viral and became a cult classic among your readers. Help me understand why at that point, when that book became very successful and you started getting
PR and all those things. Why you didn't just take the leap into becoming a full fledged full-time entrepreneur and author.
Ali Almossawi: Yeah. I think many people would have done that and it was an option on the table for me as well. But for me, What I realized also at the time was that I was enjoying doing this stuff because it was a passion project, or it was a side thing.
If it turned into my like my primary focus, I don't know if I would enjoy working on it as much. If I'm a full-time writer, And all of a sudden, I pitch an idea to my agent or I publish something to the market that doesn't do well, all of a sudden I have to start thinking about what do I do now?
I need to make up for this

[00:08:00] and so on. And so it becomes a potentially a source of stress. Now on the flip side, if you are an entrepreneur, that's your fuel, right? That sense of constant stress and that feeling of constant risk as a is what propels you to move forward. So it was a calculated risk for me at the time.
It wasn't one that I wanted to take back then, but I can see myself taking it sometime in the near future potentially.
Hala Taha: So how do you manage, doing these past passion projects and having a very demanding full-time job at apple, how do you manage these projects?
Ali Almossawi: What I found is that there's always time in the day.
I might not have a full day to dedicate to a particular project, but there's always, a few minutes here, a few minutes there an hour here, an hour there where you can work on this kind of stuff. And for me, I was a, when I first started my current job, I was commuting and that was about an hour each way.
So that was an opportunity to work on side projects. Nowadays, I don't commute anymore, but I still have about half an hour to 45 minutes every morning, before I have

[00:09:00] to go to the office. I go to a cafe here in downtown and I just work on, I have a Google doc called ideas and it at least, I think at this point, probably 20 or so ideas, some of them are still interesting, six months later, some of them I'm thinking, yeah, maybe not so much, but I just, if I'm not working on something right now, I just go through that list and just try to flesh out those ideas.
And at some point there'll be at a state where I can actually share them. So I would say just making time in one's day for that, and being disciplined about it.
Hala Taha: Totally agree. For me, like I mentioned before we started this interview, I have this side hustle for a podcast and then I have a really demanding full-time job.
And like you said, it's all about priority is, and just scheduling time. So before work, I work on my podcast after work, I work on my podcast. I don't watch TV. I don't do frivolous things because time is precious. And if you want to work on your passion projects and you have a full-time job, you've got to make sacrifices, so

[00:10:00] totally agree there.
So let's talk about an illustrated book of bad arguments. How did you first get interested in the topic of critical thinking?
Ali Almossawi: It was always something that I was interested in. I don't know when it began precisely, but I remember as far back as at least middle school, I don't have much of a recollection before then at least of myself.
But I remember in middle school at the very least, I had a few friends. I never had many friends, but I had a few friends and one of the things we did is we always got together and we talked about things. Usually it was about philosophy, but it could have been about other things. And that was a great opportunity to realize what worked and what didn't work when it came to convincing other people about what you felt passionately about.
And because we were all very different ideologically, it was like the perfect place to experiment with that. So we'd go to a cafe typically, and we just spent the whole night talking and it was such a pleasant experience. And I would say around that time is when the idea for this book probably began,

[00:11:00] when I then went to college.
Of course, college is also an ideal place to do that because you go into this new place where, at school, maybe you knew everyone in your class, but you go to college and all of a sudden you have all these other people who are potential friends and colleagues, and you have all these societies and clubs that you can join.
And there was a debating society and on campus that I was involved in briefly, but again, just making those acquaintances and friendships and talking about people about different things was, again, an opportunity to refine these notes that I had about what worked and what didn't work. And I quickly realized that anything that was emotional, it didn't really work at a fundamental level.
If you're giving a speech in front of an audience, it is tremendously useful to be emotional and to use rhetoric to your advantage. But if you're in a smaller setting with two or three other people, or a small circle of friends, you need to move away from that and so that a lot of the things that you see in the book is not an exhaustive list of logical fallacies, but the ones that you do see all come from that time in my

[00:12:00] life.
And they all summarize the things that I was noticing in myself and the things that I was trying to avoid while I was engaged in these conversations.
Hala Taha: That's interesting. And reading about your book doing research. I noticed that a lot of people would mention when talking about your book, like how it's so important to know about these logical fallacies nowadays and how due to the advent of the internet and social media, this topic is more important than ever.
So could you just shed some color into why the topic of critical thinking and knowing how to make valid arguments or at least illogical arguments is an important thing nowadays.
Ali Almossawi: Not for a number of reasons. One on a personal level, it's important for us, no matter what discipline you're in or what industry you're in.
I think we all have this common goal of wanting to do good and wanting to get to some truth however we define that truth. And as I mentioned in the beginning of the book, there's a quote by Fineman where he says something to the effect of the easiest person to fool is yourself. So critical

