Book Review – How to Actually Change Your Mind

If I had to point to one book of the six that compose AI to Zombies as the single most important, it would be How to Actually Change Your Mind. Without the ability this book strives to teach, true rationality is not possible – you’d simply believe whatever you were told first, and nevermind that ‘evidence’ stuff.

Leading off with what is possibly the single piece of writing that is my most linked, the book delves into the tools, tactics, and thought patterns that will enable you to truly entangle your beliefs with reality. Eliezer takes no prisoners in explaining what humility is really for, why lotteries are a waste of hope, and how false dilemmas sneakily try to get us to argue against (or for) limited option sets, constraining us from looking at how reality really is.

The next section digs into politics and rationality, with classics like Politics is the mind-killer and Reversed stupidity is not intelligence. The ancestral environment shaped us to have certainty all out of line with our evidence in dealing with political matters, and further, to have our emotions tightly tied to these discussions. This section closes with Human Evil and Muddled Thinking, a mighty argument that unclear thought is a key ingredient of human evil.

Following that, Against Rationalization talks about how we fool ourselves, how we turn fiction into facts and how we take only the tiniest steps forward, when shown that we must move. I think the ideas that most intrigued me in this chapter are in Motivated Stopping and Motivated Continuation. I recognized them in some of my past behavior, and having names for them has helped me over the years to recognize them happening, and stop it.

I could dig into the next few chapters, Seeing with Fresh Eyes, Death Spirals, and Letting Go, but honestly, I’d rather you go and read it yourself – it’s an excellent work that deserves its place in rationalist canon, and I can’t say enough good things about it (I do have other things to do, after all!). Go forth, acquire How to Actually Change Your Mind and become stronger!

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