Surprised? Update your model.

In order to make predictions, your brain must have a model of reality. This model is necessarily much simpler than reality itself. To see why, imagine that you are about to drop a baseball from waist height. Your brain can't possibly know enough about the atoms composing that baseball and the air around it to simulate what will happen at the atomic level. And even if your brain did have accurate knowledge about the atoms, using information at such a fine a level of detail would be extremely comp...
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Finding Our False Beliefs

By definition, we believe that each of our beliefs is true. And yet, simultaneously, we must admit that some of our beliefs must be wrong. We can't possibly have gotten absolutely everything right. This becomes especially obvious when we consider the huge number of beliefs we have, the complexity of the world we live in, and the number of people who disagree with us. The trouble though is that we don't know which of our many beliefs are wrong. If we knew that, we should have stopped believing th...
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Keeping Ideas at a Distance Using Probability

We often talk about ideas by using phrases like "I believe X." But what do we mean when we say that we "believe" in an idea? Do we mean that we have 100% confidence that the idea is true? Let's hope not. Even statements that we all would say we very strongly believe, like "tomorrow the sun will rise", and "I am not a robot" we should not assign 100% probability to. While we can be very, very, very certain that the sun will rise tomorrow and that our brains are not computers, we cannot be abso...
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Truth Discernment Can be a Super Power

When we think of super powers, we usually consider things like invisibility, super strength and the ability to fly. Technology is bringing us closer to the realization of these dreams (for examples see invisibility, strength, flying). But there is a super power that has existed for much longer, which we might call "truth discernment". This is the ability to figure out what is likely to be true in hard, important, real world problems. There are difficult questions like the blue eyes logic puzz...
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What’s So Special About Your Own Beliefs?

Suppose that Tom and Sally have a disagreement over a factual question (as opposed to one of values or preferences). She claims that the argument he is making has errors or is unconvincing, but Tom feels the same way about her argument. They debate the question for an hour, but afterwords are still each adamantly convinced that his or her own reasoning is sound while the other person's is flawed. In this instance, is each person really more justified believing in his or her own belief than he or...
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