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Cody Franklin on rationality

Wylted
Posts: 21,167
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4/21/2016 4:15:50 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
please do not post until I post a post with the word finished in it

Cody Franklin was talking about working on a major project to teach DDO about rationality. I haven't heard from him in a while, but did not want to see what he sent me in a PM go to waste, since it is so well written. The 500 error is back, I did want to go to his page before assuming he was gone for a while, but unfortunately can't check on it. Hopefully he is not upset with me for sharing this, and hopefully he can continue his series on rationality, as I am sure it would be extremely useful to all DDO members. Without further ado;
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
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4/21/2016 4:18:31 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
Module 0: Introduction

Hello, welcome, and thank you for reading. I"d like to begin by roughly outlining how I intend for this series of modules to develop, and what I intend for it to accomplish.

Originally, DDO (in its inception, debate.com) was designed for the express purpose of allowing serious people to come, exchange ideas, and challenge their deeply-held beliefs about the world. While it is widely known that the Polls and Opinions sections were added only after the site"s purchase by Juggle, it is known only to a few that the site lacked even forums in the very beginning--it was strictly a debate platform, and only gradually did it develop over the course of years into the broad social platform we now know it as.

As it exists, debate.org exhibits a number of virtues: it exposes people to different, opposing, and often controversial points of view; it introduces people to rhetoric and the art of persuasion; it has been a valuable resource for competitive debaters looking to refine their abilities and test their cases before tournaments; and, as I"ve mentioned, it has become a social hub for members of many persuasions.

Nevertheless, there are limits to what the site and its membership have been able to achieve in the area of intellectual development. Although DDO teaches its members the art of argument, and exposes them to a broad palette of basic formal reasoning skills, it falls far short of the mark when it comes to guiding developing minds on path to thinking better.

There are a myriad of disciplines--decision and probability theory, behavioral economics, cognitive neuroscience, and more--whose fruits, in all their variety, contribute to a common impression: human brains are terrible at thinking. We are cripplingly imperfect information processors; we are plagued by incurable biases; we rely dangerously often on heuristics and snap judgments (which, to be fair, can be a blessing as much as a curse--imagine a ballerina who tried to deliberately consider every step of a complicated dance in the middle of a performance!); there is plenty of experimental literature even to indicate, despite what hardcore individualists will typically ask you to believe, that we generally don"t know what"s best for ourselves, or what would really fulfill us in the long term. More pointedly, the working human mind is feeble and irrational, and its propensity to make mistakes essentially all the time causes us to fail routinely at forming good beliefs and making good decisions.

A central set of questions underpinning this series is: are there ways to get reliably better at thinking? Can they actually be learned? Do these techniques benefit everyone who studies them? My objective here is to convince you that there are, they can, and they do.

One of my favorite go-to examples is something called the sunk costs problem. You can google the formal definition if you"re in it for the details, but, in the interest of keeping this accessible, I"ll illustrate with a handful of examples.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Imagine you purchase a ticket to a show. It"s been hyped and marketed for weeks, and it"s expected to be a real success at the box office. When you finally get your ticket, you"re understandably excited. You settle into your seat, popcorn in one hand and soda in the other, mind brimming with anticipation.

About forty-five minutes in, you realize the movie is completely underwhelming--nothing like what you expected. You feel a stab in the back of your mind. You should just cut your losses and get out of here, says one part of your brain. But wait, says another, you"ve already paid for the ticket, and, if you leave now, you"ll have wasted your money for nothing! You"re already here, and you"ve already paid, so you may as well stay and make the best of it. You decide to stay; you tell yourself the second half will probably be good enough to redeem your experience. In any case, walking out now won"t get you half a refund.

Sadly, you are mistaken about the second half, and gravely so. The experience has gone from underwhelming, to disappointing, to outright despicable. Oh well, you tell yourself. That movie may have been total garbage, but at least I saw it through.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

You"re standing over the stove. There"s a casserole in the oven, and you"re stirring butter into a pot of vegetables. Your two children are seated at the table, fidgeting impatiently as you finish preparing dinner. You"ve been at it the better part of two hours, and it"s near to being done.

