[ Question ]

What would EAs most want to see from a "rationality" or similar project in the EA space?

by Davis_Kingsley 2mo13th Sep 20191 min read5 comments

11


One area that has often been discussed as an EA or meta-EA cause area is rationality development, whether that be in the form of "raising the sanity waterline", providing relevant training to certain key people in order to empower them, or something else entirely.

What aspect of this strikes you as most interesting or relevant? What would you be most excited about seeing out of a new group or project in this area?

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5 Answers

I've become pretty pessimistic about rationality-improvement as an intervention, especially to the extent that it involves techniques that are domain-general, with a large subjective element and placebo effect/participant cost. Basically most interventions of this sort haven't worked, though they induce tonnes of biases that allow them to display positive testimonials: placebo effects, liking instructors, having a break from work, getting to think about interesting stuff, branding of techniques, choice-supportive bias, biased sampling of testimonials, etc etc etc.

The nearest things that I'd be interest in would be: 1) domain-specific training that delivers skills and information from trained experts in a particular area, such as research, 2) freely available online reviews of literature on rationality interventions, similar to what gwern does for nootropics, 3) new controlled experiments on existing rationality programs such as Leverage and CFAR 4) training in risk assessment for high-risk groups like policymakers.

More thorough evaluation of productivity techniques, particularly those based on some form of group commitment/incentive that couldn't easily be replicated by a lone practitioner.

One aspect of this: Which forms of "standard" business training actually seem to work well? I've heard good things about Toastmasters; what about Getting Things Done training? Cialdini's courses on influence? People have paid a lot of money for these things for a long time, which is no guarantee of efficacy but still hints that they should be investigated.

I would like to see efforts at calibration training for people running EA projects. This would be useful for helping to push those projects in a more strategic direction, by having people lay out predictions regarding outcomes at the outset, kind of like what Open Phil does with respect to their grants.

I am in the process of reading a book called The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt and I think the theories and research on moral psychology Haidt discusses could be applied to this topic to create some interesting research / studies!

I'd love to see a tool that people enjoy using which testably teaches rationality.

Perhaps and app or novel which leaves people making better decisions on common tests of bias.

I would be particularly interested in seeing this in regard to elections. How do you teach people to vote more in line with their own interests?