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[Link] H+ article Rationality Training: Call for a Global Approach

3 Post author: beoShaffer 22 February 2012 03:21AM

http://hplusmagazine.com/2012/02/06/rationality-training-call-for-a-global-approach/

Dr.Ziesche calls for more globally accessible rationality training.  He seems supportive of existing efforts, especially us, but thinks it would be nice if rationality training was  easily accessible to people other than educated westerners.  

Comments (21)

Comment author: Giles 23 February 2012 12:49:12AM 1 point [-]

I'd love everyone to be able share the benefit of what we know about rationality. I worry about inferential distances though. I think the message would have to switch from "how to win in general" to "how to win in circumstances such as yours". Otherwise surely no-one's going to see the point, or if they do have any idea how to apply it to real life?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 22 February 2012 02:02:01PM 2 points [-]

What do people here think of Edward de Bono? His lifelong work in countries worldwide on teaching people to think better has only been briefly mentioned here a few times. I've read a few of his many books and found some of it personally useful, but I don't know what measurable results his larger-scale efforts can show for themselves.

Comment author: arundelo 22 February 2012 03:27:14PM 1 point [-]

I have a book by him and have read some other stuff too. I find his exercises very difficult (like mental pushups), so I haven't done them much. It seems like they could be very good at training you not to overlook things or miss big parts of a solution space.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 February 2012 11:02:32AM 3 points [-]

Agreed that the article is kind of vague, it seemed to have a case of "this would be nice, someone else should raise the money for it".

Two weak points-- there's no talk about the need to test rationality lessons, and no talk about the risk of pushback from adults who don't want to be questioned by children.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 22 February 2012 11:10:19AM *  2 points [-]

Two weak points-- there's no talk about the need to test rationality lessons, and no talk about the risk of pushback from adults who don't want to be questioned by children.

Also, there is no consideration of the opportunity cost of increasing rationality training on the margin. Is teaching basic rationality the most valuable thing we could teach children in poor countries? What about diet/nutrition, hygiene, job skills, etc...

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 February 2012 11:20:27AM 1 point [-]

I hope that rationality training would make learning the other things easier, but this would have to be tested, of course.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 22 February 2012 12:09:19PM *  5 points [-]

I hope that rationality training would make learning the other things easier, but this would have to be tested, of course.

This is something both the author and most Less Wrongers (including myself) assume, but we really don't have all the much (scientific) evidence for this belief (that I know of).

Comment author: RichardKennaway 22 February 2012 02:07:21PM *  1 point [-]

I am sceptical that you can teach rationality on its own in school as just one more subject in the curriculum. It needs to be folded in to every other subject, and then maybe some classes focussing on rationality itself will be useful.

Comment author: ciphergoth 22 February 2012 07:48:22AM 15 points [-]

Hard to avoid the feeling that what's being maximized here isn't utility but applause lights.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 22 February 2012 08:42:21AM 7 points [-]

Then it is our task to ignore the applause lights and filter the essence of the article. I found this:

When a rationality curricullum is ready, we should try to spread it worldwide, cooperating with existing organizations that care about education.

As opposed to e.g. just putting it on the internet and expecting people to find it; or relying only on forces of a few LW volunteers, when international organizations with compatible goals already exist.

Comment author: Konkvistador 22 February 2012 09:22:22AM *  4 points [-]

When a rationality curricullum is ready, we should try to spread it worldwide, cooperating with existing organizations that care about education.

As opposed to e.g. just putting it on the internet and expecting people to find it; or relying only on forces of a few LW volunteers, when international organizations with compatible goals already exist.

To be honest the former sounds a waste of time and resources, because the personnel and money that would be needed for this would have much greater returns elsewhere.

The latter however, some kind of Khan Acadey or Udacity of rationality, with actual exercises and tests, might be a great boon and way to popularize rationality.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 22 February 2012 11:53:15AM *  0 points [-]

So is it OK to spend time and resources to develop a rationality curicullum aiming to raise the sanity waterline... but it would be a waste of time and resources to spread it and use it? Then what's the point -- signalling that we care?

Of course it depends on the organization, whether cooperation with them would be fruitful or just a waste of time, but I think it's worth exploring and trying. Using someone's existing infrastructure is better than reinventing the wheel. For example, if it would be possible to put rationality videos on Khan Academy website, it would be better to put them there and hyperlink them from LW and SIAI sites, than to build an alternative website. If there are teachers worldwide possibly willing to include rationality lessons in their classes, it would be better to prepare useful tools for them, than only teach it at LW meetups.

