Sunday, September 18, 2016

Taleb: "The Intellectual, Yet Idiot"

   I guess that post title is ambiguous...
   IMO it's important to draw distinctions among types of approval and disapproval. I've long thought that a good thing about being in relationships with other philosophers is that philosophers are more likely to be able to do that. Instead of just I love you or / and I hate you, they're better at saying--and thinking!--things like I disagree, but am not sure that I'm justified in disagreeing...or I am too angry about this issue to think clearly about it now, but I'm willing to put it to the side temporarily....or though I actually agree about this point, there's a different point that I really disagree with you about, and I can't focus on this issue until that one gets cleared up. When you're no good at doing that, everything gets reduced to you're right or your wrong, or I love you or I hate you
   Which brings me to stuff like this, and Taleb. How good is what Taleb actually writes? Meh. It's ok I guess. I'm really not sure. Or, rather: I kinda have no idea. Yeah...I don't know. BUT: I've recently become more and more sympathetic to the general point, and for some of the very reasons Taleb cites. And these matters have been on my mind a lot.
   I mean, look: most published medical studies may be false. Even many of the most famous and influential psychological studies can't be replicated. The nutrition advice that's been pushed on us for years seems to have encouraged us to do just about the opposite of what we should have been doing. Economics isn't looking so good, either. Data suggests that Supreme Court decisions are guided largely by political preferences rather than arguments. And when the vanguard of liberalism likes something and/or chooses a new cause, it's rarely long before some soft "science" crops up to support it. (This can be trivial, as when red wine became good for you, or more consequential as when brain-scan data appeared just in time to support the trendy theory of transgenderism.) 
   In short: I've become wary of certain experts, and of liberalism's tendency to highly-value certain types of expertise, especially when it impinges on social and political issues. 
  Add to this: there's data that stereotypes are (contrary to what we've been told our whole lives) pretty accurate. In fact, it seems, they are more accurate, on average, than psychological studies...
   What this all adds up to in my mind is roughly:
People like me have long had a tendency to accept the conclusions of experts rather than common folk, especially in the realm of policy. But it now seems rather clear that, in this realm, at least, the experts have less expertise than we thought they did. And the aggregate conclusions of ordinary people (who often, to gesture Taleb-ward, have skin in the game) may be more accurate than we thought. I'd add to this: the expert opinions rendered by the intelligentsia are--far from being objective deliverances of reason and rational methods--profoundly influenced by the generally liberal preferences of that group. (See, e.g., how quickly fashionable yet nearly incoherent theories of race and "gender," and "social construction" generally, have swept through our parts of the culture). Which is unsurprising given the former stuff: when rational methods are clear, effective, and easy to apply, they're more inclined to carry the day. The less-effective and murkier they are, the more wiggle-room there is, the more likely it is that other causes of belief will assert themselves.
   So I'm not sure how good the Taleb thing is overall, but I've reluctantly become sympathetic with the overall thrust of it.
   I was too lazy to put in any links.


Blogger The Mystic said...

That's a pretty arrogant article for someone who misidentifies circular reasoning.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Ha! I remember stumbling over that but just kept on reading without it quite registering...must be losin' my edge...

7:48 PM  

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