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Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller recently published Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior, a book on signaling, psychology, and consumerism. It's very up LW's alley - it reads almost as if Robin Hanson had written a book. (Actually, Hanson has never published a book, has he? Has anyone ever seen them in the same place? Hm...)
Sam Synder has written an overview/summary of the book, which I can attest hits many of the interesting points. (I would also praise the pervasive humor, which kept it readable and furnish many good examples of the 'reversal test', and the exercises at the end of the book.)
Some of the most interesting chapters to me were the ones dealing with Openness, which one will remember was recently shown may be changeable by psychedelics - possibly the first such tweakable member of the Big Five, leading to the suggestion that it may be worth considering changing it. Hold this thought.
Can drugs improve your rationality?
I’m not sure, but it seems likely.
Remember the cognitive science of rationality. Often, irrationality is a result of ‘mindware gaps’ or ‘contaminated mindware’ — missing pieces of knowledge like probability theory, or wrong ideas like supernaturalism. Alas, we cannot yet put probability theory in a pill and feed it to people, nor can a pill deprogram someone from supernaturalism.
Another cause of irrationality is ‘cognitive miserliness’. We default to automatic, unconscious, inaccurate processes whenever possible. Even if we manage to override those processes with slow deliberation, we usually perform the easiest deliberation possible — deliberation with a ‘focal bias’ like confirmation bias.
What will increase the likelihood of cognitive override and decrease the effect of focal biases? First, high cognitive capabilities (IQ, working memory, etc.) make a brain able to do the computationally difficult processing required for cognitive override and avoidance of focal bias. Second, a disposition for cognitive reflectiveness make it more likely that someone will choose to use those cognitive capabilities to override automatic reasoning processes and reason with less bias.1
Thus, if drugs can increase cognitive capability or increase cognitive reflectiveness, then such drugs may be capable of increasing one’s rationality.