Dungeons, Dragons, and Scouts

26th April, 2021

The Scout Mindset. I eagerly awaited The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef, a superb interviewer and a throughgoing disciple of the path of rationality. Galef is interested in being right, finding the truth, and all the ways in which we mislead ourselves. I was expecting, then, a discussion of concepts such as motivated reasoning, polarisation and various other ideas so prominent in How To Make The World Add Up. But Galef actually plays things differently, and the book is refreshing for that. She devotes at least as much attention to arguing the case for rationality as she does for explaining the obstacles to it. After all, if wishful thinking, blind optimism or backing your own tribe are so tempting (and apparently rewarding), someone must make the case for the lonely “scout”, more interested in exploring the territory than in defending a position. Galef does it well. Highlights include a vivid description of the Dreyfus affair (I had long been meaning to read more about it) and the delightful observation, courtesy of sociologist Nils Brunsson, that meetings were generally not called for the purposes of exploring options, but so that everybody could say encouraging things about the option that had already been chosen. Recommended.

Harford elsewhere – I was interviewed by Dirk the Dice for the Grognard Files podcast, and by Shawn and Teos of the Mastering D&D podcast. In both cases the impetus was a recent Cautionary Tales episode about a boy who disappeared, and the very strange consequences. If you want to hear a different, dice-rolling side of me, check it out.

Upcoming talk with Kenn Cukier. On the evening of 9th May, I’m interviewing Kenn Cukier about his excellent new book Framers. Come along!

Self publicity and pre-orders. Forgive me for mentioning again that the paperback of How To Make The World Add Up is out on 6 May everywhere except North America. If you’ve been waiting for the paperback, or enjoyed the hardback and are thinking of buying a gift for someone else, please consider a pre-order (Amazon, Bookshop, others). It helps a lot!

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