I guess what I was reacting to were the inklings of a B.F. Skinner-ish behaviourist attack on individual autonomy and free will.
Anybody who adheres to that needs to read Karl Popper, and then throw their gnosticism in the trash where it belongs. Terrified of uncertainty? Too bad. It isn’t going away, no matter how much you or “we” “optimize”.
The more that mistake theorists proclaim themselves as wiser and “criticize democracy...because it gives too much power to the average person”, the more conflict theorists (extremists, Trump voters, etc...) they will nurture.
For an example of what I meant: it seems that it would be far easier to write a guide on how to bake a cake or complete an equation than it would be to write a guide on performing 5 minutes of stand-up comedy that an audience would appreciate.
If this isn’t related to how much of a rational process such a thing is, how else would you explain it?
Attraction, humor, joy and love are very often irrational and arbitrary. They are also some of humanity’s favorite things. Depending on who you ask, these things also often feel the best when they operate outside of materialistic or coldly utilitarian ends.
As to how this applies elsewhere—interviewers conducting a job interview are often potential future co-workers, right? People liking each other is a good predictor of co-operation. Thus, candidates are often measured against “fitting in with company culture” in this way.
So, if increased co-operation is “optimal”, yet “likability” stems more from subjective arbitrary feeling than rational criteria, then our process of determining what is “optimal” is not, and perhaps should not be simply derived from what is most rational.