Conviction ⚖️ Skepticism

by lsusr1 min read19th Jan 20212 comments

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Rationality
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Priors

The Bayes equation starts with priors and then updates them via evidence. Priors are what you believe in the absence of evidence. A sufficiently strong prior can outweigh arbitrary evidence to the contrary. If you have the right priors then nothing else is necessary. If you have the wrong priors then evidence and reason cannot save you.

Strong priors are priors that make strong predictions about the future in the absence of evidence. Strong priors are good for domains where there is little evidence. Weak priors declare uncertainty in the absence of evidence. Weak priors are good for subjects where there is lots of evidence.

Weak priors are skeptical. Skepticism a shield that keeps misinformation out of your head. Weak priors are the opposite of conviction. Conviction is a sword for changing the world. Conviction without skepticism is insanity. Skepticism without conviction is hell. Lack-of-conviction plus lack-of-skepticism is conformity. Conviction plus skepticism is creativity.

Skepticism Lack of Skepticism
Conviction Ingenuity Insanity
Lack of Conviction Nihilism Default

If you strive for the divine then you must balance your skepticism against your conviction. They are like opposing muscles. Too much conviction relative to skepticism and you'll self-destruct. Too much skepticism relative to conviction and you'll zombify.

Exercise

What you believe isn't what you say you believe. It's not even what you say is true. Your beliefs are defined by your actions.

  • Conviction equals placing bets. Bets demonstrate high confidence in your beliefs. Large bets exercise lots of conviction. Your conviction goes up when you place large bets and win.
  • Skepticism equals not placing bets. Not placing bets demonstrates low confidence in your beliefs. Abstaining from bets exercises your skepticism. Your skepticism goes up when you don't place large bets and then you consequently don't lose.

When you discover you have been wrong, your priors weaken. When you discover you have been right, your priors strengthen. Skepticism comes from discovering over-and-over that you were wrong. Conviction comes from discovering over-and-over that you were right. Skepticism comes from humbly losing. Conviction comes from courageously winning.

Skepticism and conviction come from the same place. If you venture into the unknown with humility then you will have a chance to strengthen your skepticism. If you venture into the unknown with courage then you will have a chance to strengthen your conviction.

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How does one know when and on what to apply her conviction/skepticism? Any general heuristic/strategy?
By the survival value and urgency/importance of the favored result of what one is doing at the moment?

Thanks!

Choose whichever path demands the most courage.