Saturday, September 17, 2016

- A (small) Disagreement With Steve Salier

Here’s an interesting discussion where Steve Salier takes some exception to the tests used by Daniel Kahneman in “Thinking Fast and Slow”. I’m not sure I agree with Steve on this topic or not. Incorporating not a little irony, I’ve had to read it a few times just to be sure I wasn’t imparting my own ideas of what he was saying, and really understanding it the way he meant it. I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that he isn’t disagreeing per se, he’s just offering an additional hypothesis.

It’s fine as those things go. And it leaves me in one of those agree and disagree positions. I agree tha the test Kahneman came up with and the conclusions he draws ‘may’ be wrong, though if they are, they are supported by much more in the book including biological reactions, so I think he’s no more wrong than say Newtonian physics is ‘wrong’. In that way I think Steve is overly critical.

I do believe that rationality is one of those things you can learn to do, and higher IQ people typically learn things better, so they are more likely to be able to learn it. But there is another element to the whole thing and that’s ego. We do not being life as inherently rational beings. And if you are insecure, you become more ego invested in your intuitive means of problem solving.

I had a developer who worked for me who was a perfect example. He was a brilliant engineer, and could complete defined tasks 10 or 12 times faster than his peers without sacrificing the quality of his work. But he also thought the NYTimes was the truth, and was a typical leftist in every way. He possessed some rationality, and used it often in his work. But in those areas where he was more insecure, like his Sexual Market Value for example, or other typically male status markers like physical sports or a ‘leadership’ personality, he was unwilling to apply that same rationality because it would reveal for him his position in the middle of the bell curve when measured against those dimensions.

That’s an anecdote, but if you think about the liberals you know, I’m sure you can find equivalent examples.

This also explains why there are so few rational women, and no rational feminists. Their insecurity is so overwhelming that their ego prevents them from using what rational skills they possess. I think the case can be made for an element of evolutionary advantage in that self-delusion, but it’s too complicated to go into here.

With that said, Steve is right of course. It’s an imperfect test, as all tests are. It points to an answer rather than providing one. But I don’t think this is enough to invalidate Kahneman’s conclusions and Steve seems to imply otherwise.

The simple fact is that not all liberals are idiots, but they are all irrational when it comes to politics. And to understand them we may need to appreciate how little ‘intelligence’ accounts for decision making in most cases. Thinking fast and slow provides what I think is an excellent framework for that analysis. And if Steve and I disagree on this point, I think I can live with that.

No comments: