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DonaldMcIntyre comments on Your Strength as a Rationalist - Less Wrong

69 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 August 2007 12:21AM

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Comment author: [deleted] 25 February 2015 08:34:55PM *  0 points [-]

It is a design flaw in human cognition...

Since I think evolution makes us quite fit to our current environment I don't think cognitive biases are design flaws, in the above example you imply that even if you had the information available to guess the truth, your guess was another one and it was false, therefore you experienced a flaw in your cognition.

My hypotheses is that reaching the truth or communicating it in the IRC may have not been the end objective of your cognitive process, in this case just to dismiss the issue as something that was not important anyway "so move on and stop wasting resources in this discussion" was maybe the "biological" objective and as such it should be correct, not a flaw.

If the above is true then all cognitive bias, simplistic heuristics, fallacies, and dark arts are good since we have conducted our lives for 200,000 years according to these and we are alive and kicking.

Rationality and our search to be LessWrong, which I support, may be tools we are developing to evolve in our competitive ability within our species, but not a "correction" of something that is wrong in our design.

Comment author: Nornagest 25 February 2015 09:31:05PM *  3 points [-]

See, this is why it's a bad idea to use the language of design when talking about evolution. Evolution doesn't have a design. It optimizes locally according to a complex landscape of physical and sexual incentives, and in the EEA that usually would have favored fast and frugal heuristics. Often it still does; if you're driving a car or running away from a bear, you don't want to drop what you're doing and work out the globally optimal path before taking action. That's all well and good.

But things have changed in the last 12,000 years; we spend more time doing long-range planning and optimization work, for example, and less time running away from tigers and hitting each other on the head with clubs. Evolution works slowly, and we haven't reached a local maximum for our environment yet, nor are we likely to in the near future as we continue to reshape it; we're left with a set of cognitive tools, therefore, that are often poorly adapted to our goals. It's these that we seek to compensate for, when and where doing so is appropriate.

While our goals are informed by biology, though, their biological influences are no "truer", no more "correct", than any other. We certainly shouldn't treat them as gospel; if they turn out to be in tension with the environment, as in many cases they have, evolution will be quite happy to select against them.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 February 2015 09:44:00PM *  2 points [-]

Since I think evolution makes us quite fit to our current environment I don't think cognitive biases are design flaws

They're design flaws insofar as that there are far better possibilities. Just because something doesn't fail entirely, doesn't mean its design is any good.

If the above is true then all cognitive bias, simplistic heuristics, fallacies, and dark arts are good since we have conducted our lives for 200,000 years according to these and we are alive and kicking.

This is the same as above. This might also be relevant.

Rationality and our search to be LessWrong, which I support, may be tools we are developing to evolve in our competitive ability within our species, but not a "correction" of something that is wrong in our design.

Many of us do not (consciously) want to gain competitive advantages compared to other people but rather raise the sanity waterline.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 26 February 2015 12:01:19PM *  1 point [-]

If the above is true then all cognitive bias, simplistic heuristics, fallacies, and dark arts are good

Good for survival, but not for truth seeking. Epistemic and instrumental rationality are difference things.

Comment author: dxu 26 February 2015 11:39:55PM 0 points [-]

And even in terms of survival, human neurology isn't that great. It was good enough to get our species to survive until now, but it's nowhere close to optimal.