Why thinking in probabilities is essential when adopting logic
Note: Take the time to read until the end. A lot of people unclicked because they lacked this specific insight, it is really important to take this seriously.
If a premise is logical and a premise that builds on top of the previous premise is illogical, then our brain will automatically label both premises as illogical and connect a negative emotion to it.
Our inner child cuts corners in trying to understand the world because he sees everything as deterministic. Therefore, when looking at a specific situation where x happens because of y, he creates a connection between both, even if it makes no sense to do so.
Even when we adopt logic as our core value, we can still have flawed ideas and behave in illogical ways. Thinking that everything is deterministic rather than probabilistic is one of those ideas.
We can connect probabilities to thoughts
We have crazy potential to delude ourselves and this can be quite detrimental when we don’t notice it. The way our brain works is very simple. When we think, we connect an emotion to the thought.
When Athene says: “I am the most intelligent person in the world”, he is merely taking advantage of how the brain stores information. People can get incredibly triggered due to their emotion connected with the “intelligence” concept.
Everyone thinks they understand what “intelligence” is, but different people often actually have different definitions. Despite that, the same emotion is connected to the concept. Then, when Athene redefines “intelligence”, people still experience the emotion but in a more confused way.
Sam Harris, in one of his talks, compared God to stalking Angelina Jolie. The reason people spread it was not so much because he was making a great point but because he was taking advantage of the emotion connected to the word “stalking”.
So, we have a thought and we connect it to either a positive or negative emotion.1
Now, let’s say we want to trust a friend and we connect a positive or negative emotion to him. If he screws us over, we connect a negative emotion and if we are reassured we can trust him, we connect a positive one.
However, this is not in line with reality. We shouldn’t store information in a binary, deterministic way. You might ask: “How should I store information then?” We cannot influence or change the way our brain stores an emotion but we can change the way we store the thought.
When connecting emotions to our thoughts, we should also include the statistical probability that we might be flawed, ignorant or not completely sure. Thus, even though our emotion is quite binary, the thought isn’t.
When storing our level of trust in a friend, we wouldn’t connect a thought of 100% trust to the emotion. We would connect 90% of trust and 10% of distrust.
Then, if our friend backstabs us, we wouldn’t have to suddenly push the emotion away. Our inner child wouldn’t panic, he would just understand that the chance of it happening was already part of the equation.
This also leads to great flexibility in adopting different beliefs because the chances that we are wrong are stored in the thought. So, when we are proved wrong, we don’t have issues in accepting it because we don’t have to deny something that was already part of our paradigm. We circumvent our denial by putting part of our ignorance in the thoughts that we connect to these emotions. We stop thinking in binary emotions, and “good” or “bad” don’t make sense anymore.
When someone says that “Murder is wrong”, a lot of people have a gut reaction and agree that it is indeed wrong. If we stop thinking binary though, murder as a concept is not merely “Murder is wrong” but an entire array of probabilities. “What is the context? What is the situation?” It is a richer, more accurate version.
Storing information like that also helps immensely in overcoming life roadblocks. We can just frame a bad outcome perfectly because its chances were already part of the equation. Still, sometimes reevaluating these chances might take a lot of time and resources.
Imagine we trust someone and we get backstabbed. When we think in probabilities, the chances start shifting between our thoughts of trust and distrust until we reach an equilibrium, a balance.
And then, as we store the emotion with the new probabilities, it becomes more accurate. When our inner child is confronted with reality, our ignorance and uncertainty are already part of the equation and we can deal with it much more easily. It still takes some computing power as we remove simplifications such as “This is good or bad” but we make it more complex and in line with reality.
1Depending on the situation, it can also be neutral but emotions most of the time are very binary.
Logic vs Intuition
Thinking in probabilities is a fundamental principle of logic. If we have a logical idea and we don’t put the possibility upfront that we might be wrong, the moment reality proves us otherwise, our intuition starts taking over and we become more emotional and impulsive.
Intuition is our primitive processing pattern recognition mechanism that has evolved through billions of years and it is extremely advanced (much more than rational thinking). Intuition often hits a limit because it is based on past experiences and, thus, very bad at reading new situations. Furthermore, even when we use intuition and we are in a situation where we believe, as a ballpark guess, that it is 80% right, logic is necessary to evaluate the situation and decide with skepticism.
