the knowledge illusion

knowledge illusoin.png


intro’d because of this:

Johann Hari (@johannhari101) tweeted at 9:46 AM on Wed, Aug 16, 2017:
This is a revelatory book – it’ll change how you think





our point is not that people are ignorant. it’s that people are more ignorant than they think they are.

or we keep measuring knowledge/ignorance by something not in sync w/human nature (so much man-made ideas/traditions/whatever.. cluttering our political system; monetary system; education system; ..)


why we think: thought is for action..


we learn from experience so that we can generalize to new objects and situations..

the ability to act in a new context require understanding only the deep regularities in the way the world works, not the superficial details

and often false details.. ie: science of people ness


it’s not surprising that we fail to identify what’s in our heads versus what’s in others’ because we’re generally – perhaps always – doing thing that involve both

the one ness of interconnected us.. and why.. crazy to think of intellectual property et al..

never just me ness

we pay attention together.. share goals.. share intentionality.. a form of collab you don’t see in other animals.. we actually enjoy sharing our mind space w others. in one form, it’s called playing

play.. now.. because we’re so intoxicated.. begs we iterate detox


the mind stretches beyond the brain to include the body, the environment, and people other than oneself, so the study of the mind cannot be reduced to he study of the brain. cognitive science i snot the same as neuroscience.


representing knowledge is hard, but representing it in a way that respects what you don’t know is very hard. to participate in a community of knowledge that is to say to engage in a world in which only some of the knowledge you have resides in your head – requires that you know what info is available, even when it is not stored in memory. knowing what’s available is no mean feat.. the separation between what’s inside your head and what’s outside of it must be seamless..our minds need to be designed to treat info that reside in the external environment as continuous with that info that reside in our brains.

the nature of thought is to seamlessly draw on knowledge wherever it can be found, inside and outside of our own heads..  we live under the knowledge illusion because we fail to draw an accurate line between what is inside and outside our heads.. and we fail because there is no sharp line. so we frequently don’t know what we don’t know..

begs holmgren indigenous law.. 7 bn alive/awake people.. not distracted/oppressed by ie: credentialing/schooling ness.. but rather.. listening to .. what is already there.. in and around us..

understanding mind in this way can offer us improved ways of approaching our most complex problems… it offers lessons about how to avoid things like bad financial decisions..

dang.. rather.. to avoid money as matter of fact.. to avoid measuring transactions.. (assuming financial decisions.. both ignorant and hubrish)


help us assess how much reliance we should have on experts vs how much decision making power should be give to individual voters

again.. assuming voting ness as ignorant .. when we wake up.. to our indigenous selves.. the ones where there is not lines/borders between us (ie: our brains/knowledge-ness and others).. we’ll redefine decision making..  et al

it takes a lost of expertise to really understand the implication of a position and even expertise may not be enough

not expertise in the way we’ve been playing it.. ie: hubris-ish (josepsh reward law).. begs.. the expertise of 7 bn listening .. quiet enough ness


this would improve how we make decisions. we all make decisions that we’re not proud of . these include mistakes like failing to save for retirement



one – what we know


frank keil: had been studying the theories people have about how things work.. he soon came to realize how shallow and incomplete those theories are, but he ran into a roadblock. he could not find a good method to demo scientifically how much people know relative to how much they think they know..


epiphany..illusion of explanatory depth.. a method of studying ignorance.. simply asking people to generate an explanation and showing how that explanation affected their rating of their own understanding..  ie: 1\ rank how well you understand x 2\ how does x work 3\ rank how well you understand x


on possibility answering diff question.. 2nd time more as ‘how much knowledge about x am i able to put into words’…. even if respondents were answering diff questions before and after.. they tried to explain how the object worked, it remains true that their attempts to generate an explanation taught them about themselves: they realize that they have less knowledge that they can articulate than they thought.. this is the essence of the illusion of explanatory depth..

so maybe it’s the words.. too.. getting in the way.. so 1\ the thing not of human nature so not grokkable  2\ don’t get it as much as they thought  3\ can’t put into words even if really grok it


thinking was assumed to be a kind of computer program that runs in people’s of alan turing’s claims o fame is that he took this idea to its logical extreme.. if people work like computers, then it should be possible to program a computer to do what a human being can..


landauer: estimated.. laptop comes w 250-500 gigabytes of memory.. avg adult brain (vocab) .. 1/2 gigabyte


humans are not warehouses of knowledge

this is only shocking (because of how functioning we are w/o storehousing).. if you believe the human mind works like a computer..the model of he mind as machine designed to encode and retain memories breaks down when you consider the complexity of the world we interact with .

it would be futile for memory to be designed to hold tons of info because there’s just too much out there..

weinberger too big to know law

for the most part today.. cognitive scientists point to how we differ from computers..deliberation is only a tiny part of what goes on when we think

most of cognition consists of intuitive thought that occurs below the surface of consciousness.. in involves processing huge quantities of info in parallel..

people are not computers in that we don’t just rely on a central processor that reads/writes to a memory to think.. people rely on their bodies.. the world around them.. and other minds..


