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Intellectual Credit Rating

Is it possible for people in online communication to have something like an intellectual credit score?  The idea is that you run a risk when interacting with someone just as you run a risk when lending money to someone.  You are lending them your time and credence and to a certain degree your reputation.  There could be a way of quantifying whether people have repaid that risk with others in the past or whether they have ripped people off, and whether in general they act in a responsible intellectual fashion.  For example if they make it clear what would count as proof or disproof of a position and then change it accordingly when given evidence, that would give a person a good intellectual credit rating.  If they put forward a position and then later lie and claim they never said any such thing, they would get a bad intellectual credit rating. And so on.

My hope would be that this would not perpetuate an echo chamber — i.e. you can be a responsible liberal or a responsible conservative, and an irresponsible liberal or irresponsible conservative.  But it would allow us not to lend our time and attention and emotions to people who are bad actors.

Of course there are probably intellectual positions that are only held by people with pretty poor intellectual credit ratings.  But that is to be expected.  In a multi-level marketing scheme or a a factory that makes perpetual motion machines or some other scam, the only investors will be people whose credit ratings (financial I mean) tend to be poor — because they have bad judgment, and because their bad credit means they have fewer opportunities to invest.  So in the epistemic case.  People are attracted to fringe positions like flat earthing, anti-vaxing, and right-wing nationalism because they have poor judgment, and because their poor judgment means they have been shunned from or have deliberately avoided more responsible intellectual communities.

Needless to say if you want to engage in an argument with somebody with a poor intellectual credit rating you might learn something new — you will certainly be exposed to ideas that you won’t be if you hang with more responsible citizens.

But beware — you may also waste your time.

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10 thoughts on “Intellectual Credit Rating

  1. Seems kind of subjective and tribal – amongst the anti vaxer community someone who agrees with anti vaxing would have a high credit rating with that community. And someone who thinks vaccinations are good would be a bankrupt. Or something along those lines.

    But then again maybe it’s not all that subjective – I’ve run into people who just don’t seem to bother to try and actually visualise the model being described to them. Or people who think that Russell’s teapot is valid – if they claim something, the other person has to disprove it or take it to be true! Seriously!

    I’m not sure about credit, but knowing these things in advance would tell you if the discussion is like going to be going on survivalism with Bear Grylls and having to drink urine and eat insects to get along.

    On the other hand, telling an anti vaxer that vaccinations are good is like trying to make them eat a bug. I think one has to realize to be making a genuinely significant argument involves being unpleasant to some degree, otherwise it’s preaching to the choir.

    So some people who seem a complete waste of time might actually be incredibly right.

    Though some might be just a waste of time.

    I think one way to distinguish them is if the person can bring themselves to say they might be wrong somehow.

      • To me any set of rules would dictate a particular type of thinking as being right or correct. Which would be bad if they were wrong and especially bad for blocking out someone who could point out how the rules had gone wrong.

        But then again you could use a set of rules part of the time then have a certain amount of time for a ‘free for all’ engagement, in case the rules were blocking out some vital information. This would give that information a chance to get through.

  2. That’s a good idea. I was thinking of minimal rules. I was talking to somebody who quoted somebody else but what she quoted had not actually been said by that person. And I said “Hey that person did not actually say that.” and she said “Yes he did” and I wasted a bunch of time trying to establish that he actually didn’t, and then she changed the subject. So I thought — I’d like to avoid talking with people who do stuff like that. Or at least when I talk to people who are going to do stuff like that I’ll know exactly what I’m getting into — which is in the spirit of your last idea.

    • I do wonder if latter on the idea they made a mistake sort of pops into their heads a bit by such an interaction. I don’t know for sure, I don’t have any science on it, but I did once receive a message once that someone who had argued with me in the past on a subject said he realise a lot of it probably was true, in retrospect. Thing is I’m not sure I would have the guts to write such a message, so maybe in the end he humbled me.

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