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Beware Trivial Inconveniences

90 Post author: Yvain 06 May 2009 10:04PM

The Great Firewall of China. A massive system of centralized censorship purging the Chinese version of the Internet of all potentially subversive content. Generally agreed to be a great technical achievement and political success even by the vast majority of people who find it morally abhorrent.

I spent a few days in China. I got around it at the Internet cafe by using a free online proxy. Actual Chinese people have dozens of ways of getting around it with a minimum of technical knowledge or just the ability to read some instructions.

The Chinese government isn't losing any sleep over this (although they also don't lose any sleep over murdering political dissidents, so maybe they're just very sound sleepers). Their theory is that by making it a little inconvenient and time-consuming to view subversive sites, they will discourage casual exploration. No one will bother to circumvent it unless they already seriously distrust the Chinese government and are specifically looking for foreign websites, and these people probably know what the foreign websites are going to say anyway.

Think about this for a second. The human longing for freedom of information is a terrible and wonderful thing. It delineates a pivotal difference between mental emancipation and slavery. It has launched protests, rebellions, and revolutions. Thousands have devoted their lives to it, thousands of others have even died for it. And it can be stopped dead in its tracks by requiring people to search for "how to set up proxy" before viewing their anti-government website.

I was reminded of this recently by Eliezer's Less Wrong Progress Report. He mentioned how surprised he was that so many people were posting so much stuff on Less Wrong, when very few people had ever taken advantage of Overcoming Bias' policy of accepting contributions if you emailed them to a moderator and the moderator approved. Apparently all us folk brimming with ideas for posts didn't want to deal with the aggravation.

Okay, in my case at least it was a bit more than that. There's a sense of going out on a limb and drawing attention to yourself, of arrogantly claiming some sort of equivalence to Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky. But it's still interesting that this potential embarrassment and awkwardness was enough to keep the several dozen people who have blogged on here so far from sending that "I have something I'd like to post..." email.

Companies frequently offer "free rebates". For example, an $800 television with a $200 rebate. There are a few reasons companies like rebates, but one is that you'll be attracted to the television because it appears to have a net cost only $600, but then filling out the paperwork to get the rebate is too inconvenient and you won't get around to it. This is basically a free $200 for filling out an annoying form, but companies can predict that customers will continually fail to complete it. This might make some sense if you're a high-powered lawyer or someone else whose time is extremely valuable, but most of us have absolutely no excuse.

One last example: It's become a truism that people spend more when they use credit cards than when they use money. This particular truism happens to be true: in a study by Prelec and Simester1, auction participants bid twice as much for the same prize when using credit than when using cash. The trivial step of getting the money and handing it over has a major inhibitory effect on your spending habits.

I don't know of any unifying psychological theory that explains our problem with trivial inconveniences. It seems to have something to do with loss aversion, and with the brain's general use of emotion-based hacks instead of serious cost-benefit analysis. It might be linked to akrasia; for example, you might not have enough willpower to go ahead with the unpleasant action of filling in a rebate form, and your brain may assign it low priority because it's hard to imagine the connection between the action and the reward.

But these trivial inconveniences have major policy implications. Countries like China that want to oppress their citizens are already using "soft" oppression to make it annoyingly difficult to access subversive information. But there are also benefits for governments that want to help their citizens.

"Soft paternalism" means a lot of things to a lot of different people. But one of the most interesting versions is the idea of "opt-out" government policies. For example, it would be nice if everyone put money into a pension scheme. Left to their own devices, many ignorant or lazy people might never get around to starting a pension, and in order to prevent these people's financial ruin, there is strong a moral argument for a government-mandated pension scheme. But there's also a strong libertarian argument against that idea; if someone for reasons of their own doesn't want a pension, or wants a different kind of pension, their status as a free citizen should give them that right.

The "soft paternalist" solution is to have a government-mandated pension scheme, but allow individuals to opt-out of it after signing the appropriate amount of paperwork. Most people, the theory goes, would remain in the pension scheme, because they understand they're better off with a pension and it was only laziness that prevented them from getting one before. And anyone who actually goes through the trouble of opting out of the government scheme would either be the sort of intelligent person who has a good reason not to want a pension, or else deserve what they get2.

This also reminds me of Robin's IQ-gated, test-requiring would-have-been-banned store, which would discourage people from certain drugs without making it impossible for the true believers to get their hands on them. I suggest such a store be located way on the outskirts of town accessible only by a potholed road with a single traffic light that changes once per presidential administration, have a surly clerk who speaks heavily accented English, and be open between the hours of two and four on weekdays.

