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GreenRoot comments on Your intuitions are not magic - Less Wrong

65 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 10 June 2010 12:11AM

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Comment author: GreenRoot 10 June 2010 04:46:20PM *  10 points [-]

Thanks for the well-written article. I enjoyed the analogy between statistical tools and intuition. I'm used to questioning the former, but more often than not I still trust my intuition, though now that you point it out, I'm not sure why.

Comment author: xv15 11 June 2010 10:42:15AM 14 points [-]

You shouldn't take this post as a dismissal of intuition, just a reminder that intution is not magically reliable. Generally, intuition is a way of saying, "I sense similarities between this problem and other ones I have worked on. Before I work on this problem, I have some expectation about the answer." And often your expectation will be right, so it's not something to throw away. You just need to have the right degree of confidence in it.

Often one has worked through the argument before and remembers the conclusion but not the actual steps taken. In this case it is valid to use the memory of the result even though your thought process is a sort of black box at the time you apply it. "Intuition" is sometimes used to describe the inferences we draw from these sorts of memories; for example, people will say, "These problems will really build up your intuition for how mathematical structure X behaves." Even if you cannot immediately verbalize the reason you think something, it doesn't mean you are stupid to place confidence in your intuitions. How much confidence depends on how frequently you tend to be right after actually trying to prove your claim in whatever area you are concerned with.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 10 June 2010 09:02:25PM *  8 points [-]

I do know why I trust my intuitions as much as I do. My intuitions are partly the result of natural selection and so I can expect that they can be trusted for the purposes of surviving and reproducing. In domains that closely resemble the environment where this selection process took place I trust my intuition more, in domains that do not resemble that environment I trust my intuition less.

Black box or not, the fact that we are here is good evidence that they (our intuitions) work (on net).

Comment author: diegocaleiro 12 June 2010 08:18:54AM 3 points [-]

How sexy is that?

If you are evaluating intuitions, there are two variables you should account for. The similarity with evolutionary environment, indeed. AND your current posterior belief of the importance of this kind of act in the variance of offspring production.

We definitely evolved in an environment full of ants. Does that mean my understanding of ant-colony intelligence is intuitive?

Comment author: therufs 29 September 2012 05:22:40PM 1 point [-]

I'm very curious how you decide what constitutes a similar environment to that of natural selection, and what sorts of decisions your intuition helps make in such an environment.

Comment author: tommyjohn 18 November 2011 10:27:32PM 0 points [-]

So then anything that has evolved may be relied upon for survival? It is impossible to rationalize faith in an irrational cognitive process. In the book Blink, the author asserts that many instances of intuition are just extremely rapid rational thoughts, possibly at a sub-conscious level.