Monday, 23 April 2012

How Monkeys Mirror Human Irrationality


Marcus Morgan said...

Very good talk. Overcoming our biases is what the scientific method is intended to overcome. It is interesting that it might also be considered something that impedes free will, and yet as with the scientific method, we can explore it and allow for it as much as possible by the very exercise of free will to do so. I agree with the presenter's optimism there, for those reasons.

However, I would not merely say it is an evolutionary inevitability (as that is not explanatory). I might relate it to satisfaction with a status quo, and the fact that we always hang on tight to where we are initially. We apply a burden of proof to any change to that status quo we might contemplate. This is also the basis for skepticism and legal burdens of proof.

Monkeys with a choice of change up to more grapes apply the burden against change, to a 'smooth' new status quo (compromise) rather than 'wild' change involving risk. They are already happy. With a choice of change down, they resist the change down if possible by wild risk, because they don’t want to be unhappy. It is their response to a change to current satisfaction that must be accounted for. More is less important than less.

Indeed, in Hume, I tend to see an "is" as a porocess of maintaining the status quo unless confronted by another "is", at which point they must stop comfortable coasting and deal with resolving what "ought" be the case. It is like particles in physics: "is" as inertia changed by impact to become a different "is" by settlement of "oughts" from the impacting "is's".

Marcus Morgan said...

Extending the above ideas, they might also relate to the fact that the future is unknown and one proceeds cautiously (accumulating), while the past is known and one has knowledge of real losses (losing) as a motive to avoid slipping back. They might even be consistent with the evolutionary process, as future selection will operate as it may and the organism is cautious moving forward, but with a more complete aversion to regression. In economics, fear of loss would be more important than hope of gain, and perhaps socially too.