[Link] Book Review: The Secret Of Our Success | Slate Star Codex

by arikr 1 min read5th Jun 20195 comments



Why are people so bad at reasoning? For the same reason they’re so bad at letting poisonous spiders walk all over their face without freaking out. Both “skills” are really bad ideas, most of the people who tried them died in the process, so evolution removed those genes from the population, and successful cultures stigmatized them enough to give people an internalized fear of even trying.

I'm really glad that I read this, and to be honest, a little disturbed by it. I was left with the sense that it was important knowledge that seemed to be undervalued / wasn't something I'd been previously exposed to.

Summary of why this is a worthwhile read for people interested in EA:

  • EA involves or at least seems intertwined with heavy use of rationality to best identify the problems to solve and to best solve them.
  • This post by Scott Alexander presents a compelling case of some of the downsides of rationality.
  • It also presents a case for cultural evolution being a, or the, key force for human progress.
  • In the pursuit of doing as much good as possible, with the assistance of rationality, it seems useful for EAs and the EA community to have an understanding of the historical challenges with rationality, as well as the importance of cultural evolution to human progress over the long-term future.

For what it's worth, I still have lots of open questions. But it seems like this book, and the review, both contain potentially important and under-discussed ideas.