 

Footnotes

1: See Jonah Lehrer's book How We Decide. In fact, do this anyway. It's very good.

2: Note also the clever use of the status quo bias here.

Comments (108)

Comment author: MichaelVassar 07 May 2009 11:49:19AM 34 points [-]

And yet, it seems to me that those Chinese who don't know that it's safe to go around the government firewall may have no good way of finding out that it's safe.

Paranoia about how if they do they will get caught may be cultivated in them. How do they know what methods the government has.

Also, they may be made to think that there is something dirty or illicit, wrong or ugly about going outside official sources.

I am reminded of how effectively government propaganda in the US works on those teenagers who least need it and how ineffectively on those who most need it.

Comment author: stcredzero 07 May 2009 03:10:54PM *  13 points [-]

Also, penning in sheep is a lot easier than penning in wolves.

In fact, this reminds me of the magnetic traps (Penning traps?) that are used to cool a couple of hundred atoms down to near-absolute zero. There is a potential barrier that keeps most of the atoms inside. Occasionally, one atom is jostled enough to gain enough energy to escape. This has the effect of carrying energy away from the group, cooling it as a whole.

I think the analogy is compelling. An activism that works off of a discontented fringe only serves to strengthen the current regime. To get real change, one needs to energize the populace as a whole, and often the only forces capable of such widespread influence have economic and deep cultural foundations. Both Gandhi and MLK knew this.

I think the Chinese government also knows this, but I am not sure they can exploit this in the long term.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 29 March 2013 01:39:55PM 3 points [-]
Comment author: stcredzero 31 March 2013 09:55:23PM 1 point [-]

Yes, but instead of the mechanism making the beliefs more radical in the context of the whole society, it acts to make beliefs more mainstream. Though, one could argue that a more jingoistic China would be more radical in the analogous larger context.

Comment author: MichaelBishop 07 May 2009 05:20:55PM *  3 points [-]

An activism that works off of a discontented fringe only serves to strengthen the current regime. To get real change, one needs to energize the populace as a whole,

This is one of my, perhaps the, best justification for being mostly vegetarian rather than strictly vegetarian. (Aside 1: I probably wouldn't phrase it quite as strongly as you. Aside 2: I look forward to commenting about something unrelated to vegetarianism).

Comment author: DSimon 10 January 2011 05:26:00PM 3 points [-]

This is one of my, perhaps the, best justification for being mostly vegetarian rather than strictly vegetarian.

Well, but unlike the atom-cooling example, becoming a strict vegetarian doesn't cut off your communication with non-vegetarians.

I suppose being just mostly vegetarian might make a vegetarian lifestyle seem more approachable to others, but I'd have to see evidence to go either way on that question. Off the cuff, it also seems plausible that being a strict vegetarian would make the possibility of strict vegetarianism seem more attainable to others.

Comment author: kragensitaker 11 August 2011 08:56:38PM 2 points [-]

Well, but unlike the atom-cooling example, becoming a strict vegetarian doesn't cut off your communication with non-vegetarians.

It does make it more difficult to go to the steakhouse with them, or eat over at their house.

Comment author: moshez 31 December 2012 11:51:57AM 2 points [-]

For eating at people's houses: usually people will have enough side-dishes that if one does not make a big deal of it, one can fill up on non-meat dishes. At worst, there's always bread.

For going to steakhouse -- yes, but at every other place, there's usually a vegetarian option, if one tries hard enough.

It does make a good case for being an unannoying vegetarian...but being a strict-vegetarian is a useful Schelling point.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 29 March 2013 05:26:24PM 2 points [-]

These lines of thinking seem to be a pretty big rationalization risk. Does human political behavior really act like cooling atoms? Sure, if thinking that way makes me feel good about my political choices!

Comment author: TimS 29 March 2013 07:48:57PM 0 points [-]

These lines of thinking seem to be a pretty big rationalization risk.

I agree with this, but am confused by your criticism of the evaporative cooling metaphor. Rationalization and mechanisms for a group to become more extreme are not the same topic.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 30 March 2013 04:14:47AM 0 points [-]

I wasn't responding to the evaporative-cooling metaphor.

