Thanks to @henryfarrell , I just finished one of the best books I have read for years, @hugoreasoning and @dansperber's The Enigma of Reason. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in questions around human psychology, reasoning, behavioral economics, etc, especially
@edelwax (who may have already read it), @VitalikButerin and anyone in or around the "rationalist community". I'll give a very brief tl;dr here but really you cannot appreciate the arguments without reading them and please resist the temptation to dismiss it.
1. Contra the usual way of thinking about it, the human capacity for reason/rationality was not "meant" (by evolution) to be used to improve isolated individual decision-marking/understanding. It was meant to improve effectiveness in social settings. (In fact, it would
be quite irrational for an isolated individual to reason much, as reasoning is slow and costly and unless those costs can be amortized over many people who benefit from that reasoning it is not worth it.)
2. As such, the "flaws"/"biases" in human reasoning highlighted by the usual psychology/decision-making crowd are actually strengths in achieving its teleology. Attempts to "overcome bias" at the individual level are thus, quite literally, irrational.
3. Instead, maximizing how rationality functions effectively is fundamentally a sociological question of creating conditions under which those who hold very different worldviews are forced to be accountable to their capacity to persuade each other. Overcoming
bias is fundamentally NOT about overcoming "bias" in the psychology and decision-making sense but overcoming bias in the (broadly conceived) sociological sense.
4. (And this is especially my editorializing) it is thus the height of failed rationality for a small group or individual to retreat from broader social discourse to, in a narrow and homogeneous community, refine its rationality. Overcoming bias requires constantly
attempting to engage those who think most differently from you. In fact, such isolated reason not only will but *is actually designed to* reinforce bias.
A few observations:
1. This is extremely consistent with the Deweyian/Simmelian conception of the individual I have increasingly come to embrace, applying it to cognition rather than identity. I would further their theory in this vein to argue that the emergence of
modern "scientific revolutions" and the like largely emerges from the complex intersection of thinking patterns modern society makes possible. Perhaps this is even what creates the possibility of the "individual genius", as now people are exposed to enough
different points of view that they are able to hold debates that previously only happened externally internally in their minds. See also my recent interview with @tylercowen.
2. This continues to highlight, as @edelwax among others has, the limits of any voting-like system including #QuadraticVoting, in its inability to non-linearly combine different reasons. Perhaps unlike @edelwax I don't think this undermines the value of QV but it surely
shows how many other components we need to develop like the deliberative tools @UsePolis, @audreyt and @TheGovLab have been working on.
3. I found one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for the book's theses to be @robinhanson 's review of the book (though probably not for the reasons he hoped): He read the book, which I view as among the most compelling refutations
of the cynical, purifying, atomized individualist rationalist perspective that @robinhanson pushes that I've read, instead as a meditation on insincerity, hypocrisy, on which he is focused, despite the book explicitly mentioning towards its end that reading it that way
would be a complete misunderstanding. (Note: I am well aware that some of my above interpretations may well be seen by some that way in association with my own views! All the more reason to invite conversations :)) Could there be a better illustration of the likelihood that
segregated reasoning will lead to biased interpretations?
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