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SilasBarta comments on Would Your Real Preferences Please Stand Up? - Less Wrong

42 Post author: Yvain 08 August 2009 10:57PM

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Comment author: SilasBarta 09 August 2009 01:42:53AM *  5 points [-]

I like how you've identified the subtle value judgment in a supposedly value-free scientific belief.

However, you lost me at the end here:

But notice how the theory you choose also has serious political implications. Consider how each of the two ways of looking at the problem would treat this example:

A wealthy liberal is a member of many environmental organizations, and wants taxes to go up to pay for better conservation programs. However, she can't bring herself to give up her gas-guzzling SUV, and is usually too lazy to sort all her trash for recycling.

Either side would say(after becoming sufficiently informed and thinking about the issue long enough):

"Ms. SUV Liberal's consumption makes no noticeable difference to the environment. The only way to achieve her environment goals is through collective action -- i.e., add a 'cooperation enforcement mechanism' to this Prisoner's Dilemma. Otherwise, individual 'cooperation' (reducing fuel consumption, recycling, etc.) simply rewards everyone else who 'defects', and the desired state of 'sustainable global society' is an unstable node.

"Ms. SUV Liberal's decision to drive an SUV and not recycle might have symbolic value, but that dynamic was not the focus of your example, and therefore, her driving of an SUV is not holding back progress toward her professed goal saving the environment."

Is there another political example you can give?

I myself throw my support squarely behind the Naive Theory. Conscious minds are potentially rational, informed by morality, and qualia-laden. Unconscious minds aren't, so who cares what they think?

Because of your clarification in footnote 5, I agree with the point you're making here, but I think you've spoken too broadly. Unconscious minds do a lot of difficult, useful cognitive labor: pattern recognition, regularity detection, and yes, even value judgments. While we'll often be able to identify where the unconscious mind is not acting optimally, that's a far cry from "who cares what the unconscious thinks".