Bounded rationality

By | February 23, 2017

I know sometimes I seem to be anti-science here. I am not. There’s a reason my fifth grade teacher called me “Mr. Science” and it’s the same reason that I taught most of the science portions of her class that year.*

What I am is against the idea that science has ultimate explanatory power, and that it can be used as a guide to what sort of life to live.

It does not and can not.

At best it can serve an advisory role. What it absolutely can’t do is provide any sort of meaning to life, to determine ethics or morality, to allow one to discern what one should do in any situation.

Too many scientists and engineer types believe that they are the ultimate arbiters and interpreters of rationality and can decide with scientific tools the type of life other people should lead, all dictated by equations (that they’ve written, of course) on a page or in a computer.

The algorithmic rationalist view of the world that has brought us Facebook, mass surveillance, algo-drone bombing and soon much, much worse.

This view is so wrong as to be ludicrous, yet in all too many quarters this pseudo-rationality is the default one. Looking at the world any other way is seen as insane in those same quarters.

I reject this utterly. These people are dangerous, and furthermore they are just as injurious to human flourishing as the most ardent Islamist or Christian dominionist in the long run.

*Yes, I really did teach the science portion of 5th grade for nearly the entire year all while I was myself in 5th grade.