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Jacobian comments on Confidence levels inside and outside an argument - Less Wrong

129 Post author: Yvain 16 December 2010 03:06AM

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Comment author: Wes_W 29 December 2014 04:41:03AM *  0 points [-]

The easy-but-not-very-rigorous method is to use the principle of indifference, since there's no particular reason a tie +/-1 should be much less likely than any other result.

If the election is balanced (the mean of the distribution is a tie), and the distribution looks anything like normal or binomial, 1/X is an underestimate of P(tie | election is within vote margin of X), since a tie is actually the most likely result. A tie +/- 1 is right next to the peak of the curve, so it should also be more than 1/X.

The 10^-90 figure cited in the paper was an example of how the calculation is very sensitive to slight imbalances - a 50/50 chance for each voter gave a .00006 chance of tie, while 49.9/50.1 gave the 10^-90. But knowing that an election will be very slightly imbalanced in one direction is a hard epistemic state to get to. Usually we just know something like "it'll be close", which could be modeled as a distribution over possible near-balances. If that distribution is not itself skewed either direction, then we again find that individual results near the mean should be at least 1/X.

Comment author: Jacobian 30 December 2014 05:55:58AM *  2 points [-]

I recently wrote about why voting is a terrible idea and fell into the same error as Gelman (I assumed 49.9-50.1 a priori is conservative). Wes and gwern, thanks for correcting me! In fact, due to the Median Voter Theorem and with better and better polling and analysis we may assume that the distribution of voter distributions should have a peak at 50-50.

Of course, there are other great reasons not to vote (mainly to avoid "enlisting in the army" and letting your mind be killed. My suggestion is always to find a friend who is a credible threat to vote for the candidate you despise most and invite him to a beer on election day under the condition that neither of you will vote and you will not talk about politics. Thus, you maintain your friendship while cancelling out the votes. I call it the VAVA (voter anti-voter annihilation) principle.

Comment author: DragonGod 04 October 2017 09:06:54AM 1 point [-]

"Politics is the mindkiller" is an argument for why people should avoid getting into political discussion on Lesswrong; it is not an argument against political involvement in general. Rationalists completely retreating from Politics would likely lower the sanity waterline as far as politics is concerned. Rationalists should get more involved in politics (but outside Lesswrong) of course.