The Philosopher's Toolkit

I took this Great Course as part of the Gentleman Scholar.

Chapter 10: Simple Heuristics that Make Us Smart

A heuristic is basically a rule of thumb; it's a way for people to reason about new things. One simple heuristic is the recognition heuristic: select towards things that you recognize. This works if you don't have too much knowledge on the topic, otherwise your knowledge may get in the way. Another heuristic the wisdom of crowds, which works if the crowd's ignorance on the subject is random, rather than systemic. Emotions, or gut instinct, can provide useful heuristics for quick decisions. Another heuristic for quick decision making is "satisficing" in which we identify some realistic (SMART) goals, and figure out how to accomplish those goals. The idea is to look for "good enough," not perfect. Von Neumann was known for memorizing equations and formulae for many different areas to build heuristics to help identify patterns. This works because it turns out that ideas that work in one area are often found to work in other areas.