It is with much trepidation I post this book review here. This is likely a very unpopular opinion around here, perhaps even counter to core tenets of many folks that hang out. But maybe I'm overthinking this, I guess it should be okay (it is meant to be "less"wrong after all). Hell, for all I know, this might be a common opinion, just that I haven't seen it voiced much.

 

People will tell you we have all sorts of biases. So what!

Our intuition is our connection to our unconscious self. Our unconscious self deals with and processes much, much, more information than we'll ever be aware of. For example, blindsight is the phenomenon when we are able to, say, avoid objects that we did not even see.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
 

– Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Yes, it is good to be aware of our biases, but it’s not essential, and I'll argue, even detrimental to focus too much on them. Being aware of them doesn't even help too much. For example, being aware of the effectiveness of advertising does not neuter its effectiveness. Similarly, you will buy the $9.99 over the $10.00 even if you're a marketeer who knows all the tricks.

We can be a bit more aware, and it helps being completely tricked, but to be fully aware of and on the safeguard against these biases all the time would be to deny our own full selves existence - it would entail identifying ourselves only with our rational discursive thought. But we are much more than that. Denying the validity of our own intuition just to safeguard against some silly biases is like sinking a ship to drown a mouse.

If I rely on my intuition, I will be wrong. But that's how I will learn, and that's how I'll improve my intuition.

I personally trust my intuition more than I trust my rational reasoning, for I know: Give me any point of view, any choice, and I can justify it. What I've found is that being accurately rational doesn't improve my conclusions, it just increases the sophistication of the arguments I come up with to fool myself.

Reasoning, rationality, deliberate thought - these are all excellent, indispensable, tools. But they don’t have to become my identity.


I think Kahneman's book, Thinking Fast and Slow, misses the forest for the trees. I think it is in isolation a good, insightful, book. But because of the cult of "cataloging biases" that has sprung up around it, and its uncritical recommendation by people that we look up to, I consider it a harmful book because it normalises throwing away the outcome of eons of evolution in the face of some parlour tricks.

 

(I also posted this on my own site, at https://mrmr.io/trust-your-intuition)

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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:56 PM

I for one found this post insightful though I wouldn't necessarily call it a book review.

Going against the local consensus tends to go over better when it's well-researched and carefully argued. This one unfortunately reads as little more than an expression of opinion, and an unpopular one at that.

Fair enough! Also, thank you for the comment, I found myself nodding to all your observations.