The ecological rationality of the bad old fallacies 2014-03-19T11:39:36.813Z


Comment by velisar on The ecological rationality of the bad old fallacies · 2014-03-20T13:50:38.312Z · LW · GW

I edited for clarity, thanks.

Comment by velisar on The ecological rationality of the bad old fallacies · 2014-03-19T19:54:45.128Z · LW · GW


But is jealousy pathological? Or anger? Or fear?

I was arguing that the nerves in the skin are only an approximation of thermometers, likewise the eyes only a poor measure tool. By the way, there are 'evolutionary' biases: we perceive a ravine as deeper when we look down onto it and, conversely, from the bottom looking up it doesn't seem as tall (see also auditory looming). Their function is quite transparent once you think about organisms and not measure tools.

Comment by velisar on The ecological rationality of the bad old fallacies · 2014-03-19T16:28:05.500Z · LW · GW

It seems to me that it is the discussion about optimizing versus satisficing.

If Intel builds the computer to do some division, but they found a way to approximate the results because that way the CPU can simulate, I don't know, a nuclear explosion, it should say so. But in our case, we need God to say that the nerves in the skin are thermometers, the eyes, height measuring tools and so on. The only utility function of organisms that we now for sure is that the code that build them has to make it in the next generation; we can argue about different strategies, but they depend on - sometimes - too many other things.

Comment by velisar on The ecological rationality of the bad old fallacies · 2014-03-19T15:09:06.804Z · LW · GW

I think any preoccupation, if it exists long enough, results in great refinements. The are people good a African rare languages, mineral water, all sorts of (noble!) sports, torture - why should't people get better at something as common as argumentation.

But we're advocating a look the other way around, to the more basic processes, they may say something about how humans work. And indeed, it would be easier with less sophisticated arguers.

Comment by velisar on The ecological rationality of the bad old fallacies · 2014-03-19T14:55:19.820Z · LW · GW

I have to admit that the text is a bit long! We sorta did say all of that you are saying, which means that the way I resumed the text here was a bit misleading.

There must be conditions when a heuristic like "follow the majority opinion" must be triggered in our heads: something is recognized maybe. There is selection pressure to find social exchange violation, but also to be ingenious in persuasion. Some of this already has experimental support. Anyway, we think that what we today call fallacies are not accidents - like the blind spot. They are good inference rules for a relatively stable environment, but cannot predict far into the future and cannot judge new complex problems. That may be why we don't spot the fallacies of small talk, of experts in domains with expertise, or in domains for which we already have intuitions.

That would imply that a bad decision today is not necessarily the product of a cognitive illusion, but that we build a bad interface for the actual human mind in the modern world (a car will be lighter and faster if it shouldn't accommodate humans). Reference class forecasting or presenting probabilities as frequencies are just technologies, interfaces. The science is about the function and the fallacies are interesting precisely because, presumably, they are a repetitive behavior. They may help in our effort to reverse engineer ourselves.

Comment by velisar on The ecological rationality of the bad old fallacies · 2014-03-19T12:14:02.804Z · LW · GW

You are correct; but the Argument from fallacy is still pretty uninformative.

Comment by velisar on Best of Rationality Quotes, 2013 Edition · 2014-02-08T21:03:59.108Z · LW · GW

I think it's Daniel Dennet (said to Hofstadter).

Comment by velisar on The Cognitive Science of Rationality · 2013-01-28T09:51:20.265Z · LW · GW

You might be right - as I never saw one - but the project didn't start with a plan to built a spectacular flying sculpture. So they fell first to the planning fallacy (which may not be so much a psychological cognitive bias but the very structure of possible outcomes of everything - the top of the frequency distribution is to the right of the "arrival" time), then to sunk costs which later were half acknowledged, thus making them highly suspicious of trying to resolve a cognitive dissonance (rationalization).

One has to take into account the original prediction to make a probabilistic interpretation...

Comment by velisar on The Dilemma: Science or Bayes? · 2012-05-22T20:27:00.055Z · LW · GW

The science world, as much as the rest of the "worlds" comprised by people who share something which everybody cherishes, has to have the status quo bias. (the enigmatic add-on: One cannot escape the feeling that there is such thing as time)

Comment by velisar on SotW: Check Consequentialism · 2012-03-24T11:31:18.010Z · LW · GW

Kahneman suggests such an exercise for groups after pointing out that organizations generally act more rationally than individuals. The devil's advocate role and thinking at the worst possible outcome. We don't always have the luxury of having others near us for checking our thoughts. But we often have imaginary conversations with friends or parents. So it shouldn't be very difficult to assign a devil's advocate position to a imaginary voice. That should put in perspective the way we feel about the subject. It is a basic mean of delaying the strong coherence of the first good narrative.

