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Rationality Quotes September 2012

(with a smile) Perhaps we need to define definition. True that definitions are based on language. Also true, I believe, that if language is to communicate effectively, it will need commonly understood meanings for specific sounds/symbols. I may "see as red" what you "see as orange". My guess is that we both saw and could differentiate between colors before we knew the commonly accepted terms for them.

How confident should we be?

Confidence is a state of mind. It is critical from the standpoint of motivation. Without confidence we would be paralyzed into inaction; we would be unable to turn decisions into structured consequences. We would be constantly "scoping the game plan" and never playing. However, confidence should not play a major role in making decisions. Cold rationality is key in two aspects of the decision process: (a) how important is the decision? (b) if the decision is important, what is the "outside view" ? (per Kahneman) The first decision, IMO, should be handled with an algorithm analogous to triage and requires ascertaining sufficient basic facts to determine what, in fact, is the decision that needs to be made and how long can the decision be deferred. In other words, part of the algorithm might be answering the question, 'what happens if we do nothing?' If the decision appears essentially trivial (i.e., should I buy a new chair and, if yes, should I buy the red chair or the blue), you don't need to get to (b). If a decision is important, you need to use cold rationality.

If I am dealing with a situation where the decision has already been made, I may be able to use learned skills and experience to determine how to act. Then the key question from the standpoint of confidence is whether the situation falls within the scope of my expertise, where I can be confident that my trained 'gut reaction' will be an appropriate response. If it is outside my area of expertise, I have no reason to be confident - although I may act like I am confident if success depends upon others trusting my abilities.

Regardless of how I may need to appear to others, I would never try to kid myself about my abilities. What may be missing in the above question - Should I believe hard that I can accomplish X regardless of the likelihood of success - are the foundational questions: Do I really have to try to accomplish X? Is there a reasonable alternative method that is more likely to be successful? Is there a reasonable alternative outcome Y that will give me the benefits I need from X with a greater chance of success. If the answers are Yes, No, No - then you have to believe in order to win, so throw the "Hail Mary" with total confidence.

Just another day in utopia

True, but you must remember that it is HER adventure. She is the one who hit the "pause" button. Did he have the ability to say "No"? Was there a "pause" button that he could have hit before she did?

Just another day in utopia

I think he wanted to create his eden without the assistance of machines. Since he has been at it apparently for centuries, he couldn't be totally natural.

Just another day in utopia

Magnificent. I gather one has an eternity to figure out his or her version of utopia and that physical death is an option. It's not quite clear to me whether Ishtar exists in manipulated multiverses or as an avatar with her brain in a vat, or ?

[SEQ RERUN] The Fallacy of Gray

Along the lines of the 'ambiguity of gray'? Or that something classified as gray can be said to be inherently undefined? To think about anything, it seems that we have to categorize it in some way. The category we choose unless it is a category of that one item, will be a model also used to describe things or concepts that differ in significant ways from the 'it' we are trying to think about. The fallacy of black and white might then be described as confusing the category with the item itself. The fallacy of gray would be a failure to recognize that gray is a non-category used for 'its' we have not yet been able usefully to categorize as properly belonging with other 'its' on one side of the spectrum or the other.

[SEQ RERUN] The Fallacy of Gray

Thinking about the title of the post: why is gray a fallacy?

[SEQ RERUN] The Fallacy of Gray

Yes, I mean all bias. My working definition of bias is the set of assumptions we more or less rely on for most of our daily activity. In most of what I do, I don't have time or it's not worth the energy to scrutinize all the underlying assumptions that shape my reactions. But I can develop methodologies to identify when I need to be more critical of my assumptions and think before I act. I can also, I hope, learn to be a better analytical thinker and problem solver.

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