Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Do you update or calibrate your beliefs?

One of the forms of excessive self regard is that you overrate your beliefs about the world, people, and ideologies, etc. Beliefs are good when they are right. You could not get anything done without them. Reality proves that most of your beliefs are right. Therefore, doing choices based on your beliefs make your life better. Unfortunately, you have to update or calibrate your beliefs in the modern world or you will lose the grasp of reality. To certain extent, this happens to all of us. It has happened to me, at least.

Belief formation is a simple process

You form your beliefs with a simple process. First, you hear or see something. Second, you choose to believe it. Of course, sometimes you choose to ignore it. Lets keep things simple and focus on things you have approved in your mind. Most of your beliefs have common sources. When you are young, some kind of authority figures are the first sources of your beliefs. Your parents, other family members, and teachers tell you what to believe. Sometimes your friends are your sources. No matter who the sources are, your ability to questionize them is poor. When you get older, the number of your sources grows. At some point, the number of sources starts to diminish.

Beliefs and reinforcing feedback loops

The longer you live, the higher the odds that you do not calibrate or update your beliefs. Your beliefs are hard to change because you process new data in a way that strengthens your existing beliefs. The validity of your beliefs are hard to questionize because your brain seeks the data that confirms your beliefs and ignore the data that questionize them. This process is a self-reinforcing feedback loopfeedback loop that keeps strengthening, until you disrupt it. The same reinforcing loop is at play when parents transfer their beliefs to their kids. This loop can continue centuries.

One of the misunderstandings about one´s beliefs is that the smarter you are, the better you are in changing your existing beliefs. The fact is a complete opposite. Even though smart people are better in processing data, they are also better in corrupting the data. They are better in finding people, research, and facts that support their point-of-view. They also have stronger beliefs because they can better explain themselves why their beliefs are the right. Therefore, they discard the evidence that contradict their beliefs even when it is right. If the data is in form of numbers, the better you are in twisting them to support your beliefs. Majority of the people who are less smart, have higher odds of changing their beliefs. Intuitively, this makes no sense to you at all. The smarter you are, the more useful it is to you to find other people who disconfirm your beliefs.

How to calibrate and update your beliefs

Most scientific facts have been proven wrong. In the course of history, things that have been certain in people´s mind, like earth being a centre of the universe, have changed to other facts. You have to be prepared to update your facts and beliefs when new facts contradict them. It is not a sin to change your beliefs. The biggest sin is to cling on your false beliefs after you have learned new data about them. Unfortunately, the complete opposite have higher odds of happening. When you get disconfirming data about your beliefs, your brain often clings on your beliefs even harder.

Sometimes facts do not change completely. Then, you have to calibrate and/or update your beliefs. If you want to do that, you have to first acknowledge the fact that most of your beliefs are not certain. Nothing in life is 100% sure or 100% wrong. Therefore, you have to define odds to everything. You have to think about how confident you are about anything. For example, you can be 99,999% confident that gravity exists or you can be be only 75% confident that you are qualified enough to do your job. You can also use a range of possibilities and put odds to the range. For example, you are 80% sure that your income will be something between 50,000$ and 75,000$ in five years.

One way to see if your beliefs or facts need updates and calibration is to check their long-term track records. For example, if you believe in socialism, find out how well it has worked in the history of mankind. After you have done your due process, ask yourself whether you have found proofs that it has worked before somewhere. If you have ways to measure the effects of your beliefs and facts on you, do it for a long time. Then think again if you have to update them or not. For example, if you have had a diet for a year, one way to see if it has worked is to measure your weight and/or the length of your waistline at least twice a year. Adjust your beliefs about your diet if you have to. You can also find out expert opinion about your beliefs or ask their critics to give you feedback about them.

This is all for now,

-TT

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