[00:13:00] thinking helps us on a personal level, know that know the product that we're building is actually the best product or the feature that we have in a new release is actually the best feature or the way we're asking for resources at work or asking for money from VCs or whatever it might be.
It's actually backed by evidence and it's the type of evidence that would appeal to the other person. On a broader scale, it also has implications for our everyday lives. So we're, we have an election coming up very soon from now until then this is an ideal time for anyone who follows the news or read social media, just to pick up on how people try to convince others of their positions and mistakes they might make and why they made those mistakes. Sometimes it's made consciously because it has a desired effect. So I would say maybe that is the more important one is the implications of bad thinking on society in our everyday lives. And if you are on the other side and your presidential candidate, for instance, and you want to convince

[00:14:00] people that your policies are the better policies or that you are the better person for that role.
They can rhetoric only might get you so far. It's also important to make reasonable evidence-based arguments. And again, that's where critical thinking can help you appeal to the right.
Hala Taha: We're definitely going to get into some actionable tips when it comes to critical thinking and go over some of your bad arguments.
But first I want to just explain a bit more about the uniqueness of this book to my listeners. So it looks like a very fancy children's book in my opinion, it covers a small set of common errors in reasoning, and you visualize them using memorable illustrations. I would say it's the perfect coffee table book, and all of your books have this similar look and feel.
So why do you make books that are illustrated and look like they could be for children, but are actually for adults.
Ali Almossawi: That's a great way of putting it because that's exactly how I would describe the books. It's they are all books that look, I would say the first two, at least the third one is a slightly different category, but the first two are books that look

[00:15:00] like they're for a younger audience, but they're actually for
adults as well. I think I like the head fake that, that involves. So I like the fact that someone would pick it up and think that, oh, this is, this might be good for my kid and then starts reading them and realizes, oh, maybe some of this is applicable to me too. So just on a personal level that that, that general trick appeals to me, and also on a, on an aesthetic level, I like illustrations.
I think artwork is a great way to convey meaning and to convey ideas. I just like communicating things, not only through pros, but also through illustrations and humorous illustrations as well. Some of the at least in the first book there, isn't a lot of humor. So I try to be careful with how much humor I add into my books.
But I think with just the right amount of humor and just the right amount of lessons and a combination of pros and artwork, you can end up with something that's pretty compelling.
Hala Taha: Yeah. And I know that 65% of the population are visual learners. So I'm sure that was a great strategy that led to some of that success that you had with

[00:16:00] that book.
Ali Almossawi: That's a good point. Yeah. Visual learners are are, I didn't know that was the number, but 65% sounds like it might be the case. I remember when I was in college, I used to draw all the time. I can, my assignments, I always used to as analogies. I always used to explain my answers using small graphics.
And I like that, because that was how I thought. And I like explaining things using those kinds of mini graphics.
Hala Taha: Yeah. And speaking of how people learn, you wrote this book in a very unique sense that you specifically wrote it about bad arguments. You didn't provide tips on writing good arguments at all in the book.
It's just all about these bad arguments. Why did you decide to go about it that way? And how does learning bad arguments actually help us construct good arguments?
Ali Almossawi: Yeah. Like I say, because it didn't start as a book ought to start. I didn't do much research. I didn't think about, how, what would be the best way to frame this book?
What if I did it this way? What if I did it that way? There wasn't much of that. So I can't say that I really thought about the opposite

[00:17:00] approach. And if I had written a book about good arguments, you know how that might've looked, but what I started with was just this list of notes that I had about things not to do.
And I thought what's to your point, I'm not giving tips about how you should be doing things, but at least I'm saying how you shouldn't be doing things and that's good enough. Being able to spot patterns of mistakes around you, it's a good starting point. And then from there you can start thinking about each one of those ideas, for instance, if it is wrong to generalize without evidence, so I know that's wrong.
What does that, what are the implications of knowing that for how I talk about things? So, the hope was I think, to have people explore each of these themes on their own. So have a kind of a catalog of patterns that they should avoid. And then from then explore things as, however they want it to.
And I mentioned a list of books at the end of bad arguments and websites as well. So the hope was that people would read these books quickly maybe. And then it goes to the back and then buy those books or

