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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on What is Bayesianism? - Less Wrong

81 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 26 February 2010 07:43AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 February 2010 01:59:37AM 11 points [-]

Well, the main thing that'd cause me to mistrust your judgment there, as phrased, is A8. Pre-9/11, airlines had an explicit policy of not resisting hijackers, even ones armed only with boxcutters, because they thought they could minimize casualties that way. So taking over an airplane using boxcutters pre-9/11 is perfectly normal and expected and non-anomalous; and if someone takes exception to that event, it probably implies that in general their anomaly-detectors are tuned too high.

I also suspect that some of these questions are phrased a bit promptingly, and I would ask others, like, "Do you think that malice is a more likely explanation than stupidity for the level of incompetence displayed during Hurricane Katrina? What was to be gained politically from that? Was that level of incompetence more or less than the level of hypothesized government incompetence that you think is anomalous with respect to 9/11?" and so on.

Comment author: woozle 28 February 2010 03:41:40PM *  -1 points [-]

That is a valuable point, and I have amended my A8 response to "MAYBE". The one detail I'm still not sure of is whether pilots would have relinquished control under those circumstances. Can anyone point to the actual text of the "Common Strategy"?

"Pilots for 911 Truth" has this to say:

I find it hard to believe Capt. Burlingame gave up his ship to Hani Hanjour pointing a boxcutter at him. Pilots know The Common Strategy prior to 9/11. Capt. Burlingame would have taken them where they wanted to go, but only after seeing more than a "boxcutter" or knife. ... The pilots' number 1 priority is the safety of the passengers. Number 2 priority is to get them to their destination on time. Pilots dont just give up their airplane to someone with a knife.. regardless of what the press has told you about The Common Strategy prior to 9/11.

"Screw Loose Change" seems to find this statement incredibly offensive, but offers only an emotional argument in response (argument from outrage?) and ignores the original point that these pilots were experienced in this sort of combat and certainly could have fought off attackers with boxcutters, with the "Common Strategy" being the only possible constraint on doing so.

I've added your proposed questions to the questionnaire, somewhat modified.

My answers are:

  • NO: not more likely, just possible -- what actually happened must be determined by the evidence. David Brin, for example, argues that said incompetence was a by-product of a "war on professionalism" waged by the Bush administration. (I would also argue that the question as phrased implies that it is reasonable to judge the question of {whether malice was involved} entirely on the basis of {how "likely" it seems}, and that this is therefore privileging the hypothesis that malice was not involved.)
  • "starving the beast", albeit in a somewhat broader sense than described by Wikipedia: shrink the government by rendering it incompetent, thus eroding support (and hence funding) for government activities
  • I'm not sure what you're getting at here; my immediate answer is "THAT DEPENDS" -- given the range of possible scenarios in which the government is complicit, the incompetence:malice ratio has a wide range of possible values. I don't know if I'm answering the question in the spirit in which it was asked, however.

I've rephrased that last question as a matter of consistency: "Do you believe that the levels of government malice OR stupidity/incompetence displayed regarding Katrina are consistent with whatever levels of government malice or incompetence/stupidity you believe were at work on 9/11?" to which I answer (a) it's within the range of possibilities, given that the evidence remains unclear as to exactly what the Administration's involvement was on 9/11, (b) the issue of consistency between Katrina and 9/11 argues against the idea that Bushco were "just doing the best they could" on 9/11, since they clearly didn't do this for Katrina; (c) if the evidence pointed to a significantly different level of competence on 9/11 than it does for Katrina, would this be grounds for rejecting the evidence, grounds for trying to determine what might have changed, or grounds for suspecting that someone's "anomaly detectors are tuned too high"?

Please note, however, that I consider all of these issues to be very much diversions from the main question of whether a proper investigation is needed.