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AshwinV comments on Strategic ignorance and plausible deniability - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: AshwinV 08 September 2014 02:54:36PM 0 points [-]

Any tips on how to overcome these effects? In other words, do you have a suggestion for a kind of behaviour/rationality technique where one can be trained to overcome any instinct to prevent yourself from finding out certain information. Generally, speaking knowing something is (usually) better than not knowing, even if the situation is potentially high cost on both options that you mentioned (punish or ignore). To illustrate with an example, if I find out that my boss is a child molester, but I am in desperate need of my current job, I may be less inclined to report it to an authority even if my society (correctly) imposes a high taboo on child molestation. Nevertheless, knowing still benefits me as I will ensure that my children never meet my employer.

The example that I provided may sound a little besides the point, but I am not disagreeing with the conclusion of the post. I am merely trying to point out that the "not knowing" inducing behavior may be proving costly, and extremely so. If I were to try and construct a problem based on a topic a little closer to the heart of the LW zeitgeist, it would probably sound something like this:

If I am a retired man of age 85, who is truly a rags to riches story, and who has overcome several set-backs in life, to acquire a tremendous amount of wealth, which I now plan on using to support an altruistic, but evidently jingoistic cause. I plan to give millions of dollars away to support only a certain ethnic group, (at this point i'm thinking more along the lines of people of my sub-caste as opposed to people born in country X or native speakers of language Y). This imaginary version of me would surely be hesitant to educate himself about the prospect of machine intelligence. He would surely be reluctant to part with his hard earned money (which was earned by countless meetings with clients and sleepless nights rather than buying land and finding oil beneath). This is particularly tragic because, even the members of my pet ethnic group are more likely to benefit from even a "less than singularity" advance in technology, than by using my vast (but honestly earned) wealth to set up more monasteries, academies and other institutions (which generally make use of buildings and marketing campaigns).

One obvious reply is to brute force the problem and simply force yourself and members of society whom you have influence over to simply learn about everything. This may not be an effective solution as the behavioral pattern of strategic ignorance is instinctive.

But if the reasons as to why this is so can be enumerated, then perhaps a strategy can be formed regarding how to tackle this rather critical issue.