Athene often mentions he is his own biggest skeptic. He always wonders to which extent he is backwards rationalizing as an excuse, even in extreme cases where it seems logical he isn’t (resting after a concussion in his head, hallucinating due to experimenting with a polyphase sleep pattern).
We should constantly question our intuition because there's always a chance that we might be flawed.
For example, (Athene’s approach when someone joins us):
“If an 18-year-old guy shows all the symptoms he won't work out but there's a 1% chance he might, I think: “What are the pros? What are the cons?” and then I give him the benefit of the doubt upfront. If I spend 2 hours on it and he ends up not working out, then statistically speaking I need to spend 200 hours to get one new person that would work out and that amount of my time is worth for someone to come over.”
Evaluating all the possibilities is essential and it is not because you think statistically that therefore you don’t have a strong, concrete decision making.
Taking ownership of our actions
We can go even further on this insight and explain why some people might feel less motivated when someone tells them what to do.
When we adopt logic as our core value and we know that it is logical to listen to someone with more experience (Athene, for example), our brain connects the emotion for logic to that person. Then, if the suggested task ends up not working out, we start questioning who gave the suggestion even though our success was defined, for a big part, by the extent to which we took ownership of what we were doing.
You might wonder: “But how do I take ownership of something that someone else decided for me?”
There is a flaw though. By making that question, you are thinking binary again (or deterministic). That person didn’t decide for us. When we store information within a spectrum, we allow the suggested idea to partake a certain percentage in our decision-making process. Adopting logic gives us control to understand what weigh should we give to someone’s logical ideas.
Even when both ideas are contradictory, the duality can be stored within a thought and connected to an emotion. Once we do that, we stop thinking in “right” or “wrong” terms and begin storing our idea as “right” 60% of the time and the other idea as “right” 40% of time (%’s are just an example).
Then, when the idea we chose doesn’t work out, 3 things generally happen: we don’t question the person who gave the suggestion; we frame all our decisions and successes as ours; and more importantly, we understand that everything is fundamentally probabilistic and there is always a chance things go off track.
Moreover, in cases we are proven wrong, our inner child doesn’t panic even if the chance was 1%.
When wondering “Should I listen to him or to me?” or “Is it about his logic or my logic?”, we are framing it wrongly. We should instead use our own logic to understand that the other person’s logic might be more beneficial, while also taking into consideration that the chances of being “right” or “wrong” should be a part of the equation.
When we realize that it was our decision to listen to someone’s feedback, we still maintain our sense of ownership even when we follow the advice. It is our call and this is how we keep our sense of ownership and responsibility.
Reality is fundamentally probabilistic
Things pop in and out of existence all the time because reality itself, in its foundation, is probabilistic and these probabilities are what brought about the entire Universe.
Einstein’s core value was most likely “logic” but, at that time, he adopted one that was less compatible with reality. He didn’t believe that reality was fundamentally probabilistic, he didn’t understand how denial or memory storage works in the brain and therefore he was caught up in his flawed logic – a victim of his own denial.
When our inner child deeply understands that everything is probabilistic, he no longer has any issue to include uncertainty in the thought connected with his emotions, because he accepts that that is how the world works.
That acceptance allows us to store information in a more complex way and, as a result, our logic becomes much more solid. When things go south, we don’t get slumped with our face against the wall because it was already calculated in the emotion.
If we blindly trust a friend and he backstabs us, we would immediately want to switch our emotion connected to trust from a good vibe to a bad one. Our inner child would consider that “trust” is bad and it doesn’t work.
We also see it in politics, where people are literally like a light turning on and off, switching from one candidate to another. They can’t see it as a spectrum (for what it really is) and, as a result, they connect a positive emotion to one candidate and a negative one to the other.
When we think probabilistic, if one of our logical ideas fails, our inner child just accepts that there was a chance and keeps the trust. This is a fundamental understanding about logic. If we don't have this mechanic in our brain and we don't store information in a probabilistic way, we are bound to unclick.
There is no way we can keep logic because, sooner or later, we will conclude that our logical idea was flawed. Consequently, our inner child instantly tries to connect a negative emotion to logic, starts distrusting it and resorts to intuition.
But when we understand that logic is statistics and probabilities, our inner child can live in peace because it embraces the uncertainty that is fundamental to our understanding of reality.