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paper-machine comments on Strategic ignorance and plausible deniability - Less Wrong

36 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 10 August 2011 09:30AM

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Comment author: paper-machine 10 August 2011 01:48:46PM 3 points [-]

These are examples of situations where it's advantageous to be ignorant of something.

But rationalists should win.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 10 August 2011 02:37:47PM 1 point [-]

Good point. How would you resolve this contradiction, then?

Comment author: nerzhin 10 August 2011 04:13:04PM 4 points [-]

There are three things you could want:

  1. You could want the extra dollar. ($6 instead of $5)

  2. You could want to feel like someone who care about others.

  3. You could genuinely care about others.

The point of the research in the post, if I understand it, is that (many) people want 1 and 2, and often the best way to get both those things is to be ignorant of the actual effects of your behavior. In my view a rationalist should decide either that they want 1 (throwing 2 and 3 out the window) or that they want 3 (forgetting 1). Either way you can know the truth and still win.

Comment author: atucker 10 August 2011 04:23:12PM *  1 point [-]

The problem with strategic ignorance is if the situation is something like 6/1 vs. 5/1000.

Most people care more about themselves than others, but I think that at that level most people would just choose to lose a dollar and give 999 more.

If you choose to not learn something, then you don't know what you're causing to happen, even if it would entirely change what you would want to do.

Comment author: JackEmpty 10 August 2011 05:09:01PM 2 points [-]

So it's not only strategic ignorance, but selective ignorance too. By which I mean to say it only applies highly selectively.

If you have enough knowledge about the situation to know it's going to be 6/1 and 5/5, or 5/1 and 6/5, then that's a pretty clear distinction. You have quite a bit of knowledge, enough to narrow it to only two situations.

But as you raised, it could be 6/1 & 5/5, or 6/1 & 5/1000 or 6/(.0001% increase of global existential risk) & 5/(.0001% increase of the singularity within your lifetime).

The implications of your point being, if you don't know what's at stake, it's better to learn what's at stake.

Comment author: atucker 10 August 2011 05:11:10PM -1 points [-]

Yeah, pretty much.

Comment author: atucker 10 August 2011 02:54:08PM *  6 points [-]

I personally strive to know as much as I can about myself, even if it ultimately means that I believe a lot of less than flattering things.

Then I try to either use this knowledge to fix the problems, or figure out workarounds in presenting myself to others.

Some people are pretty okay with you knowing bad things about yourself if you wish that they aren't true. A lot of my closer friends are like that, so I can continue being totally honest with them. If someone isn't okay with that, then I either preempt all complaints by saying I messed up (many people find that less offensive than evasiveness), or avoid the conversations entirely.

In extreme cases, I'd rather know something about myself and hide it (either by omission and lying) or just let other people judge me for knowing it.

One convenient thing about allowing yourself to learn inconvenient truths is that its easier to realize when you're wrong, and should apologize. Apologies tend to work really well when you mean them, and understand why the other person is mad at you.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 August 2011 02:08:50PM 0 points [-]

Then I guess sometimes, ---ists (as I like to refer to them) should remain purposefully ignorant, in contradiction to the maxim—if, that is, they actually care about the advantages of ignorance.