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mrflick comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: orthonormal 12 August 2010 01:08AM

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Comment author: mrflick 31 August 2010 02:50:05AM 7 points [-]

Hey everybody, I know I came across this late, but lately I've been becoming a more avid reader of the site, and thought I'd follow with the post's suggestion and give my introduction.

I came here from Overcoming Bias(via various econoblogs), although that doesn't really mark the beginning of my push into becoming a rationalist. The big turning point for me was coming across a NIH article that was linked to by econlog or marginalrevolution. Both of the two introduced me to Baye's Theorem, and how it could explain how so many publications in the medical literature could be statistically significant, yet incorrect(I think the paper estimated nearly half).

I had been struggling with social anxiety and had really screwed things up with a girl I really liked because of a few fundamental misunderstandings. In a clearer state of mind I was able to realize that I had an entirely wrong perception of what people thought of me and this girl in particular. But I couldn't explain why I would have such a skewed view of my world until I learned how to apply Baye's in how we evaluate our decisions.

Starting from the simple introduction into Baye's where one is asked to evaluate the problem of estimating the probablity someone has a disease based on a single diagnostic test, I learned how the false positives completely warped what the probability would be. I began to think about how many 'false positives' I may be clinging onto in my life, and how I could be getting so damn many of them. If I kept looking for any probable sign that someone didn't like me, especially while ignoring signs that I'm doing fine, I was gonna get a crap load of false positives, but would have relatively good reasons to believe them. I also began to realize how many coincidences there are in the world, and how many wrong theories these coincidences could validate if I kept looking in the wrong places and asking the wrong questions.

All of this in turn got me interested in the theory of the mind and cognitive biases - specifically thinking about how we unconsciously construct priors in our head, how we are lead into asking which questions, and how many different ways this can go wrong. I set out on a process to make that process go less wrong, and now I am here on this site introducing myself.