2011 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY'S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?

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Professor, Financial Engineering, Columbia University; Principal, Prisma Capital Partners; Former Head, Quantitative Strategies Group, Equities Division, Goldman Sachs & Co.; Author, Models.Behaving.Badly
Pragmamorphism

Anthropomorphism means attributing the characteristics of human beings to inanimate things or animals.

I have invented the word pragmamorphism as a short-hand extension for the attribution of the properties of inanimate things to human beings.

One of the meanings of the Greek word pragma is a material object.

Being pragmamorphic sounds as though it would be equivalent to taking a scientific attitude to the world, but it easily evolves into dull scientism.

It's pragmamorphic to equate material correlates with human psychological states, to equate PET scans with emotion. It's also pragmamorphic to ignore human qualities you cannot measure.

We have discovered useful metrics for material objects -- length, temperature, pressure, volume, kinetic energy, etc. Pragmamorphism is a good word for the attempt to assign such one-dimensional thing-metrics to the mental qualities of humans.

IQ, a length scale for intelligence, is a result of pragmamorphism. Intelligence is more diffuse than linear.

The utility function in economics is similar. It's clear that people have preferences. But is it clear that there is a function that describes their preferences?