Brainstorming help request: teaching rationality basics in an RPG setting

by MarkusRamikin 1 min read14th Jun 201239 comments


EDIT: Minor updates happened.



I'd like to ask you all for thoughts on a certain idea I'm toying with. Especially any of you who are familiar with the Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan.

I play a MUD (multi-user dungeon, basically a text-based MMORPG), based on that series. One of my characters is a member of the White Tower, which is basically a mage organisation/school, and as part of our roleplay activities we sometimes hold classes (example, long, probably not worth your time) for lower rank members. These typically last an hour or two and sometimes get used to convey interesting real life knowledge. For instance there has been a class on mnemonic techniques.

I see an opportunity to spread rationality a little. One of the Ajah (subdivisions) of the Tower is specifically concerned with pursuing truth, logic etc. which means if I joined it, I would have no trouble teaching a class or two with some material from the Sequences. I wonder if any of us here have done things like that in the past?

What sort of essentials would you pack into a class or at most a few classes 1-2 hours each (not just me reading stuff out but including a discussion), for people without technical backgrounds? Conducted at typing speed, so basically imagine you're going to spend two hours talking to 3-6 people about rationality on IRC chat or some such setting.

Also, should I involve or steer away from the metaphysics of the Wheel of Time setting (the Creator/Dark One, the Pattern etc)?

My ideas so far:

Part 1: "Cognitive biases, or why you, yes you, are an idiot".
- which ones would be most interesting/simple/useful to teach about?
- Obviously i need to start with how knowing about biases can hurt you...
- Confirmation bias: I might try the 2-4-6 game, though it'll be a bit of a mess in a group setting.
- what other biases and examples would you use?

Part 2: Truth and evidence
- truth, map/territory
- what is evidence
- rational evidence vs other kinds of evidence
- what is not evidence (instead of UFO cults I'd speak of False Dragon followers)

A question I anticipate coming up: Is there rational evidence for the Creator/Dark One/the Pattern? Ideas for handling this needed.
Note: I am NOT aiming at atheism at all costs, like a Force Skeptic approach. It's neither very rational if we're in WoT, nor practical for my character. In fact I intend to not talk about religion if possible. Wrong setting, wrong audience for that.

Part 3: Bayes' theorem
- the wedding in the desert example looks easily adaptable (Aiel!)
- more examples of practical Bayes Theorem application needed!

Or is the very idea of teaching Bayes in such a setting an outrageous underestimation of the inferential distance?

So yeah. Any ideas or advice that might help me give this shape and make it interesting and successful would be appreciated.