if science and medicine could answer these questions, humanity would be rid of the plague of diseases that are lumped together as ‘cancer’ .. making progress, but sill a lot that escapes them


unknown unknowns can turn families inside out when they are struck by tragedy or by good fortune.. no amount of understanding can predict unknown unknowns, and yet they occur all the time.

many of the things that people must know about exhibit enormous complexity no matter how closely you look at them. in math .. phenom that possess this property are called fractals.. retains complexity at every level you look.. much of natural world  follows a fractal pattern

fractal thinking ness – already there.. if we are/become indigenous..


closer you look.. raises more questions.. always more to scientists refer to this problem of ever-growing info needs as combinatorial explosion.. the combo of everything you need to understand to achieve complete understanding quickly becomes more than you can bear w/o, well, exploding..

in a chaotic system f]tiny diff’s can get amplified in the same way our seed downhill will get amplified if fall of cliff..

stephen jay gould: ‘little quirks at outset.. occurring for no particular reason, unleash cascades of consequences that make a particular future seem inevitable in retrospect. but the slightest early nudge contacts a diff groove, and history veers into an other plausible channel, diverging continually from its original pathway


gould’s observation that even seem inevitable in retrospect is a deep insight about human ignorance. we just don’t appreciate what it takes to make things happen.

so.. why aren’t we overwhelmed by this complexity if we’re so ignorant.. the answer is that we do so by living a lie.. we ignore complexity by overestimating how much we know about how things work..  we tolerate complexity by failing to recognize it. tell ourselves we understand.. even though not

kids implicitly understand the complexity of things.. why and why .. explaining at a deeper level just prompts more questions..  one way to think about illusion of explanatory depth is that adults forget how complex things are and decide to just stop asking question.. because we are not conscious that we have made this decision to stop probing, we end up thinking we understand how things work more deeply than we do

1 yr to be 5 ness

eventually.. we’ll address a deeper question. rather than asking how we tolerate complexity, we’ll ask how we manage it.. how achieve so much when people are so ignorant.. turns out we have been very successful at diving up our cognitive labor. but to understand how we share our knowledge w our communities.. we must first understand how we think as individuals


two – why we think


being smart is all about having the ability to extract deeper, more abstract info from the flood of data that comes into our senses.. instead of just reacting to he light, sounds, and smells that surround them, animals w sophisticated large brains respond to deep, abstract properties of the world that they are sensing. this allows them to detect extraordinarily subtle and complex similarities and difference in new situations that allow them to act effectively, even in situations they’ve never encountered before

school.. teaching.. ness.. misses this

the reason that deeper, more abstract info is helpful is that it can be sued to pick out what we’re interested in from an incredibly complex array of possibilities, regardless of how the focus of our interest present itself. we make use of abstract info to .. for ie.. recognize familiar melodies.. once you’ve heard brahms’s lullaby, you can recognize it no matter what key it’s played in or what instrument it’s played on, even it played w several errors..


whatever it is that allows us to recognize a familiar tune, it is not a memory of the specific event of hearing that tune in the past.. it must be something quite abstract. we rely on this abstract info to recognize stuff all the time, and we’re not even aware that we’re doing so

jorge borges understood that remembering everything is in conflict with what the mind does best: abstraction

the mind is busy trying to choose actions by picking out the most useful stuff and leaving the rest behind.. remembering everything gets in the way of focusing on the deeper principles that allow us to recognize how a new situation resembles past situations and what kinds o factions will be effective..

school and teaching opp this.. begs we practice whimsy to become antifragile  .. ie: 2 convos that io dance.. as the day


others have proposed the mind evolved to support language, or that it is adapted for social interaction, hunting, foraging, navigating, or acclimatizing to changing environments. we don’t disagree w any of these ideas. in fact, they are probably all right because the mind actually evolved to do something more general than any of them, something that includes them all. namely, the mind evolved to support our ability to act effectively..

as brains get more complex, they get better at responding to deeper, more abstract cues from the environment, and this makes them ever more adaptive to new situations.. this is critical to understanding the knowledge illusions: storing details is often unnecessary to act effectively; a broad picture is generally all we need. *sometimes storing details is counterproductive, ..

*often times.. esp with the overdose we offer in school/training.. et al.. we are abusing that 5 yr old.. for 12 plus years.. by forcing retainment of trivialities..

let’s wake up.. and take care of ourselves.. become.. antifragile .. by .. embracing uncertainty

if we had evolved in a world that rewarded gambling on games of chance, we would probably be able to reason flawlessly about probability distributions and the laws of stats.. if we evolved in a world that rewarded deductive reasoning, we would probably all be like spock, masterful at deducing conclusions. but most o fous are miserable at both these things. instead, we evolved in world ruled by the logic of actions, and that is why this kind of thought is so central to what makes us human..

let go.. and let live.. ie: rev of everyday life

[this is why we haven’t yet gotten to equity – everyone getting a go everyday.. not to mention the dance that would allow for]


three – how we think


thinking about alternative possible worlds is an important part of being human. it is called counterfactual thought, and you can see that it depends on our capacity to reason causally

the ability to think counterfactually makes it possible to take both extraordinary and ordinary action..


