Will Tyler Tell?

Bryan Caplan:

Book projects I wish my other colleagues would pursue. …  Tyler Cowen should write that I call a “book of answers” with the working title Social Intelligence: What I Know About People That You Don’t. The key point of departure: The goal of the book is not to “get readers to ask themselves questions,” but to convey definite answers that Tyler defends without irony.  If you think this goes against his nature, I’ve seen him do this many times first-hand – just not in print.

Yep.  If you want to predict what real people will do, or explain why they do what they do, I know of no better person to ask than Tyler Cowen.  There’s no great rush, and Tyler has many other ways to spend his time, but the world will suffer a great loss if Tyler does not publish his concrete penetrating insight in a coherent organized form.  I’m not at all sure the world will reward him on net for such honesty, but it would still be his greatest contribution.  (Bryan’s advice for me here.)

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  • Where can I find out more about Tyler’s ideas? What exactly are we talking about here – ordinary people’s hidden motivations?

  • Bryan proposes Robin explain the problem of disagreement – and answers all the attempts to explain away the problem.

    I am not sure I can see the problem. People mostly disagree because they have different goals from one another. Updating each others beliefs often fails because agents want to signal their confidence in their own views to others by appearing to be unwavering, in order to manipulate them. Updating each others beliefs also sometimes fail because this is time-consuming – and the agents are poorly motivated to update the views of others.

    If there’s a big mystery here, I am not sure I can see it. Attempts to explain the mystery often start off by assuming that the agents concerned are honest, truth seeing, truth-spreading agents. That’s the problem, right there.

    • Non-truth-seeking is a much easier theory to have of other people than of yourself.

      • WillJ

        Truth-seeking is a much easier theory to have of yourself than of other people.

      • I don’t see why. People are just not made with seeking the truth in mind. According to evolutionary biology 101, they are made to generate descendants. It’s a whole different problem. Truth seeking – when it happens is pretty-much an incidental byproduct.

  • Any theory on why Tyler has this ability? His voracious reading (fiction and non-fiction–fiction I believe is linked with empathy) as well as his chess background (learning to anticipate others, learning how chessmasters think) strike me as possibly useful places to look.

    • jay

      It’s likely because he’s got wicked aspergers but has enough extra brain processes to compensate by constant analysis. Over the years he has internalized an ability to make predictions about people.

      This ability is not developed in the average person because their intuition is largely embedded, not constructed.

      That’s my theory anyway. Speaking from experience, obviously.

      • Quite interesting! Not implausible given “Create Your Own Economy”–Sherlock Holmes comes to mind when thinking about Cowen’s reputed predictive abilities about people!

  • Aron

    “I’m not at all sure the world will reward him on net for such honesty, but it would still be his greatest contribution. ”

    Because the net intelligence of the world is garbage?