Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A New (To Me) Concept: Bounded Rationality

I was reading the most recent issue of Adbusters while on break at Book Store the other night and I came across an article on economics that mentioned "bounded rationality." I'd never heard of it before, even though it's been around for a few decades. According to the Mighty Wikipedia,

bounded rationality is a concept based on the fact that rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make decisions.

This looks to me like "reality." Why it's interesting to me is that we don't like to acknowledge that our beliefs have flaws. All of them. When we're correct, it's mostly by accident. We never have all of the information, we aren't all omniscient geniuses, and we don't have enough time--even when we use what time we have well. This is a useful idea to me.

The problems I see with our discourse about belief (and this is what drives me to keep bringing it up) is that it's rarely discourse. It's not people coming together to consider what might be true. It's usually people aiming to convince everyone else that we're right and everyone else is wrong.

Well, that doesn't work for me. It doesn't work in a democracy, or a culture like ours, or in any meaningful dialogue. I'm here mostly to correct my own ignorance, my own prejudices, and my own hostilities.

We're all just satisficers. The only way we'll make better decisions and have truer beliefs is by acknowledging that and using reason properly, in the spirits of fairness and charity.

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