four – why we think what isn’t so


life and social systems are complicated and there’s no one correct path to understanding them.. thought is full of guesswork and approximation


most mechanisms are too small (like the molecular changes that cause water to boil) or too abstract (like the economic drivers of poverty) or inaccessible (like how hearts pump blood around your body). we can’t see what vaccines are doing or how food is genetically modified, so we fill in the missing pieces with what we’ve experience,d and this can lead to false beliefs..

in the real world, your knowledge is necessarily mostly about the pat of the world that you’ve experienced. you also know more about things that are important o you than things you don’t care about.


so our knowledge is esp well suited to objects at this level of granularity – the level as which we live – and perhaps a little higher (communities and other social org’s)  that’s the level at which knowledge is org’d


the implication is that intuition is of our own making. it is a property of your individual thought process. deliberation is different. one way to deliberate is to talk to yourself, much as you would talk to another person. deliberation connects you to people..


intuition gives us a simplified, coarse, and usually good enough analysis, and this gives us the illusion that we know a fair amount.. but when we deliberate, we come to appreciate how complex things actually are, and this reveals to us how little we actually know

another study we did suggests on e possible answer.. we created a bunch of ads for products..

crazy that we think we’re learning more about people.. through ads.. it’s like.. here.. where this costume.. and pretend to be this person.. so i can get to know you better


intuitions are personal; the reside in our own heads. deliberation involves reflecting on what we know personally as well as on facts that we’re only dimly aware of or that we know only superficially, facts in other people’s heads.. for instance, if i’m deliberating about which candidate to vote for..

another ie of figuring us out.. through false us ness.. voting..? picking one person to rep us..?

when i ask you how a toilet works.. the real knowledge lies elsewhere

this ie is used a lot..  perhaps we spend more time asking.. are toilets the best way to take care of our waste.. than.. how do toilets work.. i’m thinking.. most people (that like you say.. don’t know how toilets work.. at least know they use way too much water)


five – thinking with our bodies and the world

cognitive science (study of human intelligence).. and artificial intelligence (study of machine intelligence)..grew up together  alongside development of modern computers, so isn’t surprising the histories of two field took a similar turn..


minsky: 2003 – there is no computer that has common sense

algorithms (recipes for computation) are software, and they can be designed independently of the hardware used to implement them..


this way of understanding machine intelligence is direct descendant of the dualist approach to human intelligence espoused by .. rene descartes.. in 17th cent.. descartes argued that human mind is not a material substance.. it is completely diff sort of thing that the material body.. : i think therefor i am, reflects his view that his id .. his knowledge that he exists.. derives from his ability to think.. not from physical body…. that thinking belongs in a spiritual realm distinct from material realm… but the two must interact.. after all.. thought knows about the world only thru the body.. the info we think about comes in thru .. eyes.. ears.. nose.. and other sensory organs.. and they interact in the other direction too: thought makes decision that tell the body what to do.. descartes even pinpointed the locus of their interaction..  the spiritual and physical realms talk to each other.. descartes claimed


a gofai (good old fashioned ai) system that makes coffee spends most of its time thinking and only a little time actually making coffee. gofai robots are souped-up armchair philosophers, spending lots of time in thought and little in action.

robots today are impressive because they’ve incorporated a diff style of computation into their decision making and action, a style inspired by how animals compute


what 1980s rodney brooks didn’t like about traditional gofai robots i that they ned explicit description of the task they are asked to perform.. somebody – a programmer – has to carefully figure out what needs to be computed.. write it down as a very well defined recipe – an algo – and the program robot to follow the recipe..brooks didn’t think that a truly intelligent robot should need such explicit instructions..

brooks championed an alt approach to robotics called embodied intelligence… inspired by the design of biological creatures



rather than having all their sophisticated abilities built into them, today’s cutting-edge robots are equipped to react effectively to the world they are operating in..


in so many cases, the info we respond to isn’t in our heads; it’s in the world..  there’s hardly anything to remember..

not everything we retain is in our heads.. at the most basic levels of functioning, we use the world as our memory store..


the brain is in the mind.. most people assume that the locus of thought – th most impressive of human capacities – is in the most sophisticated human organs, the brain.. if this view of the mind is correct, it has implications for how you perform simple tasks..


you don’t just pull the answer out of your brain. rather, your body and brain respond in synchrony to the photograph to retrieve an answer..

ie’s abound of how we use our bodies to think and remember..

embodiment.. the important role that the body plays in cognitive processing.. rather than doing calculation on a mental blackboard, thinking takes place thru actions that engage the objects of thought..


the fact that thought is more effective when it is done in conjunction w the physical world suggests that thought is not a disembodied process that takes place on stage inside the head. mental activities do not simply occur in the brain… rather, the brain is only one part of a processing system that also includes the body and other aspects of the world..


the brain and the body and the external environment all work together to remember, reason, and make decision..

when body says no ness

the mind uses the brain and other things to process info

individuals are much less ignorant when they can use external aids..


