Eliezer Yudkowsky (aka Less Wrong) has created my favorite superhero, the Masculine Mongoose, and his secret identity, Bruce Kent. Kent is the type of character that even my real-life hero, Stan Lee, might have trouble imagining. Lee gave superheroes real lives and real emotions and the super heart. Yudkowsky and the other creators of Rational Fiction gave their characters’ sense.
Everyone, Literally everyone knows that Bruce Kent is the Masculine Mongoose. But they are all wrong. Everyone on the entire planet except for the Mongoose and Kent themselves.
For each of us, there are a lot of things we know are true and we know that everyone knows are true and that everyone knows that everyone knows are true. We call these things common knowledge.
And just like the identity of the Masculine Mongoose, some of these things aren’t true.
But unlike that work of fiction, these mistaken beliefs damage our lives and the lives of everyone on the planet.
While it is tempting to list a few of the most important ones here, the most important of them will lead to disbelief and an argument that I fear would distract from the larger point.
Much of what we know as being obviously true is instead obvious but not true.
I was going to list those that damage the lives of workers while simultaneously damaging the profit of their employers. These wrong beliefs lead to stupidity that is more damaging than the simple greed corporations are often (and sometimes rightly) accused of.
Instead, I ask a broader, more general, more “dangerous” question. The #suckreduction question.
For each of the things that our companies do that harm their workers, their customers, or our planet, are they even increasing profit?
What would the Fergengi say?