Being rational can make you happy!

We asked YOU at “Brave New Space” what idea you WANT TO SPREAD.
Attendees were invited to team up and submit together as a team their idea. To crown the event, one submitted idea card was blindly drawn and the lucky winners Anna Riedl and Matthias Brandner got the opportunity to talk on stage about their objective: The importance of being rational! We strongly felt that we want to know more about the concept of rationality. Lucky us, Anna and Matthias were up for giving us more inside into the world of rationality.


Vlad and Reka announcing Anna’s & Matthias’ idea.

Anna: „The first question, when talking about the importance of rationality, is: What do we mean by rationality? There are two parts: The first one is striving for a consistent perception of the world by updating your beliefs on evidence (= epistemic rationality). The second one is achieving your values and goals, which does not mean they have to be selfish – they even can be very altruistic (= instrumental rationality). And why exactly do we think this is important? If you have wrong beliefs about how the world is, this is obviously a problem. For example: If you believe there is chocolate in supermarket A, but there is none, you will go there to buy some, and will not be able to accomplish your goal of buying chocolate. Your wrong believe does not magically make chocolate appear, when there simply isn’t any. Therefore, the strategy that normally gives most control over reality is one where the ‘map’ is aligned to match the ‘territory’ as closely as possible. This way you can create accurate models and predict what will happen as a consequence of your actions. By the way: rationality does not exclude emotionsin any way and it is not the same as intelligence.“

Matthias: „As a professional poker player I have learned to use quite a few rational habits practically, a lot of which directly apply to a lot of common situations in life, thus making the practical impact of rational approaches evident. In particular that especially applies to having a far more reasonable stance in decision-making and handling outcomes of certain events. I have learned that chance plays a big role for single events – you can be very unlucky or lucky for a short amount of time. But on the long run, things will eventually approach its expected value. Every single action you do can actually be seen as a bet, since every possible outcome of your action has a certain probability of occuring. Given that you can somehow realistically estimate and optimize those, you can in general increase the expected value of your overall life and can strive for long-term success.“

Anna: „If you are now convinced, too, that rationality is important, you might ask yourself, how you can learn more about it. There are writings about decision theory, how biases work and fool our mind, rational habits, our two systems of cognition and many more exciting topics that you can read. There are also workshops and materials by the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR). The most popular online ressource probably is LessWrong and therefore the Sequences written by Eliezer Yudkowsky. He even wrote a fanfiction called >Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality<. Not to forget there are LessWrong Meetups organized all around the globe, where you can directly speak with other rationalists.“

Matthias: „We also have a local meetup here in Vienna. We meet once a month. Despite all the interesting topics we discuss there I personally enjoy it mostly because of the social aspect. There are exciting people and it is pretty pleasant to have shared basic beliefs about the world – or at least shared beliefs about how to think and assume about the world and shared words to reflect about these topics.“

Anna„Also it might be interesting, that the Giordano Bruno Foundation Austria will focus more on rationality in the future. But since we are still in the process of getting started I recommend the articles written by our colleagues from Switzerland about this topic. If you never have heard about the foundation you should also look at the internet
presence of the holding GBS organisation in Germany.“

Big thanks to Anna & Matthias for their wonderful enlightenment, time and openess to share their thoughts with us!

If you want to share your idea, let us know on twitter or facebook using #TEDxVienna 

Photo 1 image and drawing “map-territory-relation” by Anna Riedl
Photo 2
Photo 3 by Matthias Brandner & Anna Riedl


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About Lisa Landskron

Being a scientist in the field of molecular biology & leading the TEDxVienna Blogger team, Lisa loves to do biochemical as well as digital experiments to create and spread ideas.

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