six – thinking w other people


much like a beehive when each individual is mater of a domain, the group intelligence that emerges is more than the sum of its parts


a basic human talent is to share intentions with others so that we accomplish things collaboratively

hard to do if we don’t have time to ponder/deliberate/listen to/for intentionality.. as the day.. ie: 2 convos.. that can hasten time between intention and action

vygotsky.. early 20th cent –  developed the idea that the mind is a social entity.. it is not individual brainpower that distinguishes human beings.. it is that humans can learn thru other people and culture and that people collab: they engage w others in collective activities.. vygotsky’s insights are one of the roots of the idea of a community of knowledge


what distinguishes people is their ability – even their need – to jointly attend with other people to what they are doing. people are built to collab..

if free first..

otherwise.. need extrinsic motivation to collab on something .. and it becomes an ongoing game of who’s campfire is burning brightest.. rather than.. what’s the thing/energy i can’t not do/be

the ability to share intentionality supports perhaps the most important human capability of all: the ability to store and transmit knowledge from one generation to he next.. cumulative culture.. the transmission of knowledge enabled by our social brains via *language, coop, and the division of **labor accumulates to create a culture

well.. maybe.. maybe not.. (here.. questioning esp *language and **labor

only works if we are doing it via eudaimoniative surplus.. otherwise.. just like school assign/test..  need fake motivations to keep it going


so many important decisions are made by committees today – from political policy and jury verdicts to strategy in the military an din sports – that it’s fair so say that it’s the norm

oh my.. political, justice, military, sports.. those are awful visions of humanity.. in fact.. this is an ie of where we get to if we’re are manufacturing a shared intentionality.. (vs what we are capable of doing today.. listening to curiosities in order to facil that)

knowledge is so *sophisticated at the cutting edge of science that huge teams are required to make progress.. ie: higgs boson…

we need to lighten up on the *sophisticated cutting edge ness.. until we equity under control..  ie: higgs boson.. flying to mars.. fighting wars.. securing a nation.. et al.. none of this has gotten us to equity (everyone getting a go everyday) and until we get there.. we have no idea what we’re capable of.. we’re just watching a play of not-us

imagine if we did that first.. imagine the exponentiality of teamwork.. 7 bn finding their tribe daily to do the thing they can’t not do.


why should it matter that i personally have info in my head. if you ask me whether i know a phone number, does it matter if i’ve memorized the number, whether it’s on a slip of paper in my pocket, or whether it’s in the head of the person next to ability to act doesn’t depend on the knowledge that happens to be in my head at a given moment, it depends on what knowledge i can access when i need it

in a community of knowledge, what matters more than having knowledge is having access to knowledge


individuals.. must be capable of sharing attention and goals with others and they must be able to establish common ground

rather.. capable of listening to what their individual grounding (eudaimonia) is.. every day.. then we use mech to find/connect others ..locally.. with same grounding.. much more resourceful than the consensus type groupings we’ve been forcing/assuming/medicating..


the knowledge illusion occurs because we live in a community of knowledge and we fail to distinguish the knowledge that is in our heads from the knowledge outside of it.. we think the knowledge we have about how things work sits inside our skulls when in fact we’re drawing a lot of it from the environment and from other people.

but because of school and pay checks.. we call that cheating.. et al

never just me ness

this is as much a feature of cognition as it is a bug..the world and our community house most of our knowledge base. a lot of human understanding consists simply of awareness that the knowledge is out there…sophisticate understanding usually consists of knowing where to find it. only the truly erudite actually have the knowledge available in their own memories..

the curse of knowledge is that we tend to think what is in our heads is in the heads of others.. we tend to think what is in others’ heads is in our heads.. in both cases we fail to discern who knows what

maybe that’s an ego thing.. not worth chasing.. but it’s what we spend our days doing.. seeking credit.. getting our id from pieces of paper telling us/others what we supposedly know (rather.. what we tested on and passed .. often via temp memory from cramming or from cheating.. or whatever)


because we live inside a hive mind, relying heavily on others and the environment to store our knowledge, most of what is in our heads is quite superficial

i’d say.. because of the whole ie: school/work system.. that perpetuates superficiality

the ability to share knowledge across a community is what has allowed us to go to the moon, to build cars and freeways, to make milk shakes and movies, …to do everything we can do by virtue of living in society..the division of cognitive labor makes the diff between the comfort and safety of living in society and of being alone in the wild

nice words/theory.. but screw cars.. going to the moon.. we have nothing until we have equity.. not just because we care about people (which is not obvious in our incarcerated/refugee/suicidal/et-al laden world today) .. but because we’ll never know what we’re capable of until we are all free.. we’ll never see our one ness.. (manufactured one ness if becoming so repulsive.. as we applaud it while ignoring people dying et al)

that’s one cost of living in a community of knowledge: we miss out on those things that we know only thru the knowledge and experience of others

and sorry.. (timing here is too intense.. what’s going on in world.. so i’m snotty brutal myself).. but who gives a shit about the tangent curve or what newton saw..

we are largely unaware of how little we understand. we live with the belief that we understand more than we do. as we will explore in the rest of the book, many of society’s most pressing problems stem from this illusion..

god i hope you think a pressing problem is equity..


seven – thinking w technology


no one know how to program a computer to be aware. if someone could, we would understand what it means to be conscious. but we don’t.


