Hollywood Rationality

A popular idea of "rationality" is Spock from Star Trek. Yet Spock is much more like a sub-par human statistician than a rational being, if you follow Cognitive science's definition of rationality. He's merely the autist of the TV-show, the straw Vulcan, and if anyone is the rationalist, it's Captain Kirk. Why? He makes the decision that saves everyone's butts, over and over again.

The Hollywood-Rationalist Spock says something like: "our probability of survival if we go into that nebula is 2.234%". Then Kirk says to go into it anyway, and nine episodes out of ten, the Enterprise is fine! Clearly he knew something Spock didn't.

Kirk doesn't survive despite irrationality; on the contrary, because he survives, his choice must've been pretty rational.

Rationality is about winning. It's making the decision that saves the Enterprise; the decision with the greatest chance of success, whatever you mean by "success", and no matter if you don't have an exact idea of the numbers involved.

It's not about ignoring your emotions and ignoring what your "gut" tells you in favour of a deliberate probability or utility calculation (though it can be!). If your gut has been reliable in the past in similar situations, why would you think it's not rational to listen to it?

Another trope is emotionlessness. Yudkowsky:

For my part, I label an emotion as "not rational" if it rests on mistaken beliefs, or rather, on mistake-producing epistemic conduct: "If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is hot, and it is cool, the Way opposes your fear. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is cool, and it is hot, the Way opposes your calm."

What links here

  • Emotions are rational to have
  • *Feeling Rational
Created (16 months ago)