Scout Mindset

The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef (2021) brings a positive, helpful metaphor to bear on the challenges of thinking better. Instead of cognitive biases, Galef explores the contrasts between what she calls the "Soldier Mindset" (decisiveness, persuasion, certainty, group membership) and the "Scout Mindset" that an individual can develop and encourage in others. Good Scout Mindset characteristics that Galef highlights include:

Galef notes the Bayesian value of being comfortable with uncertainty and of estimating the likelihood of events, then updating those estimates as new information comes in. She explains how a long shot can be a good bet if the payoff is large enough. In the metacognitive arena, she underscores the value of learning general principles that apply across many specific application domains. And above all, Galef suggests "hold your identity lightly" and instead of saying "I'm an X", try to say and think "I'm a person who agrees with many of the X ideas and positions". Beliefs are then contingent and subject to change.

Among the Scout Mindset tests that Galef suggests are:

Galef also recommends an "Ideological Turing Test": striving to explain a belief convincingly enough to be indistinguishable from a someone who holds that belief. By doing so, one can begin to understand both sides of an issue better, and perhaps help others (or oneself!) think more clearly.

Galef's final discussion touches upon a Scout Mindset society. She suggests that one "... aim to please the kind of people you'd most like to have around you, people who you respect and who motivate you to be a better version of yourself." She quotes philosopher Robert Nozick: "... it's a sign of confidence, intellectually, to not need to be certain about everything". [1]

Galef's conclusion:

Personally, I find all these aspects of scout mindset inspiring–the willingness to prize impact over identity; the confidence to be unconfident; the courage to face reality. But if I were to name one single facet I find most inspiring, it's the idea of being intellectually honorable: wanting the truth to win out, and putting that principle above your own ego.

(cf Deliberate Opinion (2001-10-14), Universal Flourishing (2001-12-25), Light Mind (2002-08-22), Think Better - Three Keys (2019-06-25), ...) - ^z - 2021-11-14