Wednesday, February 16, 2022


Two bits from Pinker:

If you know you are right, why should you try to persuade others through reason? Why not just strengthen solidarity within your coalition and mobilize it to fight for justice? One reason is that you would be inviting questions such as: are you infallible? Are you certain that you're right about everything? If so what makes you different from your opponents, we're also certain they are right? And from authorities throughout history who insisted they were right but who we now know were wrong? ...

The optimal rate at which the discount the future is a problem that we face not just as individuals but as societies, as we decide how much public wealth we should spend benefit our older selves and future generations. Discount it we must. It's not only that a current sacrifice would be in vain if an asteroid sends us the way of the dinosaurs. It's also that our ignorance of what the future will bring, including advances in technology, grows exponentially the farther out we plan. It would have made little sense for our ancestors a century ago to have scrimped for our benefit - say, diverting money from schools and roads to a stockpile of iron lungs to prepare for a polio epidemic - given that we're six times richer and have solved some of their problems while facing new ones they could not have dreamed of.

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