Learning philosophy with the New York Times

4 Apr 2011

From David Brooks' summary of a symposium organized by Edge.org on "What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?"

Path Dependence
Decisions for any circumstance is limited by decisions taken in the past, even though past circumstances may not be relevant anymore.
“something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.”

Einstellung Effect
Predisposition to solve problems based on past experiences rather than approaching each problem individually.
the idea that we often try to solve problems by using solutions that worked in the past instead of looking at each situation on its own terms. This effect is especially powerful in foreign affairs, where each new conflict is viewed through the prism of Vietnam or Munich or the cold war or Iraq.

Focusing Illusion
Bias that occurs when one aspect of an event is given too much importance, thereby affecting the accuracy of the predicted future outcome.
“nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.”

Supervenience
This is one of the harder ones. Supervene literally means to take place or occur as something additional or extraneous.
In essence it means, to be dependent on a set of facts or properties in such a way that change can occur only after change has occurred in those facts or properties.
Imagine a picture on a computer screen of a dog sitting in a rowboat. It can be described as a picture of a dog, but at a different level it can be described as an arrangement of pixels and colors. The relationship between the two levels is asymmetric. The same image can be displayed at different sizes with different pixels. The high-level properties (dogness) supervene the low-level properties (pixels).

Fundamental Attribution Error
Wikipedia explains it as the 'tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors.'
Don’t try to explain by character traits behavior that is better explained by context.

Emergence (Concept)
Ah! The easiest way to understand emergence is through fractals. It is basically, the way how complex systems arise from simple interactions.