Sunday, April 19, 2009

Overcoming Bias and Learning from the WWW

continuation of "The Web Is Still Not Adequate for Serious Study"

The theme of Overcoming Bias is more comprehensive than the name suggests. It is about improving, or at least not dis-improving, the future. Overcoming bias is only one of the means it discusses. Transhumanism, idea futures, friendly AI, all fit neatly into this more inclusive theme.

Robin Hanson writes about textbooks for satisfying reading in a comment to
Recommended Rationalist Reading.
"My general advice for undervalued reading: textbooks. Go to your nearest college bookstore, sit in the aisles, and browse and read textbooks on your main subjects of interest. Until you've read and understood textbooks, why bother with anything else?"
- - Posted by: Robin Hanson | October 01, 2007 at 07:36 PM

The WWW is diametrically opposed to that sort of reading and learning. Like television, but even more so because you are interacting with it, it encourages a scatterring of attention. Bored, or don't feel like working out the meaning of a difficult section? Click a link or Google a keyword - maybe you'll find an easier explanation, but at least you won't have to keep working at it.

I don't agree with much in Steve Talbott's book The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in Our Midst, but he has a few good ideas, that's where I originally saw the "scattering of attention" criticism.

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