30 Comments

Love this (been writing around similar themes lately). To share my personal pet theory, I think that most of these issues are downstream from one problem; a chronic need for certainty leading us to totalise and flatten.

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I expect that John Dewey's "The Quest for Certainty" speaks to your point. Think I tried reading it more than a few decades ago, but didn't get very far into it -- expect I lacked the background.

But reminds me also of a quote of Aristotle:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision which the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness where only an approximation is possible."

Though I think part of the problem there is limited information about the "initial conditions" and limited computing resources so an educated guess is often the only solution. Often a hard thing to accept ... 🙂

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Also Keats: not being able to endure the void of not knowing creates an “irritable grasping after fact and reason”

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🙂 Reminds me also of Martin Luther's "That whore, Reason". 😉🙂

Been something of an age-old battle between Faith and Reason -- both of them have their pitfalls and limitations, hence the need for a judicious "balance". But somewhat apropos of which, my essay on the dichotomy, on "Horns of a Dilemma: Tyrannies of the Subjective and Objective Narratives":

https://medium.com/@steersmann/horns-of-a-dilemma-tyrannies-of-the-subjective-and-objective-narratives-dd84461fb764

Something of a digression from Elizabeth Finne's Quillette post, "The Tyranny of the Subjective"; of note is some "clapping" and a comment from her. 🙂

But maybe somewhat more important is Richard Feynman's quote which provided something in the way of a pretext or theme to my arguments:

"As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science. …."

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Here is a trap that "experts in the field" usually fall for. The problem of model lock-in. - https://thescienceanalyst.substack.com/p/the-problem-of-model-lock-in

In short: a certain assumption is made. Usually based on faulty evidence. And after a while this assumption becomes an important rule. A rule that is used everywhere in the field. This is beyond just bias. You can not even question it.

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Good stuff. Number 9 in particular is a danger for anyone scoring low on agreeableness. I've often noticed a dynamic in which I'll advance a tentative suggestion, which my brain then wants to make into a firm belief if it's challenged and I'm required to defend it. Much of the polarization of online discourse stems from this blowback effect, I think.

Regarding 10, changing beliefs, particularly long-standing beliefs, is an energetically expensive process as it requires physical restructuring of the brain. If other beliefs depend on the challenged belief, they too require reevaluation - thus even more energy. The brain interprets this as pain. It follows that increasing one's pain tolerance at a somatic level should improve one's ability to reevaluate belief structures. I went into more detail about that model here:

https://barsoom.substack.com/p/truth-hurts

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Jan 28, 2023Liked by Gurwinder

I have these all down pat. Now I just wish other people did. Lol.

Seriously, great read, love your listicle (and this word!) More please.

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I love your long reads. Listicles are OK occasionally, but I feel your time+brain is worth a lot and should be deployed on more worthwhile pursuits (such as long reads).

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This is great, thanks. Do you have any books or articles you can recommend which go deeper into some of the research behind these?

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author

Articles are linked to in the heading of each entry. More research can be found by googling the terms (or through https://consensus.app/).

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I very much appreciate this list. I would add one more.

It's not ideal but we often must make take an action or make a decision based on incomplete knowledge. Once we take an action or make a decision, it seems to create an attachment to the idea that we took or made the right one, and we forget that we acted/decided on merely provisional knowledge. It seems worth it to try to remember! In the moment of action and thereafter, so stave off that attachment.

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Excellent post, G! Much thanks.

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I liked this short article because these cognitive glitches need constant reminders. And reflecting on them is like a quick refresher course. Long articles are good too.

Long sentences need to be broken up with short ones, too. Thanks for this short one, and for all of your helpful insights and writing. ☺️🙏

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Jan 27, 2023Liked by Gurwinder

Very helpful. In my experience, knowing these pitfalls doesn’t prevent falling into them. One must renew one’s efforts along these lines.

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Brilliant writing, and such well framed perspective! This is the stuff I wish would be in some of the leading magazines.

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I don't know how I feel about all this rationalism. When you get down to it, it doesn't seem like top performers like athletes and fighters and politicians think in this way. I think they view the world very intuitively and care not one whit for cognitive biases. I wrote something semi-related to that here:

Triumphalism and Defeatism

https://squarecircle.substack.com/p/triumphalism-and-defeatism

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author

It really depends on what you wish to achieve. Truth is not a major concern for athletes, fighters, or (especially) politicians. But for those who are concerned with truth, there's no better path than rationality.

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Maybe not to perform their jobs, but everyone lives in the world day to day. Arguments with spouses, deciding on a budget, driving in traffic (! )...

Unless these professionals live in a climate-controlled bubble. IMHO, it’s about self awareness and learning which is foundational to a well lived life.

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Yeah, but there's a caveat: the truth is Infinite. The quest for truth is neverending. And if you don't figure out a way to make the truth you are finding cash out into something that helps people, then that truth is fundamentally just farting in the brain (which may be fine, but in moderation!)

https://squarecircle.substack.com/p/the-real-and-final-enlightenment

Take this article. To whom is it a major concern? I'm not even sure that scientists need to read this. Hell, a lot of the major historical scientists sound like downright mystics. And if scientists don't need this, who does? You can read the book The Matter With Things for more on this and a ton of other stuff (https://www.amazon.com/Matter-Things-Brains-Delusions-Unmaking-ebook/dp/B09KY5B3QL).

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author

Infinite or not, truth is valuable because it improves the accuracy of our model of the world, allowing us to make better decisions and predictions. Sure, some truths are useless, but the ones relating to the way we form beliefs, such as those I've delineated above, are crucial to consistently avoiding delusion.

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Do scientists train themselves on avoiding cognitive biases? I'm not sure, but I think they don't go farther than double-blind. And if it's not useful to scientists, then... But I'll think on it some more. I guess I reject it because it doesn't fit into my worldview, but I don't have a real non-dual insight if I can't deal with pairs of opposites like this.

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Errors are costly in real life. Truth matters. It matters less whether you can achieve it than that you respect it.

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Yes, but intuition is also a valuable, even crucial, source of truth, and going on a neurotic quest to purge yourself of cognitive biases doesn't train your intuition. Again, the high-performers don't use this, so how useful can it really be? Why aren't the people who have supposedly gone farthest on seeing through bias (the rationalists) running the world?

And errors may be costly, but they are not fatal. You can definitely survive and learn from mistakes, which is one way to train your intuition.

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Thank you.

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The Dunning-Krueger effect is bullshit. It was just bad math. But it’s popular because it’s an emotionally satisfying idea to the highly educated. Not only are the uneducated ignorant, but they don’t even know they’re ignorant. It’s just not true, though.

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Stick to the crazy long reads. Don’t get “brainwashed by your audience.” ;)

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