Comment author: Kawoomba 29 March 2013 05:42:59PM 1 point [-]

And maybe it should, at least if you're a vegetarian for ethical reasons, you'd probably also value signalling to your social circle that they are, in your opinion, supporting sentient suffering. If the minimizing of which is the reason for you (in the impersonal sense) being a vegetarian.

Comment author: MugaSofer 30 March 2013 10:51:14PM -1 points [-]

As a strict vegetarian, that's never been a problem for me. I'm pretty sure fubarisco is right.

Comment author: Clarity 05 November 2015 10:38:48AM 0 points [-]

Very insightful.

Comment author: taw 07 May 2009 01:59:20AM 19 points [-]

Manual moderation is a big unknown - risk aversion means that you don't want your time spent writing to be wasted by some moderator deciding not to publish. And delay between writing and publishing is a problem too - you want feedback as soon as you wrote it while it's still fresh in your mind.

If people thought moderators would be very friendly, and very fast, that would matter less, but it's unusual expectation to have, even when it turns out to be true.

These are two very rational reasons why people post on LW and not OB.

Comment author: Annoyance 07 May 2009 05:51:09PM 4 points [-]

Precisely. Stuff on LW is posted unless some moderator decides to remove it; it's not brought to the main page unless some moderator approves, but it exists, can be read, and can be linked to.

Stuff on OB doesn't exist until a moderator decides it does.

If I've written something that I think the moderator will either dislike or be indifferent to, there's no point in sending it in to OB. Posting it on LW will get it seen and thought about, and if it's sufficiently popular, the moderators may even feel pressure to give it front-page access even if they dislike it personally.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 February 2013 12:09:38PM 11 points [-]

This also reminds me of Robin's IQ-gated, test-requiring would-have-been-banned store, which would discourage people from certain drugs without making it impossible for the true believers to get their hands on them. I suggest such a store be located way on the outskirts of town accessible only by a potholed road with a single traffic light that changes once per presidential administration, have a surly clerk who speaks heavily accented English, and be open between the hours of two and four on weekdays.

Something sort-of like that already exists.

Comment author: DSimon 10 January 2011 05:23:02PM 9 points [-]

This is basically a free $200 for filling out an annoying form, but companies can predict that customers will continually fail to complete it.

Another possible strategy is to just "lose" a small percentage (or a large percentage) of such forms submitted, on the grounds that the additional effort of remembering that you were supposed to get a rebate and calling them on it would push more people under the effort threshold.

Comment author: gwern 10 January 2011 05:33:21PM *  8 points [-]

This has happened to me, I think. Filled out a rebate for a printer, mailed it in, and... nothing. I understand companies outsource rebate processing, and so it wouldn't surprise me if that meant perverse/anti-consumer incentives much like one sees with professional arbitrators.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 22 December 2013 07:42:38AM 1 point [-]

Did you call them on it?

Comment author: gwern 05 August 2014 11:09:53PM *  4 points [-]

No. I'd long since lost most of the documentation, and it wasn't worth whatever effort it would have taken. What do you do, go to small claims court? That's at least a wasted day.

I just stopped paying attention to anything to do with rebates and price things at the original full price. Fool me once etc.

Comment author: phane 07 May 2009 02:09:27PM 21 points [-]

I don't think "Not sending in your $200 rebate" and "not writing in an article to Overcomingbias" are the same phenomena at all.

It's not that people who are now writing all these LW posts felt like it was too much of a hassle to send an email to Overcomingbias; it's that deliberately and unusually sticking your neck out to contribute has a different social connotation than simply participating in the expected community behavior.

Contributing to Overcomingbias is like getting on stage: walking up to the stage is a socially loaded act in and of itself. "Hey, everyone, I'm going to stand out here and say something." Lesswrong, since the entire site is built around community posting, practically invites you to post as you please. There's nothing out of the ordinary about it. How could there be? The tools to do so are right there, embedded into the infrastructure of the site. It must be expected for me to do that!

Comment author: alfredmacdonald 01 January 2013 07:01:56PM 3 points [-]

I think LessWrong actually has a higher barrier for contribution -- at least for articles -- because you're expected to have 20 comment karma before you can submit. This means that, if you're honest anyway, you'll have to spend your time in the pit interacting with people who could potentially shout you down, or call you a threat to their well-kept garden, or whatever.

