February 10, 2020

Powerful concepts of understanding the world by @G_S_Bhogal

Causal Reductionism: Things rarely happen for just 1 reason. Usually, outcomes result from many causes conspiring together. But our minds cannot process such a complex arrangement, so we tend to ascribe outcomes to single causes, reducing the web of causality to a mere thread.

Emergence: When many simple objects interact with each other, they can form a system that has qualities that the objects themselves don’t. Examples: neurons creating consciousness, traders creating the stock-market, simple mathematical rules creating “living” patterns.

Cultural Parasitism: An ideology parasitizes the mind, changing the host’s behavior so they spread it to other people. Therefore, a successful ideology (the only kind we hear about) is not configured to be true; it is configured only to be easily transmitted and easily believed.

Cumulative Error: Mistakes grow. Beliefs are built on beliefs, so one wrong thought can snowball into a delusional worldview. Likewise, as an inaccuracy is reposted on the web, more is added to it, creating fake news. In our networked age, cumulative errors are the norm. 

Survivorship Bias: We overemphasize the examples that pass a visibility threshold e.g. our understanding of serial killers is based on the ones who got caught. Equally, news is only news if it’s an exception rather than the rule, but since it’s what we see we treat it as the rule

Simpson’s Paradox: A trend can appear in groups of data but disappear when these groups are combined. This effect can easily be exploited by limiting a dataset so that it shows exactly what one wants it to show. Thus: beware of even the strongest correlations.

Focusing Illusion: Nothing is ever as important as what you’re thinking about while you’re thinking about it. E.g. worrying about a thing makes the thing being worried about seem worse than it is. As Marcus Aurelius observed, “We suffer more often in imagination that in reality.”

Belief Bias: Arguments we'd normally reject for being idiotic suddenly seem perfectly logical if they lead to conclusions we approve of. In other words, we judge an argument’s strength not by how strongly it supports the conclusion but by how strongly *we* support the conclusion.

Woozle Effect: An article makes a claim without evidence, is then cited by another, which is cited by another, and so on, until the range of citations creates the impression that the claim has evidence, when really all articles are citing the same uncorroborated source. 

Tocqueville Paradox: As the living standards in a society rise, the people’s expectations of the society rise with it. The rise in expectations eventually surpasses the rise in living standards, inevitably resulting in disaffection (and sometimes populist uprisings).

Read more at https://twitter.com/G_S_Bhogal/status/1225561131122597896

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