Posts Tagged ‘rationality’

Swarm intelligence is the key, even in “swarms” of brain cells

This morning, I had an hour to spare – a whole glorious hour – and spent part of it rereading a delightful article about “Swarm Intelligence” in the Smithsonian Magazine called “The Secret Life of Bees“.
There’s a strange kind of democracy going on when bees or brain cells are trying to tell each other several different stories at once. Read more…


IQ and Rationality

I’m reading about the distinction between intelligence and rationality these days:

What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought
by Keith E. Stanovich

There’s one aspect of the book that I’d like to comment on so far:

Intelligence has to do with the processing power of the brain. Rationality has to do with how we form our beliefs.

In other (my) words: You don’t have to be unintelligent to believe that you’re safer with a gun in your house, or that lower taxes are always better. You just have to be irrational.

What do I mean with irrational? It’s a lot of things, but an important element is our common tendency to be more impressed by evidence that supports our worldview, than by evidence that contradicts it.

Let’s start with the pistols and revolvers. Of course, it’s easy to create in our minds a scenario where you’re safer with a gun in your house than without it. “You hear an intruder. You have time to find your gun and load it before the intruder finds it. You know how to use it effectively and responsibly, even when your adrenaline is sky high. The intruder is either unarmed or unprepared.” And at the end of the story, you are the hero, unhurt, and the intruder is either dead, wounded or (hopefully just) in chains. Read more…

The Sandra Bullock Trade

The Sandra Bullock Trade

By David Brooks, published as an Op-Ed article in the New York Times on March 29, 2010

In this article, David Brooks uses the recent media storm around Sandra Bullock as an angle on the age-old problem of happiness. Apparently, Bullock’s professional life has just gone through the roof, with an Academy Award, at roughly the same time that her marriage went down the drain.

So, what’s more important in life: A good income or a happy marriage? There’s a lot of research on this topic now, and the message I got from Brooks’s article is that if you’re planning to get happy by making money, rather than by being happily married, you need to aim for at least $100.000 extra per year.

Research has, in other words, confirmed the story of the romantic movies and novels: You gain more happiness by marrying for love, than by marrying for money.

Towards the end of the article, Brooks has a paragraph that I think is important, and which don’t want to compress:

“Most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and colleges spend too much time preparing students for careers and not enough preparing them to make social decisions. Most governments release a ton of data on economic trends but not enough on trust and other social conditions. In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones.”