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## The Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition

This summer I will be teaching at a newish high school summer math program, the Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition (SPARC). We’ll be covering a wide range of topics, including probability, Bayesian statistics, and cognitive science, with the general theme of learning how to make rational decisions (both practically and theoretically). Many interesting people are involved, and I’m excited to see how the program will go.

I think SPARC will be an extremely valuable experience for talented high school students. If you are (resp. know of) such a student, I strongly encourage you to apply (resp. forward this information to them so that they can apply)! Questions about the program not addressed in the FAQ should be directed to contact@sparc2013.org.

### 9 Responses

1. on April 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Reply Victor chukwuma igbadu

I want to be part of this

2. Qiaochu,

I think willpower is not really limited (i.e. glucose does not replenish willpower). It seems that if you simply believe that you have unlimited willpower, this will help. Also I think it would be interesting if you talked about thin-slicing. Sometimes people take a long time to make a decision. They could have made an optimal decision with less information instead of more information. But thin-slicing doesn’t always result in optimal decisions.

3. I think the program looks interesting. Basically we should make decisions according to expected value (i.e. estimating odds of something happening and estimating its value). But practically speaking, we probably won’t actually make rational decisions. It sounds good in theory.

The only way we can make rational decisions in real life is to actually change our habits and thinking patterns. This requires willpower. You should discuss “I wlil” “I won’t” and “I want” powers in your program. Only with willpower and habits can we make rational decisions.

• We’ll discuss lots of things, but it’s good to keep in mind ego depletion. Willpower isn’t an inexhaustible resource, and it should be used wisely and sparingly. A generally better option in my opinion is to change the incentive structure around things you do or don’t want to do (e.g. introducing social commitment mechanisms).

4. Qiaochu,

Do you know what books you will be using for this program? Will you be using The Power of Habit? Also would you be discussing implementation intentions or Thinking Fast Thinking Slow by Kahneman?

• We won’t be using books as such, although I imagine we’ll recommend further reading. We will be talking about Kahneman-style heuristics and biases as well as introducing some material developed by the Center for Applied Rationality, which draws on various sources.

• Kahneman’s stuff is excellent; reading that book at the moment.