personal research project

Illustrate a sequence: on noticing cognitive blindspots in our community

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Are you into sketching landscapes, or know someone who does?

Looking for an illustrator to partner on a LessWrong sequence – on noticing cognitive blindspots in our community and the traps we may fall into. The first 6 posts take the reader through a story: how like-minded comrades end up navigating a vast, complex landscape.

It starts here.

Take this narrative device. Peer into virtual reality lenses as I narrate my learnings. Test them inside your own mind.

Step into a vivid simulation – of your reality and of people around you. Here’s your story:

You were a pioneer. You hill-climbed the dark, foggy frontiers with your small community.
Eventually, you settled into a field. You gathered with like-minded comrades close to you. Then you set up your group’s headquarters, and fenced off your scope.

You waved off outsiders: ‘You no longer need to explore here, we’ve got this area covered!’

But you haven’t got it covered. Birds of a feather flock together. So do groups.

Together, your ingroup has a style
…of framing the environment you’re part of.
…of filtering chunks relevant to you, of an environment more complex than just you.

You wield your mind’s attention as a headlight into the fog. Point the bright spot
○⟵̶⚫ nearby to attend to concrete features
●⟶⚪️ far to attend to the broad contours ahead

But you can’t do both. For wherever you focus your brightspot, darkness envelopes –
your blindspot.

This is where it gets tricky. Your group spots a problem you’re all pumped up to solve.

You aim for positive impact – towards a target.

You are interacting through a vast, informationally-complex landscape.
What if before you hit that target… you hit a trap instead?
What if you passed straight through your blindspot, and missed a crucial consideration?

You will be shocked to realise you had a massive negative impact or — at least — are now nowhere near where you expected to be.

Find a group whose brightspot is in your blindspot.
Talk to the other group, and they will point out the hidden traps to avoid along your path. Complement them, and they will complement you.

Not ‘I like you because you see what we see’.
But ‘I appreciate you because you see where we are blind.’

I would love to try coming up with a sketch for this post together.
↳ Email me, or grab a moment to call: /remmelt/30min/

If we enjoy the collaboration, we can explore the next posts around cognitive styles I dug up:
* to identify with vs. depersonalise a person
* to contextualise vs. decouple a thing
* to promote vs. prevent an impact
* to merge with vs. separate a body
* to reach for vs. circumvent a destination
* to approach vs. avoid a place
* to envision vs. account for a scenario
* to engage with vs. check off a moment

Note: I’ve dived into 150 psychology papers and asked for feedback in about 30 conversations to develop a framework here. But I’m not an academic researcher.

Email me and let’s chat further 🙂

Organisation: personal research project

Contact email:

  • Category Rationality
  • Created by Remmelt Ellen
  • Submitted 09 Nov
  • Last updated 09 Nov