[00:18:00] check out those websites and learn about each one of these fallacies.
Hala Taha: Yeah. Let's talk about the crux of your book.
All these logical fallacies, which are an error in reasoning or a false assumption that might sound impressive, but proves absolutely nothing. Many times people use these logical fallacies unintentionally but in other cases, people use them intentionally during debates or arguments to mislead others into thinking, acting or behaving in a certain way.
Salespeople, politicians, and con artists are the usual suspects when it comes to these logical fallacies. So knowing how to spot a logical fallacy and refute it can be an incredibly useful life tool. There's hundreds of logical fallacies, but your book just list 19 of them. Would you go over your top three logical fallacies? You think my listeners should be aware?
Ali Almossawi: So I would say the ad hominem attacks are a big one. Ad hominem is a Latin word that means attacking the person or attacking the man. Again, a

[00:19:00] lot, it's always important to distinguish between the person who is saying whatever is being said, and the thing that's being said.
So a common tactic that you see in debate, or that you see on whatever stage is an attack on individuals, said this or so-and-so is this or that, or so-and-so comes from this city or that city or this state or that country. And so that makes you wonder what is the importance of who said it?
I shouldn't I be thinking about what is actually being talked about. And one, if it's politics, for instance, what are the policies that are causing all this friction and all this anger. So I would say that's a big one and that all the time. And I think the example that I give in the book is something that I saw on a message board, again, back during those high school slash college days.
And it was something that I would see in that forum as well. Just on message boards, people talking about things as petty, as the tabs and spaces. And the, and the software, a world, you should do use tabs or should do you use spaces? And people get into these heated

[00:20:00] arguments. And sometimes they lose sight of the fact of what they're talking about and they just get into personal attacks on each other.
So that would be a big one. Another one that comes to mind is actually something that I saw on the news a few weeks ago, which is sometimes called the no true Scotsman fallacy. So it's all, it's redefining things on the fly when they don't work for you. So I remember there's an an interview, I think, with the president's son where he's asked who's your favorite Democrat?
And he says, Mitt Romney. So what he was getting at there is that, he's not a true, Mitt Romney is not a true Republican. And then that reminded me of 2016, where the same was being said about Bernie Sanders. He's not a true Democrat. He only canvases with Democrats at election time. So that sense of redefining what is a true
whatever is also a tactic that I see often. And it happens when you don't know what the bounds of the category that you're talking about are I need, so that allows you to change the definition of that category on the fly. In a way that works for you

[00:21:00] at the time. Let's see other ones appeal to ignorance came to mind only because I can I can, I know exactly where that one came from.
There was a guy, I think he turned into a meme at some point where he says everything is because of aliens. He's got this like a messy hair and you see it on Reddit all the time. So they asked him, what's what's the cause of this. He says aliens, what's the cause of that. And he says aliens.
So this is an example of an appeal to ignorance, and just because we don't know what the cause of something is, we can't attribute it to something else.
Hala Taha: So I know there are several concepts and phrases when it comes to arguments that have Latin names like ad hominem, which you just mentioned an ad populum.
Why is that were arguments studied extensively in Roman times or something?
Ali Almossawi: There are two ways to answer that question. One is to say that, yes, indeed. This is something that goes back thousands of years and it's been around, people have talked about this kind of thing for the longest time.
So it's not anything recent by any measure. Now, on the flip side, it's also depressing that this has been around for

[00:22:00] so long and we still make those same mistakes over and over again. And this is something that I have thought about. I don't remember if I thought about it before writing the book, but I've definitely thought about it since then.
What really is the point of talking? I must've been in a kind of depressed state when I thought about, what is the point of all this? But I think the general question is can we actually make a difference? If we publish books like this, or if we talk about critical thinking and if we come up with projects and so on about it, can we actually make a difference?
So at my lowest point, I would have said I don't think so. It's been around for so long, not much has changed. People continue to use the same things for the same effects. But on the flip side, I realized that, even if you were to make a small dent in the way, people think that's good enough because that can lead to effects, hopefully that have, like we were saying earlier implications for the broader community.
If I can change how an individual thinks about the world and that individual goes on to become a prime minister or a president. Then all of a sudden, I know I can share the credit of the effect that person will have on

