Trusting expertise

More on applied epistemology (which should just be called epistemology!) Here’s Holden Karnofsky of Open Philanthropy describing his process for “minimal-trust investigations”–basically trying to understand something yourself as close to from-the-ground-up as you can. Along the way he makes some very good points about social learning, i.e. how and when to trust others to reach accurate beliefs:

Over time, I’ve developed intuitions about how to decide whom to trust on what. For example, I think the ideal person to trust on topic X is someone who combines (a) obsessive dedication to topic X, with huge amounts of time poured into learning about it; (b) a tendency to do minimal-trust investigations themselves, when it comes to topic X; (c) a tendency to look at any given problem from multiple angles, rather than using a single framework, and hence an interest in basically every school of thought on topic X. (For example, if I’m deciding whom to trust about baseball predictions, I’d prefer someone who voraciously studies advanced baseball statistics and watches a huge number of baseball games, rather than someone who relies on one type of knowledge or the other.)

Here’s what I said on basically the same topic a while back:

You want to look for people who think clearly but with nuance (it’s easy to have one but not both), who seriously consider other perspectives, and who are self-critical.

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