no machine has that singular ability so central to human activity: no machine can share intentionality. this has consequences for how humans and machines work together


the unexpected reveals the value of human beings; what we bring to the table is the flexibility to handle new situations.. machines aren’t collab ing in pursuit of a joint goal; they are merely serving as tools…

the automation paradox: the very effectiveness of automated safety systems leads to a dependence on them, and that this dependence undermines the contribution of the human operator, leading to greater danger… when the human part of the system isn’t ready for the tech to fail, disaster can ensue..


that’s asking too much of the machine. that would require that he machine understands what the humans need to know, and that requires understanding what the humans are trying to do… that’s just not something machines are capable of.. machines are tools, not true collaborators pursuing a common goal


machines always have to obey their the end, if the designer of the program has not thought of a situation that the machine does not know how to respond to and that situation in fact occurs, the machine is going to do the wrong thing.. s a critical role for human beings is oversight – just being there in case something goes terribly wrong.


crowdsourcing works best when those with the most expertise have sufficient incentive to participate in the community..

crowdsourcing creates intelligent machines, but not thru ai wizardry..intelligence derives from making use of the community..the advance here is not in intelligence in the conventional sense. it is in the power of connecting people

so let’s just focus on that.. ie: 2 convos

be\cause: hari addiction law..

one of big problem facing entrepreneurs using crowdsourcing is how to incentivize experts to contribute.. money is only one incentive.. experts also thrive on being right, often more than on financial incentives.. witness the explosive growth of wikipedia.. most experts love the opp to demo their expertise.. esp when their contribution if acknowledged.. contributing to he community of knowledge is in our collab nature..

so not about incentive ness.. about free ing up ness..

each of us has our little window on the world, a little bit of knowledge that we have access to. crowdsourcing is a way of looking thru tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of windows simultaneously

rather.. imagine 7bn.. simult ly


but crowdsourcing works only when it provides access to expertise.. w/o expertise it can be useless and even detrimental.. it’s not enough to have a big community; the community needs to have the necessary expertise..

also .. even detrimental if experts.. but not a passion expertise.. we can go beyond trained/credentialed experts now


crowdsourcing is actually a primitive method of employing the community of knowledge compared to what’s on the horizon. web developers are just beginning to develop applications that allow communities to norm dynamically to solve specific problems..  a *number of problems must be solved before this applications go mainstream: experts must be induced to participate; methods must be designed to choose the right set of experts for any particular problem ; cognitive labor needs to be divided up effectively; and methods needs to be develop to fairly distribute both the risk and the rewards associate with each project..

unless.. (for all the *number of problems) .. we try a nother way.. where the curiosity comes first..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..

the success of thse applications for collab depends on how well these problems are solved..

rather.. depends on whether we are free enough to solve the right problems.. or not even create many or our problems in the first place..


platform for this just coming into being : ethereum, sensorica, and colony..

ethereum.. et al

distributing the ledger of transactions across the network is a good way to prevent mistakes and cheating..

rather.. let’s try using blockchain to host curiosities.. in order to connect people/tribes..

why have new tech if we keep assuming old patterns/habits

the goal of these collab platform is to foster *equity: to allow everyone to contribute according th their ability and to reap rewards according to their merit.. the goal is to allow communities to divide up cognitive labor for any sort of project in a safe and secure way..

let’s try another defn of *equity.. ie: everyone getting a go everyday..  what you just suggested has been tried and isn’t work.. we still have no idea what we’re capable of

once one of these platform become popular, it will create an entirely new way of doing business

rather: once one of these platforms/mechs listens deep enough, it will create/allow/uncover an entirely humane way of being..

if it becomes the norm to do business thru teams that are constatnly changing alliances of experts, we will have to redefine the notion of a company. it could lead to an entirely new kind of econ

rather: bag the business/teams idea.. the constantly changing part is spot on.. imagining we’ll disengage from notion of a company altogether.. and believing.. this would lead us back to us..

rather than bringing experts to a team/project.. listen to each (7bn plus) curiosity .. each day.. and use that as data .. to better connect us

from 147

it is in the power of connecting people


helping info flow smoothly thru ever bigger communities of knowledge and by making collab easier.. intelligent tech is not replacing people so much as connecting them..

this simple: via 2 convos


eight – thinking about science


antiscientific beliefs are still pervasive and strong and education does not seem to be helping..  ineffective at changing attitudes

graeber model law – begs we model a nother way


radiation is the emission of energy, including things like visible light and microwaves. radioactivity is the decay of unstable atoms, which gives off high energy radiation that is dangerous to living things..


ramsey’s results are promising (climate change videos to educate people) but we are not naive enough to believe that there is a simple intervention that will instantly transform society in to the science-loving utopia envisioned by walter bodmer..

let’s try this:  a nother way

the first step to correcting false beliefs is opening people’s minds to the idea that they and their community might have the science wrong. no one wants to be wrong..

yeah.. magnitudes wrong.. because our research is on .. not-us.. ie: science of people


nine – thinking about politics


on not understanding affordable care act.. and american who most strongly supported military intervention in the ukraine in 2014 were the ones least able to id the ukraine’s location on a map… insisting on warning labels of dna.. when it’s in most foods

apparently the fact that a strong majority of people has some preference doesn’t mean that their opinion is informed.. as a rule ..strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding.. they often emerge in the absence of understanding


socrates – i appear to be wiser, at least than him, in just this one small respect: that when i don’t know things i don’t think that i do either..

