Prophetic Hazard

post by onur · 2021-04-16T10:09:14.745Z · LW · GW · 3 comments

Some beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies [? · GW]. These involve causal sequences of the form

(1) X believes that ‘X is p.’

(2) X therefore does b.

(3) Because of (2), X becomes p.

SFPs can be desirable or undesirable to the believer, depending on how they affect them. For example, "I am confident" might be desirable, whereas "I have social anxiety" might be undesirable.

A prophetic hazard is created when someone proposes an idea that can become an undesirable self-fulfilling prophecy, or affirms an existing one. Below are some examples of prophetic hazards at a personal level:

Prophetic hazards can also exist at a societal level:

Prophetic hazards are dangerous because they reflect a certain reality, or rather, a possibility of becoming real. They push people towards slippery slopes where they can lose control. They pave paths of least resistance to catastrophes which can otherwise be avoided through effort.


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comment by James_Miller · 2021-04-16T12:51:55.789Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My YouTube video about how a prophecy concerning Roman Emperor's Caracalla's assassination became self-fulfilling.

comment by tailcalled · 2021-04-16T11:38:41.509Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of the prophetic hazards you mention don't seem very obvious to me. Like how does reminding a person that they are old make them older?

Replies from: onur
comment by onur · 2021-04-16T12:21:02.642Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good question. One example I can think of right now:

  • X is told that he/she is too old to do exercise, and believes it.
  • X gradually withdraws from physical activity, and incurs a loss of agility.
  • X's lack of movement increases the rate of osteoporosis.
  • As a result, X experiences a spinal fracture, causing even more immobility and perceived oldness.

Reference for the relationship between osteoporosis and physical activity. Does this make sense?