Our Way Of Thinking Cannot Be Set In Stone

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Julia Galef: Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong

Julia Galef co-founded the Center for Applied Rationality, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping people improve their reasoning and decision-making, particularly with the aim of addressing global problems. Julia’s background is originally in statistics, and she did social science research at Columbia and Harvard Business Schools for several years before becoming a writer for venues such as Slate, Science, Scientific American and more. For the last six years, Julia has hosted the Rationally Speaking podcast.

  • Motivated reasoning is caused by unconscious motivations, our desires and fears, shape the way we interpret information. Some information, some ideas, feel like our allies. We want them to win. We want to defend them. And other information or ideas are the enemy, and we want to shoot them down.
  • Our judgment is strongly influenced, unconsciously, by which side we want to win. And this is ubiquitous.This shapes how we think about our health, our relationships, how we decide how to vote, what we consider fair or ethical.
  • “Scout mindset.” It’s the drive not to make one idea win or another lose, but just to see what’s really there as honestly and accurately as you can, even if it’s not pretty or convenient or pleasant.
  • If we really want to improve our judgment as individuals and as societies, what we need most is not more instruction in logic or rhetoric or probability or economics, even though those things are quite valuable.


Blaise Agüera y Arcas: How computers are learning to be creative

Blaise Agüera y Arcas is principal scientist at Google, where he leads a team working on machine intelligence for mobile devices. His group works extensively with deep neural nets for machine perception and distributed learning, and it also investigates so-called “connectomics” research, assessing maps of connections within the brain. He joined Microsoft when Seadragon was acquired by Live Labs in 2006. Shortly after the acquisition of Seadragon, Agüera y Arcas directed his team in a collaboration with Microsoft Research and the University of Washington, leading to the first public previews of Photosynth several months later. His TED Talk on Seadragon and Photosynth in 2007 is rated one of TED’s “most jaw-dropping.” He returned to TED in 2010 to demo Bing’s augmented reality maps.

  • The flip side of perception is creativity: turning a concept into something out there into the world. Perception, the process by which things out there in the world -sounds and images — can turn into concepts in the mind.
  • Perception and creativity are very intimately connected. What we’ve created are neural networks that are entirely trained to discriminate, or to recognize different things in the world, able to be run in reverse, to generate.
  • Computing began as an exercise in designing intelligent machinery. It was very much modeled after the idea of how could we make machines intelligent. And we finally are starting to fulfill now some of the promises of those early pioneers. From the beginning, we modeled them after our minds. And they give us both the ability to understand our own minds better and to extend them.


Tom Hulme: What can we learn from shortcuts?

Tom Hulme is currently a general partner at GV where he invests in high growth technology companies; he also occasionally works with GV’s extensive design team to keep his design muscles working.

Hulme is also an advisor to IDEO, where he was previously a design director. There, he founded OpenIDEO, an open innovation platform where more than 150,000 users from more than 170 countries solve challenges for social good. He also launched OIEngine, a SaaS platform with clients including Harvard Business School and the Knight Foundation.

Hulme has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and has been featured in WIRED UK’s Top 100 Digital Power Brokers every year. He has also been included in the Evening Standard list of London’s 1000 Most Influential People.

  • Shortcut is called a desire path, and it’s often the path of least resistance. I find them fascinating,because they’re often the point where design and user experience diverge.
  • People are resourceful. They’ll always find the low-friction route to save money, save time. it can be incredibly efficient to launch something to spot the desire paths.
  • Design for real needs and design them in low friction, because if you don’t offer them in low friction, someone else will, often the customer.