Can Rationality Be Enforced?

I live under some unusual circumstances:

  1. I’m a 30-year-old who has been playing computer games for 24 years. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time in isolation, away from being swayed into certain logic by peers.
  2. I’ve been engaging in an occasional mindfulness meditation, granting me insights into my own flaws that I otherwise could never have found on my own.
  3. I’m a college graduate seeking a bachelors and possibly a doctorate, so a little more educated than average.

So it is that I come to this: the pinnacle of forum evolution. I tear the world a new one in terms of pointing out that here is a simple thing that would do nothing but make the world a better place. Immediately pops up a number of people who simply want to argue.

I realized that, in the grand scheme of thing, there’s a problem. It is basically this:

  • Rationality is hard, Irrationality is easy.
  • People will always prefer the path of least resistance.

Once again, Al Gore is concerned. Too many people are conditioned to act on emotion alone, and unfortunately this tends to ruin any attempt of rational discussion.

I have a simple idea to begin reform, and it goes like this:

Better online ranking systems.

We’ve all seen the “star” mechanisms where the denizens of a forum and rank a poster or a thread from 1 to 5 stars. The trouble with this is that a great deal of said denizens will tend to rank somebody at 1 if they annoy them and 5 if they’re excited about what they’re saying. Rationality does not enter the picture, because the masses are not rational – it’s too much energy for too little incentive.

Here’s my idea: We start with the 1 to 5 star ranking system, and call it a “logic meter” or somesuch label that describes just how well argued and concrete the post is. Everybody is allowed to rank it. However, here we have a twist: The poster of the message has the option of calling for a moderator to decide if the rankings leveled against them are correct.

If it is determined that an individual has ranked the poster with poor logic when, in fact, his logic was very good the individual ranker suffers a drop in their ranking. Naturally, the forum’s default threshold of visible posts would be at about ‘2’, and in time those who are completely irrational would simply become invisible to everyone who has yet to change their threshold smaller.

The neat thing with this system is subtle, but powerful: it encourages people to be rational. Before ranking down that message, you really have to consider just how rational it is. In time, you might get pretty good at behaving in a logical manner.

Who knows, perhaps this logical thinking will gravitate to the world, making it a better place? That’s the goal here. Now the only sticking points are coding a message board to work like this and getting people to use it. Those are very sticky points indeed, but a more rational world is worth it.

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