[00:23:00] his, on all his constituents. So I think it's somewhere in between, we have to realize that, some things can never be eradicated a hundred percent, but you can make small dents here and there to improve things. Hopefully in the long run.
Hala Taha: Yeah, definitely. I totally agree. So another common form of a fallacious argument is the appeal to irrelevant authority. Could you share some examples of this and why it's ineffective?
Ali Almossawi: Correct. So I would say the other form of it is appeal to authority, categorically. So the any kind of appeal to authority is suspect.
And you have to question it, but I use this a simpler form of it in the book, which is the appeal to irrelevant authority again, because I was seeing examples of that. It's for instance, if some, I think the example I give in the book is about a scientist who was asked about morality. I think I had Einstein in mind for that.
So Einstein that they had some personal issues. So would you go to Einstein to ask about things that are not science-related or would he be able to stand on a stage and talk about those things that are not

[00:24:00] science-related? So it's any kind of authority figure that is who is talking about something that they may not have enough evidence about or know enough about?
I think sometimes we conflate the two, if someone has a memorable name or recognizable face or name. We tend to think that no matter what they say is as good as anything else they might say, and that's not the case. If it's something in their area of expertise, it's one thing. If it's something about something completely different, it's a different thing.
So those are areas where one has to be careful, but if I pick up a paper, for instance, that has 50 references. Or if I go to the doctor and the doctor tells me I've, I think you might have this, or you might have that. I could, if I, one question that, and I could do my own research and I could go back to first principles and I could go to medical school and do all, I could go to the extreme and do everything I have to do to corroborate what the doctor has told me.
But I tend to believe the doctor, because I think that she has, or he has the right experience and the right knowledge to give me a diagnosis. That's that's the

[00:25:00] correct one. So that's the nuance and that, that particular fallacy.
Hala Taha: Yeah. That seems like a really important one to understand so that you don't get conned or persuaded by a politician or something that is basically just using his name or reputation to get ahead.
Ali Almossawi: And I think that's the trouble that if someone's on TV or if someone's influential on Twitter and they post something, you sometimes have a tendency to forget to question, is that think, does that person know a lot about that thing? Or does he know less about that thing?
So assigning probabilities to what people say based on what we know about them is I think important.
Hala Taha: Let's talk about another one. It's called the false dilemma. What is this method of reasoning and where have you seen it used?
Ali Almossawi: The false dilemma is again I don't know why this morning it's all politics, but it's what's top of mind, but again, you see it in politics a lot.
It's splitting the world into two halves and saying. This half is bad. And therefore this, we're

[00:26:00] left with this half, which is what I'm all about. It's very effective. I have to say again, a lot of these fallacies are about framing and if you can frame the world or model the world in a way that makes people convinced that, oh, there are only these two options, then you can use that to great effect.
So again, that in politics a lot in the way, some politicians talk about the world, but you can think of any other scenario where you might see that and you could see it in the corporate world. For instance, if a manager or a director or a CEO wants to make the case for something, they'll say the world is one way, but we can make it this other way.
And so therefore we're going to fund this project or that project. But the reality is that, that framing may not be in accordance with reality. There might be things in the world that are also options, but we just have, I think we have this tendency sometimes to forget to question other way things are framed and model and just take it as read that the way they are framed is in fact how they are in reality.

[00:27:00] brings to mind like a classical example of a cognitive bias by Tyversky. He was the first one to to mention that. So he runs an experiment where he asks two groups of people. He says there is a disease that is going to kill 600 people and you have two options. You can either save 400 people for sure.
Or with a two-thirds probability, you can save 600 people. And then it goes to the second group and he said, You have two options as well. You can let 200 people die or you can let 600 people die with a one-third probability. Now those options are exactly the same. Just the framing is different. And he found that people were more prone to go with the first probability versus the second one.
Again, just because of how the thing was modeled. So language and the way we talk about the world has a great impact on how people engage with us and what effect we have on them.
Hala Taha: And that's very eyeopening. So let's talk about fear. I know

[00:28:00] fear can be very effective when it comes to arguments. It can be a very strong motivator for us to take action.
And you were talking about politics. So do you have an opinion on how Trump used fear effectively?
Ali Almossawi: He used it very effectively. And he's not the only one. If you look at Europe for instance, and some of the parties there, you see that commonality it's using, again, using fear to paint a picture about the future that may or may not exist.
So again, there is no talk of nuance or probabilities as just talking only about consequences. And I don't know enough about evolutionary biology to know why fear affects us so much, but it does affect us to a great degree. And if someone can convince us that, there is a future that is bleak. That is certain.
I think those are the two factors that are used to great effect. It is likely that person will be able to manipulate us. And that's why politicians do it because a politician is in the business of getting the most votes. And I sometimes have to remind myself of that, character

