Cognitive prejudices shape us beautifully and tragically
If you could only access a single URL on the web, which one would it be? Not something like Google or YouTube, but a single static URL – youtube.com/[some specific video]. I thought about it earlier today, and my initial framework was, “Which side is doing the most complex task that I couldn’t do myself?” I imagined that optimizing for absolute computing power would be the right angle. It took a minute or two, but I realized that this was completely backwards and that I should try to figure out what content is most effective for another type of computing power, namely my own brain.
That flip took me back to a page that I absolutely love and that I want to visit quarterly when I want to laugh at myself: Wikipedia’s List of Cognitive Biases.
“A cognitive bias is a systematic mistake of reasoning that occurs when people process and interpret information in the world around them and influence the decisions and judgments they make.” – VeryWellMind
When I check this list regularly (and read Robert Cialdini’s Influence, one of my favorite books), I keep patting my forehead about how beautiful and stupid we humans are. Anchor preload? Guilty (maybe this post is an example!). Survival bias? Twice last week that I can remember. And so it continues.
Then I wonder what role technology is playing in helping us with these prejudices and how it works in two different ways. The first is essentially giving up more of our agency and outsourcing an increasing number of our decisions to AI. The second is some kind of eavesdropping device (our phone, our watch, our nerd AR glasses) that notices when we say something that fits a cognitive inclination and sends an alert to help us rethink it. In all honesty, * both * are a little bit crazy about me, but is it really stranger than me to reread this Wikipedia list often and try to break free of these prejudices manually?
I’m sure we all have a personal redline about things we would automate and things we wouldn’t. We might like the idea of ”last mile” control – for example, we’re happy when a dating app gives us top 10 profiles that they think are a good fit, but we’d rather pick the ones with which we want to connect as the same app that sets us up with one of the 10. I wonder if these “redlines” are cross-generational (ie younger people trust the computer more or less than I do), culturally, demographically, or more firmly. Ultimately, we are all the sum of our cognitive prejudices.
Notes and more
It’s inspiring to see vaccinations being introduced, but part of me is wondering if the prioritization framework is actually slowing us down. Whether the risk group should be accompanied by targets for the absolute number of shots fired and the fastest route to herd immunity. I’m not advocating for myself – I would love to be in the last cohort of shots if we could get there asap.
📦 Things i enjoy
Customize HBO’s Watchmen which was great. What should i see next Goldbelly is my socially distant MVP – we order BBQ in a different place every couple of weeks. These are the KN95 masks I used, although there are now a number of different masks in stock thankfully. Mask yourself!
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