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HamletHenna comments on Strategic ignorance and plausible deniability - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: [deleted] 11 August 2011 08:45:55PM 6 points [-]

The maxim is incorrect (or at least overly general to sound deeply wise).

Cultivating ignorance in an adversary or competitor can give you a comparative advantage. A child taking the advice of trained and informed mental health professions that they are not ready to learn about something, say human sexuality, might preserve their emotional development. A person living under a totalitarian regime might do well to avoid sources of classified information, if learning that information makes them a threat to the state. Not telling my friend that their religious literature contains various harmful prescriptions makes sense until I can convince them that the literature is not morally infallible. Not reading the theorems for certain mathematical results increases my future expectation of fun, since I can then derive the results on my own. Privacy is often considered intrinsically valuable. Double-blind experimental procedure is used to filter out cognitive bias. For many more examples of hazardous information and strategic ignorance, see Nick Bostrom's draft paper on the subject here (.pdf).

Comment author: Desrtopa 13 August 2011 10:36:20PM 5 points [-]

A child taking the advice of trained and informed mental health professions that they are not ready to learn about something, say human sexuality, might preserve their emotional development.

Perhaps, but I'm skeptical that anyone's emotional development is really harmed by learning about human sexuality at an early age provided it's not done in a particularly shocking way. Sure, plenty of kids find it discomforting, and don't want to think about their parents "doing it," but does it cause lasting psychological harm? Without actual research backing up that conclusion, my initial guess would be "almost never."

Comment author: Swimmer963 14 August 2011 06:05:39AM 4 points [-]

Data point: I used to take books out of the adult section of the library as a fairly young child (8-9 years old) and though I was a little baffled by the sexual content, I don't remember finding it at all disturbing. I've been told that I now have an unusually open attitude to sex, though I'm still a little baffled by the whole phenomenon.

Comment author: lessdazed 13 August 2011 10:52:34PM *  1 point [-]

At most, people learn which things they've heard aren't true about sexuality from school. Peers and media tell one what there is to know at a young age, if untrue things besides.

Comment author: paper-machine 11 August 2011 09:20:22PM *  1 point [-]

Yes, the maxim is overly broad. It is the nature of maxims.

EDIT: I understand where I erred now. In quoting EY, I accidentally claimed more than I thought I was. It's clear to me now that the above factors into two values: minimizing personal delusion, and minimizing other people's delusions. I hold the former, and I'm not as picky about the latter. (E.g., I have no problem refraining from going around disabusing people of their theism.)

I'm concerned that having done this was an ad-hoc justification after reading your laundry list of counter-examples, but I can't unread them, so...