"Rationality" by Steven Pinker

Review by Borodutch

After finishing Eliezer's "Rationality" (here's my review), this book reads as a relaxed easy-to-swallow non-fiction. Having learnt most of the concepts from Yudkowsky, the work of Pinker seems to be repeating the same postulates. However, if one would ask me what book on rationality to read, I would recommend Pinker's manuscript seven days a week.

First, the author emphasizes that all humans sometimes act irrationally, and the best tool we came up with to combat this is institutions. Humans don't want to learn "unnecessary" subjects, so here are schools. We love to give way to our biases when researching and pick an easy answer over a truthful one, so here're peer reviews. We'd love to seize whatever our neighbour has to make our tribe more prosperous, so here're police officers and courts.

Second, I also liked how Steven put a spin on why irrationality makes evolutionary sense. Humans are social and can't survive well outside of groups. Groups are based on heuristic judgement to drive faster (yet educated in the context) choices about members. Hence, people who adhered to sometimes irrationally wrong heuristics were retained, and the ones who defied the group laws got kicked out. Thus, irrationality became a must-have to stay in the group and survive.

Third, Pinker tries to advise on how to use irrationality in everyday life. We are all children inside, rationality-wise. What's the best way to prevent a child from eating all the candies in the house? Not having sweets in the house in the first place. Treat our irrational parts as children, and everything will be ok.

The author mentions rationality tools like Bayes' Theorem and the most major cognitive biases and logical fallacies throughout the book. If you have never heard about these, you will be amazed and won't know how to live without these tools later. Overall, it's a great book I'd recommend everyone to read — unless you've already spent 50 hours of your life (like I did) on Yudkowsy's "Rationality"!