Maybe it would be great to have an imaginary Bayesian friend...

Comment by velisar on How to avoid dying in a car crash · 2012-03-20T09:40:32.633Z · LW · GW

Indeed, before I had a car - an I was in the dangerous 15-24 age group - I did all sorts of tricks with my bike (I thought I was good), wheelie, no-handed turns, never waited for the green light etc. Because of the low speed, I speculate, you arrive at the feeling of control easier, you see and know the margins of the vehicle, you don't have blind spots. Reinforcing intuition: you're better and better everyday, WYSIATY. After I went to driving school (car and motorbike) I realized the dangers; also knowing some data about deaths and injuries car scare you.

Without data you are provincial, you have no context.

Comment by velisar on Pretending to be Wise · 2012-02-14T14:11:31.273Z · LW · GW

you could morph this point into an article for the discussion part of the site. More people would read an interesting take. (if you read this after so much water has flowed down the river)

Comment by velisar on Pretending to be Wise · 2012-02-13T23:47:45.139Z · LW · GW

(thanks for the - negative - feedback, I edited my answer to make it clearer)

Biases are data compression mistakes.

Talking about a neutrality bias as a laziness of the rational mind, I think Eliezer hurried up a bit when choosing the examples: he intended to point out some bad consequences in situations with a high difference in complexity. The school director is tasteless in not putting the smallest effort because of "eh, they are just kids". For them it is important. Injustice is intense at all ages; primates feel it. And the 'wise' school director is disgusting, yes. Easy answer to simple situation. Also a pacifist who dances for peace is ridiculous. And Yvain's polarized example characters (those journalists who emotionally cherry-pick to convince you) are, well, negative. Easy answer to complex situation.

But the common theme here is that they share the fact that they are simplistic. We are biased when we feel disgust, a conclusion is strongly formed and maybe there to stay. Cherry picking/ selective observation at work here, those images jump into your eyes or at the surface of your memory. So if the examples are a bit off we may see distorted pictures of the idea - that is, we make wrong conclusions out of very partial examples. My point is that Yvain and Eliezer probably have the same take on the concept if they are to judge the same example. There are lazy 'wise' and lazy opinionated.

I'd risk saying that we can use a rule of thumb for complex situations such: Is the situation really complex and with unknown unknowns? If yes, then reset to the wise posture (as if being profound is some sort of attitude). Otherwise you'll take one position too quickly and there is a great chance to became opinionated.

Those we legitimately call wise are always flirting with complexity. The wise equidistant attitude is like a joke, in the sense that it reveals the contrary, the imposture of the simplistic.

Comment by velisar on Superhero Bias · 2012-01-25T18:06:02.846Z · LW · GW

Well, this distinction is officially acknowledged sometimes, fortunately. Among the opponents of the communist regime, the internationally famous intellectuals suffered far less consequences than a simple provincial teacher or a some worker in some factory. They risked everything. There is pathos in such a risk: while facing it you had little chance to get any result, retaliation was coming your way. Few stories of this type surfaced and they are justly regarded as martyrs. Probably most of them vanished quietly - and we cannot represent the disproportion, we cannot imagine it (yes, we don't have an image for it).

Although it lacks decency, I should point out that there is evolutionary value in such behavior. Their stories are immensely emotional, they are real heroes. But then we have a really complicated context to define real and heroes...

Comment by velisar on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-18T19:13:44.077Z · LW · GW

Unfortunately there are cultures where interpersonal relationships are more personalized than in others: where people (generally) understand any criticism as targeting the self (that mysterious whole) and not the idea/point.

Work meetings are one way rhetoric in such parts, famously boring and result in as much creativity as the authority has. Usually less civilized places posses a weaker level of abstraction. (When everything is urgent, nothing is hypothetical.)

So it isn't only a question of sub-optimal methods chosen by various individuals - be they politicians - to make a friendlier world, but of big groups, entire mentality groups, for which the very term "dialogue" has other boundaries. So the play-safe, good-for-all economical solution is to forbid criticism or to use extreme relativism for everything. The "holistic" conversation.

We all do it sometimes, out of interest or ignorance.