Finally, you plate some food and serve the kids. They eat slowly, and push their plates away about halfway through.

"I"m full," says one.
"Me too," says the other.

Having spent an evening slaving in a hot kitchen just to feed the little demons, you"re none too happy with this development. None too happy at all.

"You know what? There are starving children all over the world who would be thankful just to eat your leftovers! I spent all night and a lot of money to cook for you, and, by God, you"re going to clean your plates."
"But we"re not hungryyyyyyy," whines the one.
"My stomach is already starting to hurt from eating too much!" adds the other.

"Fine," you say with a scowl. "Let it spoil, then. If you"re done with dinner, I guess it"s time for bed. Go to your rooms."

"But--"

"Goodnight," you murmur, scraping the half-eaten meals into the trash. Ungrateful brats, you say to yourself. Too selfish to appreciate all I do for them.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Ted, don"t you think it"s time to sell your shares and reinvest? The stock value has dropped by nearly half, and there are plenty of other investment strategies with solid returns."

"I hear what you"re saying, Bill, but I"ve already put so much sweat and money into DerpCorp stock. I know it"ll swing around if I just hold tight and be patient. I mean, it"s practically a buyer"s market right now!"
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you don"t see the principle at work in each of the examples, have no fear--the forthcoming modules will give you all the necessary tools and more! If you have a decent sense of what"s going on, you might have the luxury of skipping the next couple modules (but don"t worry--I"ll get you yet). If you see anything else going on, well" save your comments and questions for the advanced material, you special snowflake--I"m trying to teach here!

The next module will ease you into the material by answering two main questions: 1) what are we trying to talk about when we use words like "rational" or "logical", and 2) why should we actually care about studying any of that stuff?

The modules will be grouped together somewhat thematically, but won"t necessarily be structured as a beginning-to-end course. This series is not intended to be exhaustive, nor will the troubles of the mind simply go away after you"ve learned everything you can learn here. My hope is merely to equip you with much of what you"ll need to make your own way in our shared quest to nurture and perfect the reasoning mind. To that end, this series will expose you to various rules, techniques, literature, and other tricks of the trade of human rationality. To the maximum extent possible (particularly as we venture into more advanced material), I will try to keep the explanations intuitive and fairly easy to understand, with an emphasis on examples (including analysis of content posted to DDO) and real-world applications.

If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or would even like to contribute t
tejretics
Posts: 6,093
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4/21/2016 4:30:00 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
He's posted it: http://www.debate.org...
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass
Geogeer
Posts: 4,286
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4/21/2016 6:07:31 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 4/21/2016 4:18:31 AM, Wylted wrote:
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

You"re standing over the stove. There"s a casserole in the oven, and you"re stirring butter into a pot of vegetables. Your two children are seated at the table, fidgeting impatiently as you finish preparing dinner. You"ve been at it the better part of two hours, and it"s near to being done.

Finally, you plate some food and serve the kids. They eat slowly, and push their plates away about halfway through.

"I"m full," says one.
"Me too," says the other.

Having spent an evening slaving in a hot kitchen just to feed the little demons, you"re none too happy with this development. None too happy at all.

"You know what? There are starving children all over the world who would be thankful just to eat your leftovers! I spent all night and a lot of money to cook for you, and, by God, you"re going to clean your plates."
"But we"re not hungryyyyyyy," whines the one.
"My stomach is already starting to hurt from eating too much!" adds the other.

"Fine," you say with a scowl. "Let it spoil, then. If you"re done with dinner, I guess it"s time for bed. Go to your rooms."

"But--"

"Goodnight," you murmur, scraping the half-eaten meals into the trash. Ungrateful brats, you say to yourself. Too selfish to appreciate all I do for them.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

That is a losing strategy. Just put the left overs in the fridge and refuse to give them anything different until they finish it. Eventually hunger will drive them to eat it. ;-)
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
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4/24/2016 12:09:57 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 4/21/2016 4:30:00 PM, tejretics wrote:
He's posted it: http://www.debate.org...

I am an idiot. I looked everywhere for that thing and couldn't find it