John Vervaeke on rationality, relevance realisation and insight

You have to shift away from a framing of decision theory or quantitative analysis, because the fundamental problem is overcoming an ill-defined problem to generate a well-posed problem—and then you can have a numerical analysis.

Relevance realisation: relevance is a property that is central to all cognition. We face a combinatorially explosive amount of information both outside of ourselves and within long term memory—there are so many possible ways we could connect and access. If you tried to calculate all that you would never finish. But we’re doing that right now. Somehow we ignore most of the irrelevant information, we shrink the problem space down so we are very often making the right connections, doing what’s appropriate in the situation. And you also have a capacity for correcting that.

I take the phenomenon of insight to be a case where you’ve done the shrinking of the problem, you’ve done the framing, but you’ve done it incorrectly, you’ve zeroed in on the wrong information. And then you have an aha”, you realise you were treating X as irrelevant when its not, or Y as relevant when its not. The process of relevance realisation is dynamic and self-correcting.

The relevance of a proposition is constantly varying even though logical structure is constant.

We have to drop to a bioeconomic level, pay attention to the cost of computation—not just metabolic but also economic, the opportunity cost imposed by the environment. The brain is always trying to evolve how it constrains the problem space. It does this by a process—we argue—analogous to evolution. Variation then selective pressure.

October 30, 2021