I have at least 3 articles in draft format that I want to submit once I reach that total, but I don't comment on discussions as much because most of what I would say is usually said in one comment or another. For people like me, the barrier of "must email someone" is actually easier, since discussion contribution requires a sense of knowing how the community works, intuiting a sense of what the community deems a good comment, and posting along those lines.

Comment author: Vaniver 01 January 2013 07:45:57PM 4 points [-]

It may be worthwhile to publish one of them, or at least a draft for it, in Discussion; if it's good enough, that should give you enough karma to post the following articles in Main, and if it isn't, it'll give you valuable feedback on how to improve them.

Comment author: gwern 07 May 2009 01:15:26AM *  19 points [-]

'I was reminded of this recently by Eliezer's Less Wrong Progress Report. He mentioned how surprised he was that so many people were posting so much stuff on Less Wrong, when very few people had ever taken advantage of Overcoming Bias' policy of accepting contributions if you emailed them to a moderator and the moderator approved. Apparently all us folk brimming with ideas for posts didn't want to deal with the aggravation.'

I don't really have a point here, but this shouldn't really be surprising at all, not at this moment in time.

I mean, has anyone here not used Wikipedia? (I'd also wager even odds that >=90% of you have edited WP at some point.)

EDIT: Looking back, it seems to me that what would not be surprising is, upon observing LW suddenly skyrocketing in contributors & contributed material, noticing that the sudden increase comes after a loosening of submission guidelines. When a site skyrockets, it's for one of a few reasons: being linked by a major site like Slashdot, for example. Loosening submission guidelines is one of those few reasons.

But that's not to say that Eliezer should have confidently expected a sudden increase just because he loosened submission criteria; the default prediction should have been that LW would continue on much as OB had been going. Lots of wikis never go anywhere, even if they let anyone edit.

Comment author: komponisto 07 May 2009 08:24:04PM 13 points [-]

I mean, has anyone here not used Wikipedia? (I'd also wager even odds that 90% of you have edited WP at some point.)

Sometimes I actually catch myself reaching for the "edit this page" button when I find a typo or error on non-wiki websites.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 May 2012 07:45:24PM 3 points [-]

And when I see a book with out-of-date information I grab a pencil and update it. :-)

Comment author: taw 07 May 2009 02:47:49PM 9 points [-]

Oh Wikipedia - that reminds me - in late 1990s before Wikipedia there was "Free Online Dictionary of Computing". The main difference between two was that you needed to email the moderators to get your changes included. The results were even more extreme than OB vs LW.

Comment author: gwern 07 May 2009 08:30:58PM 4 points [-]

FOLDOC was the basis of a number of entries I've worked on. I had no idea that it was participation based! I guess that explains why the entries were so scrawny...

Comment author: David_Gerard 23 May 2012 12:57:58PM *  6 points [-]

When the FOLDOC maintainer saw Wikipedia, he promptly gave up and said "use my stuff, you're already doing better" - this is why he released it under GFDL, so WIkipedia could just take it.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 May 2012 07:47:04PM 3 points [-]

Even after normalizing by the total number of visitors to FOLDOC and the total number of visitors to Wikipedia respectively?

Comment author: taw 23 May 2012 12:20:09PM 6 points [-]

Wikipedia didn't get hundreds of millions of visitors until after it got so big.

I know it's hard to believe, but when we started in 2001, it was a very tiny very obscure website people were commonly making fun of, and we were excited with any coverage we could get (and getting omg slashdotted - that was like news of the month).

Comment author: JulianMorrison 07 May 2009 03:10:11PM 3 points [-]

When you visit your friend, he says "help yourself from the kitchen". Which read literally would give you the ability to strip the kitchen bare. Obviously it doesn't mean that. If the friend had spoken as they meant, "take a reasonably small amount of drinks and munchies for immediate use, and not the fancy stuff or tonight's supper", then he would be read as being under-generous.

I suspect people run similar "what subset of their generous offer ought I to take" calculations on any wide-open offer. Taking the whole offer would be greedy.

Comment author: gwern 07 May 2009 08:45:32PM 4 points [-]

I don't see that as a particularly compelling explanation. OB was not just EY & RH. There were a number of other contributors, on a weekly basis even there would be non-EY/RH posts. Just look at the long list of contributors prominent in the sidebar.

If the explanation is why people will only post comments and not articles because they don't want to take too much of what is offered, then what greater item is on offer in LW that people 'settle' for merely submitting articles & comments?

