The Straw Vulcan: Hollywood’s illogical approach to logical decisionmaking
November 26, 2011 9 Comments
I gave a talk at Skepticon IV last weekend about Vulcans and why they’re a terrible example of rationality. I go through five principles of Straw Vulcan Rationality(TM), give examples from Star Trek and from real life, and explain why they’re mistaken:
- Being rational means expecting everyone else to be rational too.
- Being rational means you should never make a decision until you have all the information.
- Being rational means never relying on intuition.
- Being rational means eschewing emotion.
- Being rational means valuing only quantifiable things — like money, productivity, or efficiency.
In retrospect, I would’ve streamlined the presentation more, but I’m happy with the content – I think it’s an important and under-appreciated topic. The main downside was just that everyone wanted to talk to me afterwards, not about rationality, but about Star Trek. I don’t know the answer to your obscure trivia questions, Trekkies!
UPDATE: I’m adding my diagrams of the Straw Vulcan model of ideal decisionmaking, and my proposed revisions to it, since those slides don’t appear in the video: