Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Novelty of Non-Anthropomorphic Reasoning

The first time I read a basic description of cognitive biases I laughed. Like the jokes of a good observational comic, they pointed out so many of my bad habits, and others that I didn't even know I had. I saw how a subtle change in perspective could instantly clarify some results of my decision-making that I once found baffling, and recognized the ridiculousness of many behaviors that I had always carried out thoughtlessly. On the other hand, part of the amusement I felt was from encountering a fascinating new idea. When I first began noticing the effect of these biases, it was almost as if I was thinking with a part of my mind that I had never used before. I had another similar experience when I first began considering possible artificial intelligences whose cognitive architectures are not based on our own. For example, the instinct to punch back if one is unexpectedly punched is actually a very complex and non-obvious response, however automatic it might seem. It's been said that a function of humor is to help assimilate unusual ideas or events into our minds. Perhaps laughing at yourself might help provide a gentle introduction to the serious business of resisting your own mental biases.

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