Yesterday I read a story about how cognitive diversity is dwindling. The author, Kensy Cooperrider, is a cognitive scientist.
Coincidentally, the previous day I had shared several passages by J.S. Mill on the connection between diversity and progress.
Since progress depends on diversity, it certainly is a problem for diversity to diminish. But it is also a problem for people to believe false things.
In this short video clip a coywolf is trotting down the street with a goose egg in her mouth. She happens to spot a roadkill so she puts the egg down.
It doesn’t take her long to decide that the roadkill is more useful than the goose egg…
Correctly ranking things by usefulness is what intelligence is all about.
For tens of thousands of years, as we fanned out across the globe, we adapted to radically different niches, and created new types of societies; in the process, we developed new practices, frameworks, technologies and conceptual systems. But then, some time in the past few centuries, we reached an inflection point. A peculiar cognitive toolkit that had been consolidated in the industrialising West began to gain global traction. Other tools were abandoned. Diversity started to ebb. — Kensy Cooperrider, What happens to cognitive diversity when everyone is more WEIRD?
I added this to my #jettison collection. My previous addition was…
“I would speculate that forgetting might be the default system of the brain,” Davis said at the neuroscience meeting. “We might have a slow chronic forgetting signal in our brains that basically says, ‘Let’s erase everything,’ unless a judge … comes to intervene and says, ‘This memory is worth saving.’” — Tom Siegfried, A Leaky Memory May Be a Good Thing
Memories aren’t equally useful.
There’s a limit to how many things we can mentally carry, just like there’s a limit to how many things we can physically carry.
Imagine all our ancestors deciding what things to carry before they migrated. They weren’t equally effective at physically carrying things. Neither were they equally effective at deciding what to carry. Voila! Here we are. We’re the most intelligent species because we’re also the most allocative species. Our exceptionally powerful brain is the logical consequence of our exceptionally allocative body.
Right now there are lots of different theories about why humans are exceptionally intelligent. This technically counts as cognitive diversity, but the problem is that all these other theories are wrong. We really don’t benefit from people carrying the wrong ideas.
To some extent I have tried to persuade people that my theory is the correct one, but there is a much bigger fish to fry.
When Cooperrider gave his story to Aeon, I doubt that he even thought about the fact that Aeon isn’t a market. The people who read his story do not have the opportunity to use their money to help determine its usefulness. As a result, it is going to be carried by too many, or too few, people.
The reason why Aeon isn’t a market is because virtually everybody underestimates the usefulness of markets. This problem is why virtually nobody knows the true cause of our intelligence.
This website, on the other hand, is a market. Anybody who reads this story does have the opportunity to spend their money on it. Except for me!!!
If I’m correctly estimating the usefulness of markets, then members of this website are going to make smarter carrying decisions than members of other websites.