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Wei_Dai comments on Purchase Fuzzies and Utilons Separately - Less Wrong

75 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 April 2009 09:51AM

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Comment author: Wei_Dai 10 January 2010 06:33:54AM *  13 points [-]

To expand on this comparison a bit more, one important difference between the two is that once a person understands the concept of expected value, and knows that lottery tickets have expected value below purchase price, the warm-fuzzy effect largely goes away. But for some reason, at least for Eliezer, the warm-fuzzy effect of opening a door for an old lady doesn't go away, even though he knows that doing so creates negative expected utilons.

Perhaps the warm-fuzzy effect remains because Eliezer rationalizes it thus: if I can restore my willpower through the warm-fuzzy effect of opening doors for little old ladies, I can be more productive in producing utilons through my work, so it's really a good thing after all, and I deserve the warm-fuzzy effect. But perhaps a rationalist can use a similar line of thought to keep the warm-fuzzy effect of buying lottery tickets. Should one do so?

ETA: Apparently Eliezer already addressed the issue of lottery tickets, with the following conclusion:

Biases are lemons, not lemonade, and we shouldn't try to make lemonade out of them - just burn those lemons down.

Which seems completely inconsistent with the position he takes here...

Comment author: [deleted] 13 October 2011 07:58:44AM *  5 points [-]

Humans are social animals.

Buying lottery tickets seems less likley to trigger ancestral envrionment reward circuitry than having a positive interaction with another person. Windfall from the capricious environment seems a worse bet than good will towards you in a small tribe where word gets around. This is even completely ignoring the plausible root of most altruism in kin selection.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 10 January 2010 01:32:47PM 1 point [-]

The difference seems to be that the appeal of lottery tickets is already a change from the baseline (in the wrong direction), caused by confusion, and so it's easier to retract this appeal by understanding the situation. Removing more immediate inbuilt drives is on the other hand infeasible.