[OT] State of the internet

Bob Sneidar bobs at twft.com
Wed Oct 3 13:56:12 EDT 2012


I think reasoning is what people are forced to do because they rarely have all the necessary facts, or are able to analyze the facts of a situation due to the sheer number of them, and the complexity of their application, and the lack of total understanding of mere men to truly comprehend a complex problem. Without reason, it would be impossible to function at the level we do. But function we must. If rain is falling on our heads, but we discover that hiding behind the tree diminishes this effect, reason tells us we need to find a way to put the tree over our heads and away we go. An ox would just stand there until the storm passes. He's equipped for it. We are not. 

We make decisions "with the best knowledge we currently possess". These decisions may often be wrong. But I don't consider reason to be faulty, just a necessary evil. You can easily make the argument that perhaps we make too many decisions and act too often when we ought to do nothing and wait. In ancient times, I believe they called that, "wisdom". But of course, sometimes we MUST act. We are given no other choice. In that case, reason serves us well. Well, as best she can. 

Nothing is more frustrating to me than someone who stops in the middle of a 3 lane road, because they are about to miss their turn, and they cannot get their minds out of brain freeze mode to consider that their position is completely untenable. The traffic backing up behind them is not likely to improve and the goal of making the turn has gotten much more complex. Reason would dictate that they think of another way to accomplish their goal. How about I just drive up to the next block and try to go around? 

Better yet, after having made this mistake innumerable times (as I have to conclude they have) reason would dictate that they learn to think ahead and know what lane they have to be in before they get there. Sometimes it's the lack of (or unwillingness to apply) reason that causes our bad decisions. 

One more point and I am done (to the great relief of most people reading this far I am sure). Reason cannot find out fact. Reason can prove nothing. It can only operate on facts. The great example for this is when we learned that heavier objects fall at the same speed in a vacuum as lighter ones. Almost no one by pure reason would have concluded that! The force we feel on our hands is so much greater, the heavier a thing is, vacuum or no. Surely reason tells us the result will be that heavier things fall faster! It turns out to not to be the case at all. 

Why? Because we don't have all the applicable facts of physics at our disposal, because we cannot gather all of the facts together in our mind at one time, and because we don't understand how all those facts about physics apply to the current problem we are trying to solve. Once we have all the facts and understand how they apply, reason will produce the correct conclusion. Or one might say, once we have all the facts and understand them, reason has no job left to do. 

Bob


On Oct 3, 2012, at 10:04 AM, Timothy Miller wrote:

> On Oct 3, 2012, at 9:31 AM, Bob Sneidar wrote:
> 
>> I'd like to point out something I noticed when I was young. People tend to put a lot of stock in what has happened in the past, and then apply it to predict what will happen in the future. From stock prices to global warming, everyone seems to think that trends will continue in a linear fashion because we have seen a tiny segment of something as it progresses over time, and then we make the mistake of presuming it will continue to do so in the same manner. 
>> 
>> This is quite odd...
> 
> Well, here we go, off topic. Possibly of interest to Bob. He started it. Perhaps of interest to no one else. My bad. 
> 
> Maybe the presumption that regression lines go on to infinity represents a universal human cognitive bias. Humans are not rational creatures, though we like to think we are. We are barely capable of rationality. Lots of good research and popular-press books on that topic these days. My favorite is You Are Not So Smart. The author is a journalist, not a scientist, but I think he got his facts right. It's an easy and informative read.
> 
> I read an amusing article in Behavior and Brain Sciences. The gist: People are so bad at reasoning that many scientists wonder why they evolved to do it at all. If reasoning is usually wrong, then it would not likely have any reproductive value. One theory is that people don't reason to be right. They reason to win arguments for the sake of increasing their social status. That would explain 99% of political and religious conversations, wouldn't it?
> 
> Don't know if the full text is available on line. The abstract is here:
> 
> http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1698090
> 
> But you say, "We must be able to reason or we couldn't write LC scripts."
> 
> That's true. Under certain narrow circumstances people do reason correctly. If you must solve the same type of puzzle repeatedly and you get rapid feedback about whether you got it right or not, then you can learn to reason correctly about that particular kind of puzzle. If the LC script does what you intended, you know you got it right. You find out pretty quick.
> 
> This is why emergency room nurses usually get the diagnosis right.
> 
> Conversely this is why talking heads on TV and experts commenting on the future state of the internet get it right about as often as a monkey with a dart board.
> 
> Cheers,
> 
> Tim
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