Re: How rational is nonconformity?

Robert Schrader (
Sun, 30 Mar 1997 20:02:58 -0800 (PST)

On Sun, 30 Mar 1997, Carl Feynman wrote:

> Robin Hanson wrote:
> >the
> >fact that you make final decisions is irrelevant to the weight you
> >should give to the opinions of others. This weight can be objectively
> >calculated in principle, and is typically large
> Like most things about the mind, the weight one gives to the opinions of
> others (let's call it "swayability") is determined partly by evolution,
> partly by culture, and partly by individual reason and experience. We can
> disagree about what weight to assign to these three components. However, if
> there is any significant evolutionary component, I would suspect that it
> would push people in the direction of lower swayability than is rational
> under current circumstances.
> Under the hunter-gatherer conditions in which our ancestors lived for the
> past seven million years, a typical person only knew a hundred or so other
> people. Half of those were kids, and half the adults were stupider than
> average. The chance of coming up with a good idea that nobody else had
> thought of was much higher than it is today. Thus, the likely reward of
> doing something most people thought was a bad idea was bigger than it is now.

I like this type of analysis. But I don't know that the conclusion is quite
justified. I see two problems: 1) One does not have to come up with an
idea that is better than /everybody/ else's, just an idea that is better
than one's local peers for evolution to function. 2) Usable-idea space
is so much larger now than then, the proportions may actually be the
reverse of what you suggest.

Robert Schrader