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You Can Learn How To Become More Rational


hand over mouth upset worryLessWrong is a community blog devoted to “refining the art of human rationality.”  The blog is led by artificial intelligence theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky. 

A charitable organization which Yudkowsky founded has received $1.1 million from Peter Thiel, and Yudkowsky has given a talk on rationality at Thiel’s hedge fund.

1.  Ask What Evidence Would Cause You To Change Your Mind.
Smart people can easily find reasons to support their views, so just looking at why you believe something isn’t enough to expel bias-based beliefs.  Rather, also ask yourself what it would take for you to change your mind about a proposition.  A devastating debating tactic is to ask your opponent what evidence would falsify  his belief since most people concentrate on the data that support their positions and never consider what kind of evidence might prove them wrong.

2.  Reversed Stupidity Is Not Intelligence.
Don’t think something is false because an idiot believes it to be true. 

3.  Avoid the Planning Fallacy.
Most people consistently underestimate how long it will take them to finish projects, so don’t trust your intuitive feel as to the amount of time it will take you to complete a task.

4.  Most Published Research Findings are False.
A reason why is illuminated by a top psychology journal that published a study showing the supposed existence of the ESP power precognition.  This journal, however, refused to publish a study that tried but failed to replicate the original result.  As LessWrong contributor Carl Shulman wrote: “From the journals' point of view, this (common) policy makes sense: bold new claims will tend to be cited more and raise journal status (which depends on citations per article).”

5.  Rational People Can’t Agree to Disagree.
If two rational people initially disagree then they should each use the fact of this disagreement as a reason to move towards the other person’s position.  Disagreement is disrespect because it implies that your position on a topic is more rational than the other guy’s.  

6.  Don’t Forget Tradeoffs When Choosing a Charity.
The $10,000 you donated to an art museum is $10,000 that could have gone to help desperately poor African children.  And the tradeoff exists even if you give $10,000 to both charities because you could have always donated $20,000 to the children.  

7.  You Can Face Reality.
“What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.”

The LessWrong community refers to this poem as the Litany of Gendlin.

8.  Breakthrough Your Ugh Fields.
Many of us have problems that are so unpleasant to deal with that we unconsciously flinch from even thinking about them thus causing our brains to fail us when we most need them.  You might be able to overcome this by looking for the flinch during times in which you feel generally happy.

9.  Not Facing the Truth Imposes Huge Costs.
We make decisions based upon our perception of the world.  Allowing biases to infect our understanding of reality causes us to make poor decisions.

10.  Become More Awesome.
Possible means:  master mental math, learn mnemonics, play n-back, become a lucid dreamer, learn  symbolic shorthand, study Esperanto, exercise, eat better, become a PUA (if you’re a single male), deliberately expose yourself to rejection so you become less afraid of it, learn magic tricks or juggling, memorize information using spaced repetition, understand Bayes’ theorem, become a faster typer, challenge your senses by wearing a blindfold, eye patch, or colored goggles, stop using your dominant hand for a week, learn self-defense, or get trained in First Aid. 

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