Knowledge is supposed to be the hand-maiden to informed action

The aim of epistemic rationality is not knowledge for its own sake, but knowledge gained in the service of instrumental rationality. We seek as accurate a view of the world around us as possible, so as we can make the best decisions as is possible for us to make.

That’s the idea, anyway.

Doesn’t always work out that way:

A massive storm exploded in intensity just off the south-east US coast on Sunday afternoon, driving hurricane-force winds and whipping waves into a frenzy. And in the middle of this monster storm was a cruise ship on its way to Florida – rocking, roiling and taking a major beating from the most powerful storm seen in the western Atlantic this northern hemisphere winter.

A large trough in the jet stream had been pushing towards the US east coast late last week. Then the storm deepened rapidly when it hit the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and blew up on satellite imagery. Meteorologists didn’t know what to follow on Sunday night, the Super Bowl or the strengthening storm.

Some compared it to Hurricane Isabel, which was fitting because on Sunday afternoon it was boasting 160km/h winds – the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane …

Somehow a cruise ship had steered its way into the storm: Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, a giant vessel which holds more than 4000 passengers. The ship was on its way from the New York City area to Port Canaveral, Florida, when it not only encountered the storm, but really sailed right into the heart of it.

What makes this story so inexplicable is that this storm has been in the forecast for days. Weather can be an uncertain science, but this was the one thing forecasters knew was going to happen early this week.

The great worry we have here at Stebbing-Heuer, and the reason for our writing this blog and setting up a business to help people improve their epistemic rationality, is to avoid these sort of outcomes. We’re really worried that the distractions and easy money of a technologically-advanced and fiat-money-credit-bubble civilisation is turning its citizens’ brains to mush.

Stories like this don’t do anything to make us doubt our hypothesis.

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About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
This entry was posted in Epistemic Rationality, Instrumental Rationality, Poor reasoning. Bookmark the permalink.

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