in general.. we don’t appreciate how little we know; the tiniest bit of knowledge makes us feel like experts.. once we feel like and expert, we start talking like an expert. and it turns out that the people we  talk to don’t know much , either. so relative to them, we are experts.. that enhances our feeling of expertise.. members of the group provide intellectual support for one another, but there’s nothing supporting the group..

irving janis labeled this phenom – groupthink


this is a particularly noticeable problem today because the internet makes is so easy to find like minded people to confirm what we already believe.. while giving us a forum to complain about the stupidity and evil of those w a diff world view..

begs a nother way.. led by curiosity..  countering science of people ness.. not to mention insecurity/ego et al


we asked participants whether they supported or rejected various policies that were hot-button issues at the time (2012): tax; carbon emissions; sanctions on iran; retirement age; single payer health; merit based pay for teachers..

see.. to me this is a bigger issue.. (and perhaps even why we keep being so ignorant/reactionary/trapped/et-al)..  these issues are man made and.. not fitting with authentic human nature.. ie: not even health care.. because we’ve created much of the dis ease..


you might not be too impressed by fact we got people to change a rating.. so in another experiment we pushed participants a little harder. . instead of asking for a rating.. we offered both groups a small amount of money ..

ha..  of course.. a natural motivation.. so telling of the human soul


our research shows that shattering people’s illusion of understanding by asking them to generate a detailed causal explanation also makes them less extreme.. give neg consequence of extremism.. this seems like a good thing..


our argument that causal explanation is an easy /effective way to moderate opinion applies only to certain issues.. issues that elicit opinions based on outcomes as opposed to .. based on values


ie: health care shouldn’t be about basic values because in most people’s minds basic value aren’ the issue.. the issue is the best way to achieve the best outcomes

perhaps by ignoring all the flapping about all the things.. for long enough.. for each of us to figure out what we value.. ie: maté basic needs.. then all this talking/deciding/voting/whatever becomes irrelevant

the secret that people who are practiced in the art of persuasion have learned over millennia is that when an attitude is based on a sacred value, consequences don’t matter


sacred values have their place, but their place should not be to prevent causal reasoning about the consequences of social policy

? – what if we make social policy and reasoning ness.. irrelevant..

this discussion yields a variety of lessons about our political culture. one is simply a confirmation of an obvious fact about our political discourse: it’s remarkably shallow..

that we’re having it at all.. starting at assumptions we’re starting at.. is shallow.. begs we pause/reset.. leap to a nother way

citizens .. commentators.. politicians .. frequently take a stand before engaging in a serious analysis of the pros and the cons of proposed legislation

why are ie: taking a stand.. analysis of legislation.. even priority in our days..? there’s a nother way to live.. much deeper..


if we encountered more detailed analysis, it might influence our decision-making

if we encountered more alive living.. it might radically (at the root) redefine decision making

experts can help communities understand what options are available and what he consequences are of taking one or another option

perhaps wrong defn of expert.. because expert wouldn’t be talking about options.. rather.. would be following curiosities..

is this an elitist positions.. is our appeal to experts just and appeal to an educated class that has its own self-interest at stake

there’s the prob.. not even their own self interest.. via your defn/ie of expert.. (the one we’ve all been working off of for years).. doesn’t imply/insist that the person is expert via eudaimonia..fittingness.. huge diff between putting in the hours and grokking it.. the fact that your experts.. are labeled to clearly (189: health care; engineers; academics; psychologist; cot scientist…) is a sign of this.. the beginning of hubris/death


individual citizens rarely know enough to make an informed decision about complex social policy even if they think they do. giving a vote to every citizen can swamp the contribution of expertise to good judgment that the wisdom of crowds relies on.

perhaps a sign that the things we’re voting on.. actually.. voting itself.. is not behooving to humanity.. so again.. rather than talking about our ignorance.. let’s question putting so much emphasis on things we’re ignorant about.. let’s facil thing that are already in us..

ie: 2 needs.. via 2 convos .. based on cure ios city.. let’s trust us (has to be all of us) with that


we too believe in democracy. but we think that the facts about human ignorance provide an argument for rep democracy, not direct democracy.. we elect reps.. those reps should have the time and skill to find the expertise to make good decisions..often they don’t have the time because they’re too busy raising money, but that’s a diff issue

dang.. that bit so filled with assumed facts (aka: ignorance).. as to what it means to be human and alive.. why are you guys writing about all this.. ignorance et al.. and assuming things like our current political system.. monetary system..? don’t you see ignorance baked into those..? and that’s why you want your experts to spend their days.. making good decision about..

rep experts to decide between spinach or rock for 99% of us..


we have see that a good way to reduce people’s extremism and increase their intellectual humility is to ask them for an explanation of how a policy works..