(Cooperating with other people and leading them is a very useful skill; perfecting it is probably the nearest human-level equivalent to FOOMing. Unfortunately, many smart people have a strong bias against it, based on hasty generalizations of real experience.)

Comment author: Konkvistador 22 February 2012 11:57:27AM *  8 points [-]

So is it OK to spend time and resources to develop a rationality curicullum aiming to raise the sanity waterline... but it would be a waste of time and resources to spread it and use it?

Are you saying Khan Academy and Udacity aren't spreading knowledge? I simply questioned the idea of lobbying existing or even forming independent international organizations for such causes. It is a very large expenditure, not to mention a saturated marked with lots of different organizations trying to do some UNish humanitarian-y thing, be it trying to educate people about hygiene in rural India or promoting feminism in Kenya.

This is the sort of effort you expend when you have millions of people at LW levels of rationality.

For example, if it would be possible to put rationality videos on Khan Academy website, it would be better to put them there and hyperlink them from LW and SIAI sites, than to build an alternative website.

Of course. Considering we actually have people who work on Khan Academy on this site, why haven't we set up a group to prepare a curriculum and lobby Khan for this? It wouldn't take more than a dozen people involved with perhaps just two or three people putting intense effort and others just checking it.

I guess it is not as sexy as pipe dreams of giving schoolchildren in Uganda books about cognitive biases. Or trying to lawyer rationality into a human rights issues and hoping people and organizations will be moved by this. Most LW material makes no sense below high school level btw - ideas about trying to do it for people without numeracy or literacy are just plain silly - you do more for rationality at those levels by directly attacking superstitions and I don't know, teach them to read (how boring).

Quality online material, while not as sexy, will (and I put extremely high confidence in this) give us much more bang for our bucks. For the kind of lobbying described in the article to have any effect, perhaps even a tangible program, one would need millions of dollars and thousands of man hours.

Imagine we had those sorts of resources to spend on online promotion? What would our pay-off be?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 22 February 2012 12:20:09PM 1 point [-]

Are you saying Khan Academy and Udacity aren't spreading knowledge?

Spreading knowledge isn't necessarily spreading rationality.

I agree with the part that teaching LW stuff to illiterate children in a superstitious culture is impossible. There should be some more basic rationality lessons; probably something that most of us would consider obvious. And probably someone else could do it; problem is how many people recognize the need of teaching rationality explicitly.

Comment author: Konkvistador 22 February 2012 12:24:37PM 1 point [-]

Spreading knowledge isn't necessarily spreading rationality.

For some biases it is. Since awareness of some biases improves performance.I did however explicitly mention testing and exercises. There are ways to train people to be rational.

And I bet textbooks and regular teachers wouldn't do any better at the task.

Comment author: thomblake 22 February 2012 06:23:24PM 0 points [-]

Are you saying Khan Academy and Udacity aren't spreading knowledge?

This is amusing because Udacity hasn't done anything yet.

Comment author: Konkvistador 22 February 2012 08:30:22PM 2 points [-]

Yes I should have said the AI class that preceded it. Thought if we are being technical two of its classes have already started, so it is doing something. ;)

Comment author: thomblake 27 February 2012 09:03:53PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the reminder that I was late for class

Comment author: Konkvistador 27 February 2012 09:05:35PM *  1 point [-]

It is a really great class, and the homework has been pushed back for 24 hours. It has the best introduction to Bayes I've seen so far, so if anyone is reading this and can do a thing or two with a string or write a while loop in Python they should sign up for the class.

Comment author: thomblake 28 February 2012 02:12:59PM 1 point [-]

It has the best introduction to Bayes I've seen so far

I agree, though it's hard to tell how good it actually is as an introduction without comparing how many people used it to gain an understanding.

if anyone is reading this and can do a thing or two with a string or write a while loop in Python they should sign up for the class.

And anyone who doesn't fit that is encouraged to sign up for cs101 (I think today is the last day for registration).

Comment author: Konkvistador 22 February 2012 09:23:31AM 6 points [-]

More or less. It is the vague good feel speak that usually accompanies jobs for Education experts, inefficient charities and other NGOs that don't do much good.