Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Oscar_Cunningham comments on Strategic ignorance and plausible deniability - Less Wrong

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

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (57)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 10 August 2011 06:41:09PM 16 points [-]

I always get confused by experiments involving how generous people are with money, because if I took 5/5 instead of 6/1 I'd be taking $3 from the experimenters! Who am I to say that they are less deserving than my co-experimentee?

Comment author: Alicorn 10 August 2011 06:43:39PM 14 points [-]

But if they don't spend their budget, their funding will be cut.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 10 August 2011 06:46:21PM 11 points [-]

Clearly the scientists must precommit to burning all the money they don't use.

Comment author: Alicorn 10 August 2011 06:49:11PM 6 points [-]

I doubt they can document that as an expense within the parameters of their grants.

Comment author: DSimon 10 August 2011 09:46:34PM 3 points [-]

Unless they also had another grant to research the fumes emitted by burning money.

Comment author: Strange7 11 August 2011 02:02:32AM 3 points [-]

No, for that they'd need a fixed amount of fumes.

Comment author: DSimon 11 August 2011 06:17:39PM 3 points [-]

But for a fixed amount of fumes, they need not a fixed amount of money but a fixed amount of bills. If their surplus is greater than expected, the experimenters can simply burn larger denominations.

Comment author: MartinB 18 November 2011 08:40:00AM 0 points [-]

Burning money in sufficent sums is privately paid deflation. If they hand out their money to subjects it gets back into the economic cycle. If they burn it it is gone.

Comment author: JGWeissman 10 August 2011 07:09:09PM 15 points [-]

Burning money just transfers the value of that money to holders of other money through deflation. So your generousity is still assigning some amount of value to your co-experimentee that otherwise would distributed throughout the economy.

But if the reward was something of intrinsic value, precommitting to destroying unused rewards could work.

Comment author: Khoth 11 August 2011 03:09:52PM 9 points [-]

I think in these experiments you're not supposed to care about the experimenters. Ideally the experiments would be done with something non-zero-sum, rather than with money, but that's much harder to arrange, so instead they just rely on the unspoken convention that the experimenters' costs should be disregarded.

Saving them the $3 isn't doing them any favours. They're willing to pay $10 to know how you'd distribute chunks of utility. You're taking $7 and not answering the question they want to answer.

Comment author: Friendly-HI 11 August 2011 06:56:50PM 7 points [-]

Clearly, lesswrongers are not suitable for a very wide range of psychological experiments.

Most people never realize that they actually "take" the money from the researchers, who would probably put it to better use than Mr. Anonymous. So usually that set-up is no problem at all, and if someone as clever as you "gets it" and consequently ruins the experiment, that person is still just a tiny data-blip skewing the results by just an infinitesimal amount, given a proper sample-size.

Comment author: Khaled 13 August 2011 02:11:03AM *  4 points [-]

You'd be taking $3 from the experimenters, but in return giving them data that represents your decision in the situation they are trying to simulate (which is a situation where only the two experimentees exist), though your point shows they didn't mange to set it up very accurately.

I realize it will be difficult to ignore the fact you mentioned once you notice it, just pointing out that not noticing it can be more advantageuos for the experimenter and yourself (not the other experimentee) - maybe another strategic ignorance