B and b.. too much guys

we had hope that shattering the illusion of understanding would make people more curious and more open to new info about the topic at hand

more curious.. perfect

more open to new info about the topic at hand.. death

can you not trust 7 bn people following their gut..?

a good leader must be able to help people realize their ignorance w/o making them feel stupid

dang – what we’re missing is the energy of 7 bn people.. not the knowledge of assumed global policies/topics/projects

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

for (blank)’s sake

k.. sorry guys.. now on frustrating book list as well.. dang Johann

be\casue: based on too many ie’s/assumptions of man-made institutions – knowledge illusions  (ie: money; production; measuring; et al)


ten – the new definition of smart


some great scientists have admitted that others plowed and fertilized the scientific field to make it possible to plant a theoretical seed. einstein did. he said it would have been impossible to come up with the theory of relativity w/o the benefit of the great scientists that preceded him.

what seems so special about these great scientists, is that they changed the world.. it’s not so clear that these individuals were critical.. had they not been born, someone else might have made the same discovery..over and over in the history of science there are documented cases of diff people working independently  who came up with very similar findings or theories at roughly the same time..


at time of this writing there is a battle going on over who should have rights to a patent for .. crispr/cas9 that is used to edit strands of dna.. two teams of scientists developed the basic ideas at roughly the same time..

science seems to make progress not just because a genius comes along but also because conditions are right for particular discoveries…

human memory is finite and human reasoning is limited.. we tend to simplify.. one way.. is thru hero worship.. it allows us to tell a story..


the story of the great individual’s life becomes a surrogate for the complex web of interpersonal relationships and events that constitute a community..

we substitute individual stories for the truth


psychologists have been studying intelligence for over a hundred years, and yet they haven’t converged on a way to characterize it. this does not bode well for the concept of intelligence as a deep and abiding property of human thought. it suggests that trying to id the fundamental cognitive skills of individuals may not be the most productive way to understand the human mind


psychologists like to define psychological concepts in way s that can be measured, in terms of actions that people can take in the real world… they like concepts that have an objective defn grounded in actual human behavior. that’s why freudian concepts like the id and the superego are largely out of favor. it’s just not clear how to measure them in the real world. *intelligence is different; it can be measured.. for modern psych, a person’s intelligence is just how well that person performs on an intelligence test, nothing more or less.. give people a test , score their performance, and define an individual’s intelligence as that person’s test score.


but which intelligence test..? there are many of them..  first in 1904 – binet..

generating tests this way sounds arbitrary. if we don’t have a defn of intelligence to guide us, then we’re just coming up w a test and ranking people according to their score.. and that’s exactly what we’re doing.. in psych.. the study of intelligence is about how to rank individuals according to some cognitive ability..  binet was trying to id struggling students to decide who should receive supp instruction..

but this doesn’t have to be arbitrary because we can choose test according to how predictive they are



psychologists are practical; they are looking for ways to predict who will succeed and who won’t. headhunters, hr depts, grad schools, ivy league admissions offices are all hoping to pick off the top few on the cherished spectrum of intelligence. the best test is the one that will.. predict success most accurately.

what psychologists discovered as they tried to develop best test.. as long as you measure performance on a wide enough variety of mental abilities the test you choose doesn’t really matter.. get same measurement..  as long as the task involves paying attention and thinking, there’s a small but positive correlation in performance.. speamenan called this commonality .. gen intelligence..


psychologists like g because it is grounded in performance.. to predict life outcomes.. people w higher g scored do better at school/jobs..

iq: the most common measure of g (general intelligence)


for people who want to sort people into bins, g is the gold standard.. it is the best score currently available to decide who will succeed in field that require mental horsepower.

oy.. the reason i jump.. et al..

society takes g score seriously. while there’s strong evidence for g – for measurable differences among people in their mental abilities – it is not crystal clear what those abilities are.. the g factor does help predict success in school/work, but there remain a variety of open question s about intelligence and what it measures..

yay.. the two places we’ve manufactured.. that suck the hours/soul out of our days.. nice..

maybe this is because we’ve been thinking about intelligence the wrong way

or.. thinking/obsessing about it at all.. measuring ness is killing us

instead of regarding intelligence as a persona attribute, it can be understood as how much an individual contributes to he community

nice.. keep the measuring in there.. so that 7 bn people are not themselves..

in the rest of this section we will argue that the best way to assess intelligence is by assessing how much an individual contributes to a group’s success.

how about.. by how much an individual is not inclined to assess others/intelligence.. et al..

and individual contributes to a team an it is the team that matters, because it is the team that gets things done..

because.. getting things done is what makes us human..? to have or to be..


an individual’s intelligence reflects how critical that individual is to the team

comparing is killing us.. judging each other is killing.. we don’t need new definitions.. new measures.. we just all need spaces of permission with nothing to prove/measure

instead of measuring intelligence by testing individuals alone in a room, we need to test teams of people working in groups

oh my.. (ie: is that helping people in syria, yemen, puerto rico.. right now..?.. ever..?)


to test this hypothesis, they gave each group an unrelated test (computer checkers)

now that we have a way to think about a measure o group intelligence c rather than a measure o individual intelligence g, we have come full circle; there’s evidence that c has some reality in that it can be reliably measured, but we’re back to our original question about intelligence: what is actually being measured?


the idea of measuring collective intelligence is new, and many hard questions about it remain..


it’s not the ideas that matter most.. farm more important than the quality of an idea is the quality of the team..

i don’t know

a good team can make a star-up successful because it an discover a good idea by learning how a market works and then do the work to implement the idea..


