Education Department Forgives $171 Million in Debt Owed by Former Corinthian Students [H/T Will] (LINK)
Prime Real Estate: Amazon Has Swallowed Downtown Seattle (LINK)
Google Capital Makes First Public Company Investment in Care.com (LINK)
a16z Podcast: When Humans Meet A.I. (LINK)
Book Review - Clara Ho Tung : A Hong Kong Lady, Her Family and Her Times [H/T Tamas] (LINK)
Related book: Clara Ho Tung : A Hong Kong Lady, Her Family and Her TimesThe third episode ("The Big Man Can't Shoot") of Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History podcast is now available (LINK)
The man who just can't win: Sam Hinkie (finally) speaks (LINK)
Edge #471: Why We're Different - A Conversation With Robert Plomin (LINK)
Using the Most Violent Explosions in the Universe to Measure Its Size (LINK)
Excitement Builds for the Possibility of Life on Enceladus (LINK)
TED Talk - Julia Galef: Why you think you're right — even if you're wrong (LINK)
The above TED Talk reminded me of Charlie Munger's discussion of the Inconsistency-Avoidance Tendency from his "The Psychology of Human Misjudgment Speech" (via Poor Charlie's Almanack). Part of of that discussion is excerpted below:
The brain of man conserves programming space by being reluctant to change, which is a form of inconsistency avoidance. We see this in all human habits, constructive and destructive. Few people can list a lot of bad habits that they have eliminated, and some people cannot identify even one of these. Instead, practically everyone has a great many bad habits he has long maintained despite their being known as bad. Given this situation, it is not too much in many cases to appraise early-formed habits as destiny. When Marley’s miserable ghost says, “I wear the chains I forged in life,” he is talking about chains of habit that were too light to be felt before they became too strong to be broken.
The rare life that is wisely lived has in it many good habits maintained and many bad habits avoided or cured. And the great rule that helps here is again from Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” What Franklin is here indicating, in part, is that Inconsistency-Avoidance Tendency makes it much easier to prevent a habit than to change it.
Also tending to be maintained in place by the anti-change tendency of the brain are one’s previous conclusions, human loyalties, reputational identity, commitments, accepted role in a civilization, etc. It is not entirely clear why evolution would program into man’s brain an anti-change mode alongside his tendency to quickly remove doubt. My guess is the anti-change mode was significantly caused by a combination of the following factors:
(1) It facilitated faster decisions when speed of decision was an important contribution to the survival of nonhuman ancestors that were prey.
(2) It facilitated the survival advantage that our ancestors gained by cooperating in groups, which would have been more difficult to do if everyone was always changing responses.
(3) It was the best form of solution that evolution could get to in the limited number of generations between the start of literacy and today’s complex modern life.
It is easy to see that a quickly reached conclusion, triggered by Doubt-Avoidance Tendency, when combined with a tendency to resist any change in that conclusion, will naturally cause a lot of errors in cognition for modem man. And so it observably works out. We all deal much with others whom we correctly diagnose as imprisoned in poor conclusions that are maintained by mental habits they formed early and will carry to their graves.
So great is the bad-decision problem caused by Inconsistency-Avoidance Tendency that our courts have adopted important strategies against it. For instance, before making decisions, judges and juries are required to hear long and skillful presentations of evidence and argument from the side they will not naturally favor, given their ideas in place. And this helps prevent considerable bad thinking from “first conclusion bias.” Similarly, other modern decision makers will often force groups to consider skillful counter arguments before making decisions.
And proper education is one long exercise in augmentation of high cognition so that our wisdom becomes strong enough to destroy wrong thinking, maintained by resistance to change. As Lord Keynes pointed out about his exalted intellectual group at one of the greatest universities in the world, it was not the intrinsic difficulty of new ideas that prevented their acceptance. Instead, the new ideas were not accepted because they were inconsistent with old ideas in place. What Keynes was reporting is that, the human mind works a lot like the human egg. When one sperm gets into a human egg, there’s an automatic shut-off device that bars any other sperm from getting in. The human mind tends strongly toward the same sort of result.
And so, people tend to accumulate large mental holdings of fixed conclusions and attitudes that are not often reexamined or changed, even though there is plenty of good evidence that they are wrong.