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Tank General

general, Thinkingtanks.com

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Are humans irrational? If so, how can we build stronger institutions to compensate for human shortcomings in rationality?

David Ropeik argues that "The brain is only the organ for which we think we think. It's job is not to win noble prizes. And to pass math tests. It's job is to get us tomorrow. Its a survival mechanism.. and it plays a lot of tricks in order to get us to tomorrow. That worked pretty well when the risks were lions and tigers and bears… Its not as good when we need to rationalize and reason and use the facts more with the complicated risks we face in a modern age: climate change, genetically modified food, and unsustainable living on the planet.. That takes a lot more thinking. More cognitive, slow,more effortful thinking. That we are not instinctively built that way must be recognized if we are going to get beyond the risk of not being built that way."


Dan Ariely provides further evidence that humans have irrational cognitive thought in his TedTalk and offers the following, "If we have these predictable, repeatable mistakes in vision, some thing that we are good at, what's the chance that we don't make more mistakes at something we're not as good at? For example financial decision making. Something we don't have an evolutionary reason to do, we don't have a specialized part of the brain, and we don't do that many parts of the day. The argument is that in those cases we make many more mistakes.."

In another TedTalk Dan Ariely provides the following food for thought, "Are we superman or are we Homer Simpson? When it comes to building the physical world we understand our limitations and we build around it. But for some reason when it comes to the mental world when we design things like healthcare, retirement, and the stock market we somehow forget the idea that we are limited. And i think if we understood our cognitive limitations in the same way that we understand our physical limitations we could design a better world."

Do you agree with them? How do we better structure institutions that can compensate for our shortcoming?


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    Nov 17 2012: This is the most important question that the human race faces and it is due to become a survival issue for many of us and our children within the next 50 years or less.

    Yes we are 'irrational' in the sense that we are social animals driven mainly by cultural and social instincts. Our thinking and sentient ability is an add-on to our essential nature.

    We have yet to understand the importance of Nature's relentless path in creating us. We are still very much children trying to survive against Natures awesome power - 4 billions years of success.

    I don't believe humans are limited, we are hampered by Nature's quest for survival and are still just pawns. Natures cares not a jot if most of us disappear, Natures course is simply onward and upward and in the process it is very likely that Nature will create improved humans (just a few) that should enhance Nature's chance of continuing her upward path. If not then again Nature's cares not and with infinite patience she will nurture other species with her relentless probability of survival function.


    Can we create improved structures to help with our irrationality? But this is a circular argument - yes if we were able to plan rationally - but the very socio-political structures we now have (across the world) prevent this happening. It does look like things will get very messy before (and if) we finally are forced to adapt culturally.




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