y combinator avoids investing in start up w single founder not only because a single founder means there’s no team to divide up labor.. they avoid single founders: teams work harder when things aren’t going well because members encourage one another; they do it for the team

whoa.. we’re here .. thinking this.. because we haven’t ever set all of us free to follow our own curiosity/whimsy daily… that would blow your esprit de corps out of the park ie: eudaimoniative surplus.. we have no idea..  and we’ll never get to see if we keep on.. not letting go..

once you accept that we live in a community of knowledge, it becomes clear that most researchers have been looking in the wrong place for a defn of intelligence. intelligence is not a property of an individual; it’s a property of a team.



but the principle holds nevertheless (measuring team success across an individual’s diff teams).. an executive might seem bright and active, be a great speaker, and provide inspiration all around. but if projects that the executive is a part of tend to fail then the person may not deserve a  big bonus

dang.. gentlemen.. you’re deeply embedded in a knowledge illusion..

dang Johan


we need to give more credit to the community in science, politics, business, and daily life

or perhaps .. quit wasting our time/energy trying to measure/give credit

disengage from irrelevants..


eleven – making people smart


so the conclusion we have come to in previous chapters – that people are more superficial than they realize, that we suffer from a knowledge illusion – extends to education as well

how about – stems from compulsory Ed.. no? being told what to do/like/study for 12 + years..


learning your place in community of knowledge requires becoming aware of the knowledge outside yourself, what you don’t know that touches on what you do know..


most conclusions in science aren’t based on either observation or inference. instead, they are based on authority, on what is written down in a textbook or journal article or what your expert friend tells you.. that’s one role of the community of knowledge .. to supply facts when direct justification would take too much time or be too costly or difficult..


because most knowledge is not maintained inside their own heads, scientists operate on trust, as we all do.. we drive cars w little comprehension of incredible tech that makes them go..

much of what scientists hold true is a matter of faith- not faith in a supreme being, but faith that others are telling the truth.. what distinguishes this faith from religious faith is that there is a higher power to appeal to: namely, the owner of verification. scientific claims can be checked… eventually.. likely to be found out..

verification law

scientists care about truth, but what drives their day to day behavior isn’t search for truth as much as the social life entailed by a community of knowledge.. success as researcher only indirectly related to how many findings in lab.. will get tenure at harvard .. if publishes findings in high profile outlets.. her job is .. to persuade others of the importance of her work as it is to actually to the work..


in this way scientists are constantly evalutaing the waulity of one another’s contirubutions, and like it or not, evaluation is a social process..

? it’s a man made obsession.. that is killing us

also to persuade funders


what does all this mean for the classroom? it means that we should take dewey’s advice to heart and instead of teaching to the ‘person-solo’ we should teach to human beings who rely on the world and others to learn..

why teach.. would/did dewey say teach..? .. why a classroom..?


there’s no reason in principle that this sort of communal learning could not be applied well beyond grade school level.. it would have to be adapted for older students and for adults.. at minimum we’d recommend different jigsaw puzzle topics.. but the same basic idea of first developing an expertise and then applying that expertise in a group composed of people who have developed other sorts of expertise seem generally applicable..

whoa.. so controlled.. so dizzying.. let go..

let’s try this..2 convos ..for all of us… as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]


we all need to be skeptical when deciphering the media.. troll farm.. et al

begs.. gershenfeld sel


twelve – making smarter decisions

susan … has spend much of her career studying how to help people make better financial decisions

dang.. how about helping people decide to disengage from finances/B/moneys..  ie: graeber f&b same law


(after pages of explaining how humans don’t get mortgage ness et al).. here’ where we think these efforts (to ed – financial lit ness).. they put all the weight of a decision on the individual. but this is same as faulty reasoning we’ve seen throughout this book.

problem isn’t the individual part.. it’s the thinking we can teach/measure part.. the obsession with knowledge over wisdom.. with doing over being


financial decision making is a good place to point out the relevance of the community of knowledge because the value of financial assets depends on the community in the most fundamental way

whoa.. another great ie of the knowledge illusion


money gets its value from the communal belief that ti has value; its worth depends on a social contract..


(author’s suggested solution to bad decisions) – libertarian paternalism.. ie: nudges for good behavior.. ie:  a nudge for overeating.. making people opt out rather than opt in

oy.. who’s deciding which opt is better..?


the big lesson of the nudge approach is that it si easier and more effective to change the environment than it is to change the person..

let’s just try rat park.. let’s not make this about engineering environments/behaviors..

rest of ie’s in this chapter are decisions about finances




most of us have the freedom to choose communities that do their best to avoid false statement sand lies..

? i question that.. most of us are not us.. most of us spend our days.. doing things we think we’re supposed to do.. in that regard.. most of us are ie: missing our shells/freedom..


the knowledge illusion gives people the self0confidence to enter new territory..


illusion may be pleasant, but like ignorance, it is not bliss..


ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


steven sloman here ( – very last minute.. talks about self talk – (lives in rhode island)

self-talk as data

phil fernbach @philipfernbach.. here ( – 2013 ted – showing bike drawings et al – (lives in boulder


A new book argues that thought and knowledge are community efforts