2012 September 09 Sunday
How To Compensate For Dunning Kruger Effect In Democracy?
The biggest problem with democracy is the Dunning Kruger Effect: Incompetent people aren't smart enough to recognize their own incompetence The problem of incompetence is a growing concern of mine as I expect American society's competence to decline. This thought keeps bringing me back to the Dunning Kruger Effect: the incompetent aren't competent enough to recognize their own incompetence. When such a large fraction of the population can vote and become government employees how to at least partially mitigate the effects of all these incompetents making bad decisions?
DAVID DUNNING: If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is. In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer. And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas. And to our astonishment, it was very, very true.
To understand reality requires a pretty high IQ. But the vast majority of people lack IQs high enough to make sense of the world. They are able to live and function in industrialized societies because a fairly small fraction of the population can create and maintain the complexity that everyone else benefits from. Yet less competent ones end up with power and they make bad decisions with the support of even less competent masses. What to do?
Since cluelessness is a bigger problem than self-deception and self-deception is a bigger problem than denial the idea that we can reason with nutcases on the Right or the Left is just not realistic. The rhetoric spewed by members of both parties during every election (like now) serves as a reminder of just how clueless people are. I'm not just talking about the masses. I'm also talking about major popular politicians, pundits, and reporters. Even academics in less rigorous and demanding fields are too innumerate and flawed in their methods of reasoning.
The Alt Right needs to come up with policy ideas aimed at reducing the damage that comes from pervasive incompetence. Got any ideas?
"To understand reality requires a pretty high IQ. But the vast majority of people lack IQs high enough to make sense of the world"
Tell me about it. About 84% of people all over the world still believe in some sort of a god or supernatural invisible powerful being. Religious dogma whether it be Christianity, Islam, Patriotism, Nationalism, Capitalism, Socialism or Republicanism is still a very important part of lower IQs' lives.
Dunning writes: "But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is."
This isn't completely wrong but it is wrong.
Reductio ad absurdum: When you do something stupid that causes you to lose a limb, you can still be stupid and recognize that you did something very very wrong. Indeed, if someone says to you "Don't do that, you might lose a limb!" and then you do it and lose a limb, you might even come to the conclusion that you should have listened. Now, having said that, there are classes of stupidity that neutralize even this limited ability -- but to call that kind of bull-headed stupidity the same as a bad decision tree is obviously incorrect.
"Got any ideas?"
Create organizations to identify young, charismatic Alt Right geniuses who could be persuaded to build a career in politics if they knew they'd have the right backing.
Building a better politician would be simplistic. A young Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg could probably have been persuaded to be groomed to be nation-leading politicians. Having a shot at the presidency isn't THAT bad. Compare them to standard, obviously low-human-potential people like Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin. You could even find young minority women, and then you'd have the ultimate trump card.
The easiest way: recruit undergrads at Stanford and Harvard so you can put them on the path to the presidency instead of the path to getting a Ph.D. or working at Google. (Many geniuses don't go to elite schools, but that's the easiest way to identify them.)
"Incompetent people aren't smart enough to recognize their own incompetence "
I think Donald Rumsfeld is a very smart man. He used his formidable intellect to defend an incompetently run war. People with high IQs and dumb ideas are the cause of our troubles. People with low IQs have little input into government decisions.
" But the vast majority of people lack IQs high enough to make sense of the world. "
Newton became broke from investing in the South Sea Bubble. Do you think Newton lacked a high enough IQ to make sense of the world? I think Newton had one of the highest IQs of anyone but greed overpowered his intellect.
I disregard the Dunning Kruger effect as naive at best and blatantly self excusing at worst: does the outcome really change if people actually know their incompetence? Not at all. It merely shifts from "oh I got a desk at strategic planning I gotta do this quite well" to "ok I know nothing about this shit, does it matter as long as I'm receiving the check?".
I suspect that most of what economics classify as irrationality or cognitive bias at everyone's interest actually belongs to perfect rationality in self interest and I'm not against that, but against creating positions which power that assume the former rather than the later.
A very good example of the voters in this country. While their are a number of informed voters, I believe there are more, possibly 3 to 1, voters that are just like what you have described here. Democracy fails when the people come to understand that they can just vote themselves rich. We argue and debate about showing I.D. when voting. Maybe we should have a debate on passing a simple test like "can you tell me what are the issues and who are the candidates running" before you are handed your ballot.