The Scout Mindset: Julia Galef

The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef introduces the concept of ideal rationality traits a human must possess and terms it The Scout Mindset. The book first introduces the two paradigms of thought processes - The Soldier Mindset and The Scout Mindset based on how one uses their reasoning. The author Julia further goes on to lay the groundwork - on why everyone behaves, reasons, and thinks the way they do, which is often complicated than a binary decision and ends with how to begin to think like a Scout. There’s a small bit of irony that when you do read this book, it makes a whole lot of sense when seen from an open mind rather than sticking to your beliefs of rationality.

How I found this book

Incidentally, I’ve come across Julia first rather than the book itself. Julia has a (severely underrated and lesser-known) YouTube channel where she discusses philosophical topics which in my opinion a fair bit of the current population must think about. While she has talked about the Scout mindset earlier, this book collates everything and a lot newer concepts in one book.

Who should read it

Frankly, anyone who’s interested in philosophy revolving around humans, decision making, and reasoning is the perfect target audience, but I’d especially recommend it to age groups on the cusp of adulthood where opinions and beliefs have consequences.

Why I liked it

A lesser-known fact about Julia is she’s worked with OpenAI, one of the few AI companies I know of who deeply(pun intended) think and invest in the policies surrounding AI, which in my opinion makes concepts in this book is a good-to-know when approaching this area. She first introduces the paradigms of reasoning and establishes what’s ideal rationality which I conclude - is not the be a scout all the time, but rather just incrementally move towards being a scout and occasionally take a step back when faced with conflict in beliefs, rather than doubling down on it. Each concept has a lot of examples from history, which I love the most in this book, apart from the occasional bayesian and programming references she makes which just appeals a lot more to me.

I highly recommend this book. Feel free to drop me a mail or leave a comment below on your thoughts about this book.

Vaibhav Balloli

Vaibhav Balloli

Ph.D. student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, MI, USA