Julia Galef is co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality. She hosts Rationally Speaking, the official podcast of New York City Skeptics, which she has done since its inception in 2010, sharing the show with co-host and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci until 2015. She is the author of The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t.

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  • What is the scout mindset? “The motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish them to be.”
  • The Scout Mindset allows you to recognize when you were wrong, to seek out your blind spots, to test your assumptions and change course. It’s what prompts you to honestly ask yourself questions like “Was I at fault in that argument?” or “Is this risk really worth it?” As the physicist Richard Feynman said: “The first rule is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
  • The three prongs:
    • Realize that trust isn’t in conflict with your other goals
    • Learn tools that make it easier to see clearly
    • Appreciate the emotional rewards of scout mindset
  • She closes her TED talk with this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
    • “The biggest bottleneck is not knowledge. It’s motivation. You need to cultivate the motivation to see things clearly.”
  • “Julia Galef is an intellectual leader of the rationalist community, and in The Scout Mindset you will find an engaging, clearly written distillation of her very important accumulated wisdom on these topics.” — Tyler Cowen
  • We should assume that we are wrong. We need to build the skill to change our mind. “Our goal should be to be less wrong over time.”
  • How do you work on this?
    • The key principle is the way you think about being wrong. “Don’t accept the premise that being wrong means you screwed up.”
  • Jeff Bezos left his job on Wall Street to start Amazon and acknowledged the uncertainty. He estimated that his idea had about a 30% chance to work.
  • The Scout versus Soldier mindset:
    • A lot of times, humans are in a soldier mindset – “Belief was strong, unshakeable, opposed argument. A soldier is having to defend.”
    • Scout mindset – survey and see what’s true. Form an accurate map.
  • Practical application: Be cognizant how you seek out and respond to criticism.
    • Don’t ask leading questions. Recognize the tendency to describe the conflict accurately.
  • Also… Not all arguments are worth having. Show signals of good faith.
  • Distinguish between two kinds of confidence:
    • Social – Poised, charismatic, relaxed body language, be worth listening to
    • Epistemic – How much certainty that you have in your views
  • Persuade while still expressing uncertainty:
    • “I think there’s a 70% chance this won’t work.”
  • Lyndon Johnson – Need to understand why someone wouldn’t agree with you…
  • We are all the sum of our experiences… Approach people, places, and things with curiosity
  • Life/Career advice:
    • You’re creating a brand – Be conscious of the type of people you’re attracting. Work to attract those that make you a better version of yourself.
    • Make the choice to attract people who like intellectual honesty like Vitalik Buterin (founder of Ethereum)
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