[00:29:00] morality, policies, the good of the country, the good of the individual.
They're one thing. But at the the most important thing for a politician, especially for someone who is seeking the top job is to get the most votes. And if you can use something like fear to mobilize all those people, then you're succeeding as a politician, but not maybe as a human being.
So that's the trouble there.
Hala Taha: So let's talk about the straw man form of a bad argument. To me, this is an especially interesting one and one that we see all the time. Could you give us some real life examples of this and break it down?
Ali Almossawi: Yeah. A straw man is also a way of kind of a slight of hand that you might use in the midst of a conversation. So someone makes an argument for something, and then you change that argument or change the way that it was phrased and then attack that caricature of an argument. So it could be done maliciously, or it could be done by accident, but either way it confuses the audience because especially in debates where things are happening very quickly, you might not pick

[00:30:00] up on straw men. It's actually brings to mind an effective way of having debates, where you ensure that the thing that you're attacking or the thing that you're teasing apart is actually the thing that was said is to repeat it. As if someone were to mention a topic is for you to then say what I understood from what you said is such and such, is that the case?
And if you get a yes, then you can move on to picking out the things that you disagree with. That is an effective way of making sure that you don't confuse yourself and you don't confuse your audience, but when it's done maliciously, it's sometimes tough to pick up on, because like I said, it is this slight of hand.
So yes, someone might say, for instance, to give you a concrete example, this is my policy for healthcare for all, and these are all the nuances and these are all the details and this is how we're going to fund it. And this is where the money is going to come from. And this is how it's going to affect the economy and so on.
And then the other person says, you just want to give everyone free stuff. You just want to give everyone free healthcare. We're going to go bankrupt. Taxes are going to go up.

[00:31:00] So completely missing all the nuance and changing what was said to a great degree. But again, if you were in the audience and you're not careful about what tactics people might use on that stage, you might miss that and you might think to yourself that is a good point.
Where is this money going to come from and so on?
Hala Taha: Yeah, it just goes to the red thread and all of this is that you just need to pay attention and think about what people are saying. Who's saying it. And if they have the expertise to say what they're saying or the knowledge to say what they're saying, and if what they're saying actually proves anything or is just a way to trigger your emotions.
Ali Almossawi: Exactly. Yeah. That's the whole point of the qualifier critical, right? Otherwise it's just thinking, the reason it's critical is because you are examining and reexamining and being skeptical about everything that is said. And if you do it often enough, and if you hopefully if you read the right books and if you listen to the right debates and lectures and so on, you'll be in a state where you're equipped with them, all this knowledge

[00:32:00] to be able to do it quickly.
And I think it's a critical skill.
Hala Taha: Definitely. So let's talk about emotion. From my understanding, I've done a lot of podcasts on persuasion and negotiation and, emotion is as a big way to convince others. So what would you say is the best way to use emotion in arguments?
Ali Almossawi: I would say so long as it's evidence-based there was no, nothing wrong with using emotion.
To your point, if you do want to persuade, there is a huge emotional component to a persuasion. It's not only about the data. I could show you all the data there is for making a case for something. Let's say, I want to pitch a product to you, or I want to pitch whatever other idea I think I'm passionate about, I can show you the numbers.
I could show you forecasts. I could show you reports and so on. Go through the literature and say why it might work. But again there's that emotional aspect to it. That is probably going to tip the balance for you. And again, I would say, I fundamentally so long as the argument is

[00:33:00] evidence-based and it's clear what the evidence is.
There was nothing wrong with adding emotion to it. An emotion can be using a color that I know is going to appeal to you or using language that I know is going to appeal to you as my audience or whatever else, touches us in a rational way is is is effective. So I was talking about artwork before, for instance, for communicating ideas, that's emotional because I have to think about what our work to add to my books, whether it's in color or not, whether it's very humorous or somewhat humorous or not humorous, what kind of characteristic to go for?
These characters work in all kinds of cultures and all kinds of societies or not. And so on. And also like in the case of the bad arguments book, the type of paper, the background, the font, sans seriff. All these have emotional implications even the end band. And I was looking at the book this morning, the end band, the cover of the fact that it's Matt.
The fact that it's a wrap, there's no dust jacket. All of these are decisions that are driven purely by emotion. There is no rational reason to use

