thinking

Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?

Making Decisions

Decision making is a multi-faceted subject. It goes beyond just deciding yes or no. As the resources below will show you, there are a number of ways to make decisions optimally.

Behavioral Economics

Why do people do what they do? Behavioral economics seeks to combine economic theory and human behavior to answer why.

Daniel Kahneman is a giant in the field. Start with his work:

Nudging

We often think that we know what's best and it would be nice if we could just get people to see it our way. You can use subtle cues called "nudges" to push people towards what you want them to do.

Optimal Stopping

A niche area of decision theory is optimal stopping. Optimal stopping is meant to calculate the best point at which to stop seeking new choices and make a decision amongst your existing options. This is one of the few areas of mathematics where laypeople can understand the immediate significance of the concept.

Cognitive Biases

No one is perfectly rational. By recognizing your cognitive biases, you can counteract the hidden impairments to making good decisions.

Tools For Decision Making

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How to Get Rich (without getting lucky)

I love reading Naval Ravikant and listening to his podcast appearances. How to Get Rich (without getting lucky)

Specific knowledge is knowledge that you cannot be trained for. If society can train you, it can train someone else, and replace you. Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.
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Conspiracy Theorists

Conspiracy Theorists Aren’t Really Skeptics:

Conspiracy believers are the ultimate motivated skeptics. Their curse is that they apply this selective scrutiny not to the left or right, but to the mainstream. They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility.

Evaluating Information

Conspiracy theorists seem to be people who are uncomfortable with the unknown. Explanations for unexplainable things, no matter how outlandish, are better than the alternative. The alternative is to accept that things sometimes just happen. There isn't always an explanation.

While you're imputing a reason for things occurring, why not also impute intent? It's a 2 for 1 deal. That's why many conspiracy theories, e.g. Bohemian Grove, 9/11 truthers) also attribute the unexplainable to shadowy gov'ts or corps. But an entity can't simultaneously be so savvy as to commit mass crimes & so incompetent that they can be found out by yahoos on the Web.

In order to suss out explanations worth investigating:

  1. Look at the source. Is it known to be impartial & reliable?

    a. Next apply Occam's Razor and Hanlon's Razor.

    • Occam's Razor states that the hypothesis with fewest assumptions should be selected.
    • So, what's more plausible abt 9/11: that the gov't executed a secret plot to blow up the towers w/o anyone except Alex Jones knowing?
    • Or that terrorists took advantage of complacency and lack of communication within the intelligence community?

    b. Next, apply Hanlon's Razor, which says "Don't assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding."

    • To return to 9/11, is it more likely that the highest levels of gov't were evil schemers who blew up the Twin Towers?
    • Or, did 9/11 happen because intelligence agencies were siloed and didn't talk to each other?

Finally, it takes a really bleak view of humanity that people would be so evil as to perpetrate a national crime for personal benefit. Most people are good. We can't let the few bad apples taint our entire worldview.

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