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Map and Territory

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If you live in an urban area, you probably don’t need to walk very far to find a martial arts dojo.

Why aren’t there dojos that teach rationality?

Very recently—in just the last few decades—the human species has acquired a great deal of new knowledge about human rationality. Experimental investigations of empirical human psychology; and theoretical probability theory to interpret what our experiments tell us; and evolutionary theory to explain the conclusions. These fields give us new focusing lenses through which to view the landscape of our own minds. We have a shared vocabulary in which to describe problems and solutions. Humanity may finally be ready to synthesize the martial art of mind: to refine, share, systematize, and pass on techniques of personal rationality.

When human brains try to do things, they can run into some very strange problems. Self-deception, confirmation bias, magical thinking—it sometimes seems our ingenuity is boundless when it comes to shooting ourselves in the foot.

In Map and Territory, decision theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky asks what a “martial art” of rationality would look like, beginning with the basic fighting stance—the orientation toward the world that lets us get the most bang for our cognitive buck, that best positions us to understand and react to brains’ strange acts of self-destruction.

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