[00:34:00] one or the other, but I should say it's primarily the emotional component that drives these. But then when I break fast it with evidence and I say I am going to go for this color or I'm going to go for this material.
Maybe for these reasons. And I think through those reasons, I think that's those make it, make for a good team.
Hala Taha: Yeah. And just to add a tip I've learned in the past, when it comes to emotion and arguing is to remember that when people are upset or angry, they really aren't receptive to new information.
So you want to take time to validate what the other person says, just saying, you understand how they feel and try to get them comfortable and happy. And then, be more likely to then listen to your counter argument and be more receptive to that.
Ali Almossawi: That's a great point. Yeah. It disarms them immediately.
If someone is passionate about something and they bring it up and you don't counter that with something that you know is going to inflame them, it's a very effective way to start the conversation. Either to like you said, use the right language. Disarm them emotionally,

[00:35:00] acknowledge their point of view, acknowledge their position, do it in a very genuine and authentic way. And then present what your position is. It's tremendously effective.
Hala Taha: Totally. So a couple of questions on another book that you wrote, it's called bad choices. How algorithms can help you think smarter and live happier. So you wrote this book to apply algorithms to everyday life and help people make better decisions. So how do algorithms help us think smarter?
Ali Almossawi: The point of that book really was to look at the literature for algorithms and data structures. So if you go to college and you study computer science, one of the classes that you'll take is data structures and algorithms. So I looked at that material and I thought, wow.
There's a lot of connections between what is taught to first year of computer science students and things that we do in everyday life. So for instance, one thing that I do is I wash my clothes at the washing machine and then I put them in the dryer and then I take them out and then I have to sort my

[00:36:00] clothes.
I realized that there is a connection between the way I sort my socks for instance, or my other clothing, items of clothing with these other concepts that we have come up with in computer science. So what I try to do in that book was to highlight all of these connections to say these concepts in computer science have these potential analogies in everyday life.
And it was a lot of fun creating those connections and thinking through them and realizing that a lot of the things that we do have actually, have analogs in that abstract world as well. And I don't know enough about psychology or cognitive psychology to know which came first. No, probably the everyday life patterns that we have came first.
And those influenced how we came up with those abstract concepts, but that was the whole goal of it, is to just show what those connections are. And the ultimate goal of the book really is for anyone to pick it up and to read it. And then by the end to realize that while there are more efficient and less efficient ways of doing things in everyday life,

[00:37:00] and then not only does that help me.
Be a more efficient person potentially, but also it helps me understand all these concepts that I think are interesting in computer science. It's an analogy focused analogy, first approach to.
Hala Taha: We don't have much time left, but are there any actionable items from this bad choices book in terms of algorithmic thinking that you can give to my listeners?
So any key concepts of something actionable that they can do in terms of algorithmic thinking?
Ali Almossawi: The book is fundamentally about efficiency and this might not be straight from the book, but what makes me efficient really is realizing that time is short. So I have to get going. If I have an idea, implement it right away, get moving on it, try it out and so on.
But at the same time, realizing that there is plenty of time. So that's the kind of the polar opposite. So if I do something that doesn't quite work out, that makes me less efficient, I can always go on and do something else. So living in between those polar opposites and the friction that they create is I

[00:38:00] think, a healthy way to go about being productive in life.
Hala Taha: Very cool. So this kind of ducktails into my next question. We are the young and profiting podcast. So what is your secret to profiting in life?
Ali Almossawi: I would say be genuine, be authentic. Don't worry too much about fitting in the stuff we've talked about so far is all, some of it is stuff that I hadn't planned for.
I hadn't even thought of would even happen when I was in school or when I was in college. And the only reason I could make it happen is because I didn't worry too much about fitting in or being part of whatever group or a, that there might be in a, around me. So just, focus on
doing things that you're passionate about, be genuine and authentic throughout it all. And realize that projects are stepping stones in a lot of cases, if a particular project doesn't work out, maybe some form of it will work out in some other projects in the future.
Hala Taha: That's great advice. And where can our listeners go to find more about you and everything that you do?
Ali Almossawi: I'm on Instagram. I also have a website which is my last and

[00:39:00] my Instagram and Twitter, and all other links are are on that website.
Hala Taha: Awesome. Thank you so much, Ali. This was a pleasure.
Ali Almossawi: Likewise. Thank you, Hala.
Hala Taha: Thanks for listening to young and profiting podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to leave us a review or comment on your favorite platform.
Follow YAP on instagram @youngandprofiting and check us out at And now you can chat live with us every single day on YAP society on slack. Check out our show notes at for the registration link. And if you already active on YAP, share the wealth and invite your friends.
You can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name, Hala Taha. Big thanks to YAP team as always. Stay blessed and I'll catch you next time. This is Hala, signing off.

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