Scott Aaronson over at Shtetl-Optimized describes a project for the summer of 2009 that I find very interesting.
The web app — tentatively called “Worldview Manager” — is intended to help people ferret out hidden contradictions in their worldviews. Think of a kindly, patient teacher in a philosophy seminar who never directly accuses students of irrationality, but instead uses Socratic questioning to help them clarify their own beliefs.
The problem of hidden contradictions in people’s thought processes is a huge one. I’ve mentioned here on my own blog (and on countless others in comment threads) that the failure of the U.S. educational system to teach logic is a major hole in brain training. You see the consequences everywhere, but they are perhaps most blatantly obvious whenever you come across a discussion board or comment thread involving politics.
Training people how to think rationally is desperately needed, but this idea has some interesting implications itself in attacking the problem from the other end. The biggest weakness I can see immediately is that the exams will be difficult to structure properly (something Scott acknowledges himself in the post). In the comment thread, Gareth pointed out these two exams that follow the same idea that Scott has:
They’re somewhat simplistic, and I find myself critical of some of the assumptions (you can read the details in the comment thread of Scott’s post), but the FAQ does acknowledge some of my criticisms, and any way you slice it they’re still interesting. Take ’em and post your results in the comments here (for the record, I scored “7% tension” on the philosophy health test and “2 hits” on the God exam).
I think it would be a fun project to work on, if you’re a CS student you should check it out.