Rationality Is Expertise With Reality

Status: Endorsed, but ready to be updated as I learn local UI and (re)learn local culture.

What if everyone actually was a ‘perfectly rational actor’? It’s obviously not true in every sense, or the term wouldn’t have been standardized. But it’s also not something obviously well-known in the Rationalist community, which hasn’t done a terribly good job of making centrally-planned updates to its’ canonical texts.

So working from the assumption that you haven’t really considered this yet, I feel like I ought to explain myself. I’m still kind of a stranger here, so pardon if the links aren’t obvious.

‘Smart’ has always felt like a fake sort of praise to me. Partly that’s because my parents were very careful to impress that “you’re bad” is an unacceptable way to name someone, while “you’ve done wrong” is entirely reasonable—and I’ve always been very appreciative of symmetry.

But I don’t think that praise, when I received it, was dishonest. I just didn’t think it was actionable. You see, I also had a strong distrust for authority figures who didn’t explain their reasoning when they told me things, no matter how otherwise-benevolent they were.

And now we come to the nub of it: I think minds are [mostly/​entirely] made out of heuristics, including the parts that edit heuristics. Changing how you think of a word, or a story, or a memory, is isomorphic to changing how much you trust its’ parts.

A big part of this boils down to interferometry. Or, in more a direct term, inference. See, I’m pretty sure bodies are built for efficiency, and that means reusing architecture as much as possible. Brains build dedicated circuits for faster cheaper calculation, muscle-tension works as a variably-obvious signalling mechanism to yourself as well as to others, and we offload both processing and memory storage to any source we trust with the job.

Including, of course, our own internal reasoning processes.

‘Rationality’ is a measure of how wise we are, in the sense of ‘having good heuristics for evaluating input’, multiplied by how experienced we are, in the sense of ‘having lots of relevant data’. Actually, no, the general word for that is ‘expertise’. Rationality is expertise with the universe we live in.

And expertise is a function of Interest and Experience.