Acing the Intellectual Turing Test

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Let me play out two scenarios.

Have you ever seen two people who nominally agree on a preferred outcome but, because they come from such different political/social/economic backgrounds, they seem to be talking past each other and simply triggering each other's scripted responses? Like 2 NPCs caught in a dialogue loop? (Think political debates by people ostensibly on the same side.)

On the other hand, have you ever seen a comedian or especially clever person use the language of one group to explain to them the views of another group without triggering that immediate memetic immune response?

The skill that was lacking in the first example and abundant in the second is the ability to pass the Intellectual Turing Test of your audience.

So why don't we all communicate the same and avoid all this to begin with?

Subgroups and cultures create their own dialects that are reflections of their implicit worldview. This shorthand to make communication easier becomes "dog whistles" that signal to those with the same cultural background that you share the same view, that you are both on the same team". Eventually this becomes crystallized into a view of reality that is intimately tied to the language that their in-group uses.

After years in one intellectual milieu it is easy to see why people will create calcified worldviews through the medium of their language. This is a natural process that is an extension of the basic human mirroring behavior.

This manifests in the people who adhere to these groups as self-reinforcing memetic structure.It's self-reinforcing because when an outside challenge happens, the response is to feel like it is an attack on the group and as a result those whose identities are tied to it.

Passing the Intellectual Turing test of a group can signals that you understand their world view enough to use their language and ideas fluently. This also shows respect for that audience, because you wouldn't learn the language of a group you intended to insult or strawman. Using language that the other person already uses frequently reduces the size of the inferential gap between their understanding and your idea.

Communication at its best is painting neural patterns on the canvas of another person's mind to try and elicit a certain combination of thoughts and feelings. Taking the time to learn a person's dialect is like learning the colors and materials of each canvas. To get the same effect on cloth or metal requires different techniques and different brushes. It's the same with people — tailor your message to the individual, and it'll hit much harder.

Cohort activity

Construct Arguments [5 minutes]

Each member of the cohort, choose one of the controversial topics below. Spend 5 minutes separately constructing the best argument you can for that position. Use the language of the group that typically opposes it.

  • Abortion
  • Drug Legalization
  • Conscription
  • Nuclear Deterrent
  • Universal Basic Income
  • Investment in Reducing AI Risk
  • Weekly spiritual services

Critique Arguments [5 minutes/member]

Go around your cohort and share your ENTIRE argument, then have your cohort mates critique your argument until you have made a steelman version of it using the vernacular of the other side. Spend 5 minutes for each person and 5 minutes for critique

Reversal [5 minutes + 5 minutes/member]

Repeat the Construct Arguments and Critique Arguments exercise, but take the same positions and reverse them (so instead of arguing for your topic, argue against it).

Seek a Test [2 minutes]

Come up with a test for your topic that you could use to determine the most correct position, using a framework that satisfies both groups' worldviews.

Critique Tests [5 minutes/member]

Go around your cohort and share your tests. Try to propose them in a way that would appeal to both groups. After sharing each test, the cohort should critique it and work to improve it until you genuinely think it would be acceptable to members from both groups.

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