Warning, Reasoning Is Low Precision

I expand this disclaimer nearly continuously, this and this as recent examples. The problem is that human affairs have too many dimensions for human minds to model. People, especially people we are close to, are an easier problem.

Our huge advantage over other primates is our superior theory of mind, our ability to see other’s points of view. Some of us are really good at that, they can become fortune tellers, or equivalents, because they can see inside the paying customer sitting in front of them, see what they need to hear to keep them coming back. There are many kinds of advisers in the world making their living at dispensing advice. Intelligence agencies, PR agencies, policy advisers, lawyers, coaches of every kind.*

This will be the disclaimer in all subsequent analyses. I can do logic and basic science without it, maybe even up through things like Infinite Palettes. The tech case was constant references to things that are checkable against reality, the others were explicitly analogies.**

But my best understanding is that, if the terms of an analysis allow wiggle room, you won’t have a clue.

This is analysis of the world using words and logic, civilizations’ very best tools for situations more complex than engineering or medicine.  They are nearly completely useless for anything at all abstract.

Have you noticed your college degree does not include a warranty? That very few things in life have guarantees? Have you thought seriously what that must mean about the nature of nature? And, given the error rate of the world, world wars and whatnot, what it must mean about our vaunted intellects and the tools they use?

Consider the proportion of people selling advice vs trading on their own advice. I cannot think of a future that I could not make a lot of $ out of knowing ahead of time. If I knew anything at all about the future, I wouldn’t tell you here, I would go trade on the information. Knowledge of the future is valuable, hints about how to avoid trouble are valuable.

Assume that the advisers of the world understand this as well as I do.

This is analysis. It is using words and logic to explain the complex world. We have built civilization with these tools, we use them to educate people, to guide every one of our myriad organizations of people.

But we don’t understand the limitations of our tools, and the rate of failure of our efforts is higher the further we ascend in abstract thought.  Foreign policy, one of many such examples, is clearly far too abstract for success.

The problem for you, at this moment, is judging how abstract this argument has been, whether your estimate of reality agrees with it or not, and the extent to which your estimates are biased.  Using our civilization’s very best intellectual tools, abstract analysis, and our best information sources, known to be saturated with propaganda of all kinds intended to channel your thoughts and biased in ways even their authors’ don’t realize, in your considerations, of course.

Or instead, just contemplate this sequence in history that I happened upon as I was writing this, and understand it was driven by the best political minds of the time. History is the very long list of such, and the uniform outcome of analysis and planning of the very best minds is failure when considered in more than a few, simple, dimensions.  Like national wealth and influence in the best minds of the civilization, respect from the wisest people.

*Consider the hypothesis that ‘win’ at any political scale is random-walk.  Given the known bias of human minds to constructing coherent narrative from semi-random reality, does your reading of history confirm or dis-confirm that hypothesis?

**All arguments are analogies.  Some analogies are better than others.  By analogy, of course.


I changed the title from “Warning, Ideas Are Dangerous” to “Warning, Reasoning Is Dangerous” and now to “Warning, Reasoning is Low Precision”.  Rolling QA, Kaisen in blogging.

12 thoughts on “Warning, Reasoning Is Low Precision

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