Julia Galef

Applied Rationality

Do You Have The Scout Mindset And Yearn To See The World As Clearly As You Possibly Can?


Julia Galef. Applied Rationality. Do You Have The Scout Mindset And Yearn To See The World As Clearly As You Possibly Can? Photo of Julia.

Julia Galef - Introduction

Julia Galef describes herself as:

"...an author, podcaster, and speaker with a passion for good reasoning."

She is a writer and public speaker on the topics of rationality, science, technology, and design

She hosts "Rationally Speaking", the official podcast of New York City Skeptics and their bi-weekly podcast. As host she explores:

"...the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, and science and pseudoscience".

Massimo Pigliucci, who co-hosted Rationally Speaking during the show's first five years, now serves as an advisor to the program

Julia Galef is also co-founder of the "Center for Applied Rationality" [CFAR] a nonprofit organization devoted to helping people improve their reasoning and decision-making, particularly with the aim of addressing global problems. In it's mission statement CFAR sets out its stall:

"...human intelligence itself remains demonstrably imperfect and largely mysterious.

  • We suffer from biases that still influence us even after we know they’re there.
  • We make mistakes that we’ve made a dozen times before.
  • We jump to conclusions, make overconfident predictions, develop giant blindspots around ego and identity and social pressure, fail to follow through on our goals, turn opportunities for collaboration into antagonistic zero-sum games—and those are just the mistakes we notice.
  • Sometimes we manage to catch these mistakes before they happen—how?
  • Some people manage to reliably avoid some of these failure modes—how?
  • Where does good thinking come from? Good research? Good debate? Innovation? Attention to detail? Motivation?
  • How does one draw the appropriate balance between skepticism and credulity, or deliberation and execution, or self-discipline and self-sympathy?
  • How does one balance happiness against productivity, or the exploitation of known good strategies against the need to explore and find the next big breakthrough?
  • What are the blindspots that cause humans—even extremely moral and capable ones—to overlook giant, glaring problems, or to respond inappropriately or ineffectively to those problems, once recognized?

CFAR exists to try to make headway in this domain—the domain of understanding how human cognition already works, in practice, such that we can then start the process of making useful changes, such that we will be better positioned to solve the problems that really matter."

In my view this is an excellent summary of what Julia Galef stands for and is a passionate for which she is a passionate advocate.




    Julia Galef's contribution to this field is her articulate work on advancing the popularisation of applied rationality.










Julia Galef - The Scout Mindset

I first became aware of Julia Galef recently when I was undertaking research for an article on Improved Decision Making and I stumbled over a Ted talk she gave on two very different approaches to thinking.

She introduced the metaphor of soldiers and scouts.




    "Learn how to combat biases and make smarter decisions by adopting the scout mindset." [Julia Galef]



For most of us our default position is the 'soldier' mindset, where we protect our beliefs aggressively and are blind to any evidence that we just might be wrong.

Julia Galef suggests that for us to be right more often, our behaviour towards new ideas need to be more like a scout rather than a defending soldier.

A scout will do reconnaissance and survey lie of the land. A scout will seek accuracy and will endeavour to obtain fullest understanding of all of the available information - good and bad - to gain a picture that most reflects the truth.

In her presentation and upcoming book Julia shows you how to:

- gather information from multiple sources
- weigh up short and long term gains
- overcome inherent biases
- transcend tribal thinking
- avoid self-deception

She explores why our brains try to deceive us and reveals how we can overcome biases so that we make the right decision more often.

Here is how she closed her presentation:

"...if we really want to improve our judgment as individuals and as societies, what we need most is not more instruction in logic or rhetoric or probability or economics, even though those things are quite valuable.

But what we most need to use those principles well is scout mindset.

  • We need to change the way we feel.
  • We need to learn how to feel proud instead of ashamed when we notice we might have been wrong about something.
  • We need to learn how to feel intrigued instead of defensive when we encounter some information that contradicts our beliefs.

So the question I want to leave you with is":




    "What do you most yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs? Or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?" [Julia Galef]



Here is a synopsis  of her book "The Scout Mindset" together with reviews. Below is her Ted talk presentation about this.








How Does Julia Galef's Work Align With The Themes Of This Site?

Here are a number of touch points:






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