Saturday, February 11, 2023

The bet heuristic

Oftentimes when I'm struggling to determine personal belief about something I use a simple heuristic. It goes as follows: imagine the question or decision in the context of the bet. What are you betting? The entirety of your savings, skill, and material possessions. Your 401k, savings, your house and method of transport. You also lose the ability to readily and easily regain them, so you lose your skill. If you're a woodworker or pianist, you lose your hands. If you're a singer, you lose your voice. If you're a writer, your creative drive. You lose any ability for a bailout. Then, when you've accurately put yourself in this headspace, consider the initial question again.

The use of this heuristic is it cuts through self-deception and self-denial. Many deny the moon landing, claim the earth is flat, or believe that Hillary Clinton eats children. I imagine most would change swiftly with this level of skin in the game, and perhaps even only with it as a perspective. Though it can be used for serious decision making, the absurd examples are more fun to talk about.

I used this when considering the alien/Area 51 story of Bob Lazar. "Is Bob telling the truth?" Much of his story, personality, and demeanor lean toward credibility. He is intelligent. His rationale and reasons are well-constructed. It also helps if its an idea interesting, compelling, or personally fulfilling enough that I desire it to be true. When looked at it through the lens of the bet heuristic, the fuzzy, positive points get subdued and a more objective point of view emerges from the contrast. He has equally big issues against credibility, between sketchy college references, convenient migraines and running a whore house.

As compelling as his story is, I'd put money on Bob being a pathological liar. It's still an educated guess, but the heuristic helps me to my actual belief.

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