Here, my early experience was a doctor who sent bushel baskets full of normal gall bladders down to the pathology lab in the leading hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. And with that quality control for which community hospitals are famous, about five years after he should've been removed from the staff, he was. And one of the old doctors who participated in the removal was also a family friend, and I asked him: I said, "Tell me, did he think, 'Here's a way for me to exercise my talents'" -- this guy was very skilled technically-- "'and make a high living by doing a few maimings and murders every year, along with some frauds?'" And he said, "Hell no, Charlie. He thought that the gall bladder was the source of all medical evil, and if you really love your patients, you couldn't get that organ out rapidly enough."
You'll like this one: You get a pilot and a co-pilot. The pilot is the authority figure. They don't do this in airplanes, but they've done it in simulators. They have the pilot do something where the co-pilot, who's been trained in simulators a long time -- he knows he's not to allow the plane to crash -- they have the pilot to do something where an idiot co-pilot would know the plane was going to crash, but the pilot's doing it, and the co-pilot is sitting there, and the pilot is the authority figure. 25% of the time the plane crashes. I mean this is a very powerful psychological tendency. It's not quite as powerful as some people think, and I'll get to that later.
Here, my favorite example is the great Pavlov. He had all these dogs in cages, which had all been conditioned into changed behaviors, and the great Leningrad flood came and it just went right up and the dog's in a cage. And the dog had as much stress as you can imagine a dog ever having. And the water receded in time to save some of the dogs, and Pavlov noted that they'd had a total reversal of their conditioned personality. And being the great scientist he was, he spent the rest of his life giving nervous breakdowns to dogs, and he learned a helluva lot that I regard as very interesting.
This is something I should probably look up, even though I hate reading about awful things done to animals.
And here my favorite thing is the bee, a honeybee. And a honeybee goes out and finds the nectar and he comes back, he does a dance that communicates to the other bees where the nectar is, and they go out and get it. Well some scientist who is clever, like B.F. Skinner, decided to do an experiment. He put the nectar straight up. Way up. Well, in a natural setting, there is no nectar where they're all straight up, and the poor honeybee doesn't have a genetic program that is adequate to handle what he now has to communicate. And you'd think the honeybee would come back to the hive and slink into a corner, but he doesn't. He comes into the hive and does this incoherent dance, and all my life I've been dealing with the human equivalent of that honeybee. [Laughter] And it's a very important part of human organization so the noise and the reciprocation and so forth of all these people who have what I call say-something syndrome don't really affect the decisions.
This reads like something out of RA Wilson. Perhaps part of the point is to learn the sort of incoherence which means a person has been faced with something new, and then spend a little extra time trying to find out what that person experienced.
Link thanks to various people at Less Wrong-- it was recommended enough times that I finally read the whole thing.