Thursday, May 13, 2010

GCR Ch 5: Cognitive Biases Potentially Affecting Judgment of Global Risks

I read Global Catastrophic Risks not only to deepen my understanding of global risks, but also to find ways to practically do something about it. Hopefully, blogging about the chapters as I digest them will assist on both accounts.

“All else being equal, not many people would prefer to destroy the world. […] Therefore I suggest that if the Earth is destroyed, it will probably be a mistake.”

Eliezer Yudowsky goes on by describing mistakes in human reasoning and how flawed our intuition is. The heuristics we use to evaluate probabilities, form the basis for how we deal with all types of existential risk. Knowledge of human psychological flaws are therefore important as we shape agendas for risk prevention.

It is interesting to note that knowledge of these very biases and flaws does not make us much smarter. Research shows that when we compensate for our known biases, they are reduced by some 50% but never go away completely.

“It is a terribly frightening thing, but people do not become any smarter, just because the survival of humankind is at stake.”

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