Thursday, February 12, 2009

Overthinking?

I have not been reading enough of Overcoming Bias recently. Stuart believes most children would get a better education by reading that blog every day than by spending 12 years at school. I don't think that is far from the truth, if at all.

But it can be pretty heavy. And thinking about thinking all the time is pretty tough work. Will Wilkinson chatted to Eliezer Yudkowsky about rational thinking on bloggingheads. He made a similar point to Eliezer who is a daily contributor to 'Overcoming Bias'.

In a recent post, Robin Hanson says:

'We are usually only aware of a small fraction of the relevant evidence and analysis that influence our beliefs'
I don't think the claim is that we can be purely rational. In fact, I think we are always in a process of discovering what we ourselves think about any topic. That is why listening is so important. Maybe it is also why we tend to over argue our own points, because we are also trying to convince ourselves in the process. We live in a world of incomplete thoughts, ideas, beliefs and emotions.

I think this means a few things. I think it is worth putting in a fairly big effort to overcome lapses in the way we think, and that effort is worth it. But thinking isn't only done by reading and debating. Thinking and experiencing emotions and interactions are part of it to if we constantly reflect.

It means we can't hold on to any belief too tightly. It means we have to challenge ourselves, recognise holes and try and fix them. It means we need to listen to and seek out feedback and criticism. But, we can also safely recognise that others can give us a glimpse and only a glimpse of ourselves. There may be truth in any feedback, and there may be rubbish. So some feedback, like some ideas we have, is just plain rubbish and needs to be discarded. The art is knowing the difference. And where it is valid and negative, accept it and move on. One of my favourite quotes (which I would attribute if my Internet wasn't so slow tonight) is...

'Those who care about you the most don't care if you make mistakes, it is what you do next that matters'
That doesn't excuse mistakes, but I think is more of a challenge to improve. A call to action, in thought, in action, in emotion and in the way we treat others every day.

I think it is worth the effort Wilkinson refers to.

Exciting Times.
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