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OC ACXLW Meetup - Exploring Biases in Decision-Making and the Nature of Tradition
Date: Saturday, July 6, 2024
Time: 2 PM
Location: 1970 Port Laurent Place
Host: Michael Michalchik

Hello Enthusiasts,

Join us for our 68th OC ACXLW meetup where we'll explore deep insights into biases in decision-making and reflect on the nature of traditions, their origins, and their authenticity. This week's readings provide a rich foundation for our discussions, highlighting the intersections of rationality, tradition, and cultural evolution.

Discussion Topics:

  1. Priors and Prejudice by MathiasKB Overview: This article explores the influence of priors and biases on decision-making, particularly within the context of charitable giving and the Effective Altruism movement. MathiasKB uses an alternate Effective Altruism movement and personal anecdotes to illustrate how deeply ingrained biases shape our actions and beliefs.
    TLDR: MathiasKB's "Priors and Prejudice" examines how initial beliefs and biases influence decision-making, using the Effective Samaritans as a hypothetical example. The article delves into how these biases persist over time and the challenges of reconciling differing worldviews through empirical evidence.
    Summary: The article uses the fictional Effective Samaritans movement to highlight how priors influence charitable giving decisions. It contrasts the Samaritans' approach, which emphasizes societal transformation through labor unions, with more conventional Effective Altruism strategies. The author reflects on personal experiences with bias and the difficulty of reconciling different worldviews through empirical evidence.
    Audio Link: Embedded Audio on LessWrong -
    Text Article: Priors and Prejudice -
  2. Fake Tradition Is Traditional by Scott Alexander Overview: This article challenges the notion that traditions must be ancient and unchanging to be valid. Scott Alexander argues that many beloved traditions are, in fact, recent inventions or reinventions, and that looking back to an idealized past is a common method for creating meaningful practices.
    TLDR: Scott Alexander's "Fake Tradition Is Traditional" explores the authenticity of traditions, arguing that many are modern inventions or reinventions. He clarifies that both utilitarian practices and those tied to sacredness can form effective traditions, while purely invented practices without historical context often struggle to endure.
    Summary: Scott Alexander argues that traditions often regarded as ancient are frequently recent inventions. He critiques the notion that effective traditions arise solely from spontaneous actions without historical references. Instead, he highlights how many cultural practices are successful because they invoke an idealized past. His follow-up clarification emphasizes the effectiveness of practices tied to sacredness or historical continuity over purely utilitarian or newly invented rituals.
    Text Articles:

Questions for Discussion:

  • For Priors and Prejudice:
    • How do the examples provided by MathiasKB illustrate the impact of priors on rational decision-making?
    • What strategies can individuals and groups use to recognize and mitigate the influence of their own biases?
    • How can differing priors be reconciled to facilitate more effective collaboration?
  • For Fake Tradition Is Traditional:
    • How does Scott Alexander's argument about the authenticity of traditions resonate with your understanding of cultural practices?
    • In what ways can newly invented traditions gain the same level of acceptance and reverence as those with longer histories?
    • How can the balance between utilitarian origins and the narrative of sacredness be leveraged to create meaningful community practices?

We look forward to an engaging and thought-provoking discussion where your insights will contribute to a deeper understanding of these significant topics.


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