Rationality and Emotions

What does it mean to be rational?

Many might think of computers – pure logic. But I don’t think it’s about keeping your thinking emotion-free or being unempathetic. Instead, I subscribe more to how Eliezer Yudkovski describes rationality. In fact, he describes two types, epistemological and instrumental.

Epistemological rationality is all about truth. How accurate are your beliefs about the world?

Instrumental rationality is more goal-oriented and describes how to systematically achieve results.

You might notice that both those definitions don’t exclude emotions. In fact, if your intuition or emotional responses help you to achieve certain results or recognize truth, it’s absolutely rational to integrate them. Why then are emotions so often seen as the opposite of rational thought? Probably, because for most of us they are often terrible advisors to get results or see the truth.

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Masters, Connectors, and Teachers

Knowledge is the cornerstone of civilization. It’s what allows us to solve the constant stream of problems we face as individuals and in society. However, not everyone can be an expert at everything. Especially, with increasing depth of knowledge, specialization requires more time than before. One human lifetime is not enough to acquire even a significant part of the knowledge society collectively built. Luckily, we don’t have to. Solving the world’s problems is a team effort after all.

That’s why society has three implicit roles around collective knowledge acquisition. There are Masters, Connectors, and Teachers.

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Life Limitations

While you can have virtually anything you want, you can’t have everything you want.

Ray Dalio

I’ve been thinking a lot about limitations lately. While we’re often pretty good at avoiding facing our limitations we can’t deny that they’re there. And then there are times where we can’t escape them. Suddenly whole countries are under lockdown and our ability to move freely is severely limited. People cannot escape this and they get frustrated or angry.

The truth is that avoidance is the worst approach and getting frustrated a close second when it comes to dealing with limitations. Conscious consideration of them brings you closer to what you want in life. Only when you know what limits you can you chose to overcome them if you want and accept them if you must.

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