If You Want to Know How Things Are in Reality

Kaj Sotala, a self-described pursuer of truth, a few years ago offered some tips for those who want to "know how things are in reality." Excerpts below with my bolded highlights:

* Study things from as many points of view as possible, and try to understand as many models of thought as you can. This way, you can better understand the behavior of other people, and how people can think in ways that seem incomprehensible to you. If an atheist, talk to religious people until you understand them well enough not to consider them silly; if religious, talk to atheists until you understand them in the same way….

* Recognize your fallibility. Realize that in a quest for the truth, your own biases become your worst enemy. To defeat your enemy you must understand it, so set forth on studying it….Find the time to peruse articles like Wikipedia's list of cognitive biases and Cognitive Biases Potentially Affecting Judgment of Global Risks. In your interdisciplinary studies, especially emphasize the sciences that help you in understanding and combating your bias, and the ones that allow you to think clearly – in his Twelve Virtues of Rationality (which is required reading for you), Eliezer Yudkowsky recommends evolutionary psychology, heuristics and biases, social psychology, probability theory and decision theory….

* Discuss the same subjects repeatedly, even with the same people. If you are losing a debate but still cannot admit you're wrong, ask for time to ponder upon it. Decide if your hesitation was you being too caught up in the defense of a topic, in which case you only need time to get over it and accept your opponent's arguments, or because there was more relevant information in your mind that you couldn't recall at the moment, in which case you need time for your subconsciousness to bring them to your mind….

* Avoid certainty, and of all people, be the harshest on yourself. 80% of drivers thinks they belong in the top 30% of all drivers, and even people aware of cognitive biases often seem to think those biases don't apply to them. People tend to find in ambiguous texts the points that support their opinions, while discounting the ones that disagree with them. Question yourself, and recognize that if you want your theories to find the truth, you can never be the only one to evaluate them….Meditate on the mantra of "nothing is impossible, only extremely unlikely". Think of the world in terms of probabilities, not certainties.

Here is Kaj's post on his personal values. Here is his "About Me" page on his personal web site where, in addition to basic factual information, he lists his one-paragraph stance on free will, ethics, rationality, love, religion, copyright, distribution of wealth, and medical regulation.

He is 24 years-old. For gender he writes: To paraphrase rm: "If there are men and women, then I'm a man. If there are men, women and transsexuals, then I'm a man. If there are men, women, transsexuals and something else, then I am something else."

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