Comment author: Nominull 07 May 2009 01:54:58AM 2 points [-]

It's nice to see that even Eliezer can be shockingly stupid.

Comment author: Lawliet 07 May 2009 02:39:24AM 2 points [-]

How is that good?

Comment author: gwern 07 May 2009 12:44:19PM 10 points [-]

How is that good?

Well, it makes us feel better about ourselves? Pity about the whole FAI thing though...

Comment author: ABranco 15 October 2009 04:39:33AM 2 points [-]

Making us reap good feelings from downward social comparison.

Naughty brains, love those tricks.

Comment author: Annoyance 07 May 2009 05:52:48PM -1 points [-]

We didn't need that particular example for that - it's just one that you immediately recognize as being shockingly stupid.

When we're as shockingly stupid on something as the person we're examining, we don't notice their error, because it's ours as well.

Comment author: kragensitaker 11 August 2011 09:08:28PM 5 points [-]

Rebate schemes are not merely betting on consumer laziness; they are also a means of price discrimination. If you really need that $200, you're more likely to fill out the form.

Comment author: MBlume 06 May 2009 10:11:56PM 19 points [-]

Most people, the theory goes, would remain in the pension scheme, because they understand they're better off with a pension and it was only laziness that prevented them from getting one before.

I've felt for a long time that the same solution should be implemented for organ donation.

(Actually, there's a case to be made for "screw your sentimental attachment to your meat parts -- we can save lives". But soft paternalism is a start.)

Comment author: Yvain 06 May 2009 10:19:46PM *  10 points [-]

I agree with you 200%. I think a couple of countries in Europe might have that. I heard Brazil used to have it, but had to change it when stupid people got angry.

Comment author: fuzzybunn 07 May 2009 05:39:50AM 8 points [-]

Organ donation is a tricky thing, and people don't think rationally when confronted with the death of a loved one.

I'm from Singapore, where we're automatically registered as organ donors and the majority of us are cremated after death, so organ donation shouldn't really be that much of an issue.

Sadly(?), medical science has advanced to the point where we can be kept "alive" despite being brain dead, and it is from these corpses that the organs with the best chance of a successful transplant can be obtained. It's hard to expect a family to accept organ donation when they can see that the loved one still has a heartbeat, even if the heartbeat is produced with the aid of life-support machines.

If the hospital takes a "screw you, you're stupid and we're taking your organs" attitude, the inevitable backlash has no winners and the law will end up changed. It took a lot of cajoling from our governmental mouthpieces to soothe public sentiment when that happened.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 May 2009 10:35:01PM 0 points [-]

There are two of you?

Comment author: Yvain 06 May 2009 10:41:20PM *  17 points [-]

"Soft paternalism relies for its justification on the notion that each of us contains multiple selves"

-- New York Times, The New, Soft Paternalism

Comment author: MBlume 06 May 2009 10:37:43PM 15 points [-]

Perhaps he feels twice as strongly (by some measure) about the issue than he estimates I do?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 07 May 2009 05:04:23AM 8 points [-]

Huh. That actually makes sense. I withdraw my objection.

(Eric S. Raymond called me a "hyperintelligent pedantic bastard" at Penguicon 2009. I was flattered.)

Comment author: mattnewport 06 May 2009 10:16:05PM 5 points [-]

How do you feel about allowing the sale of organs?

Comment author: MBlume 06 May 2009 10:22:13PM *  7 points [-]

I fear the massive levels of abuse it could bring -- the possibility that someone would commit suicide because their organs can take care of their family and they can't, that someone's organs could be used as collateral in a loan à la Merchant of Venice, and of course, the temptation to gain the organs of others by force..

On the other hand, I would question what the market value of various organs would stabilize at if everyone were allowed to participate. Perhaps there'd be more potential donors than participants and the prices would stabilize to a reasonable level, discouraging abuse.

Has anyone attempted an analysis on this issue?

Actually, what if it were handled through insurance? What if opting to donate decreased your health insurance premiums by an amount settled at by actuarial tables and the likelihood of your dying with usable organs etc. etc. and then your insurance company got to sell your organs when you died?

Comment author: ansible 10 January 2011 08:34:58PM 5 points [-]

Regarding my insurance company getting to sell my organs after my death...

No. Emphatically no.

This is a very, very bad mis-incentive for the insurance company toward my continued well-being. I'd rather have the current system, where because of continually rising premium rates, the insurance company has the incentive to keep me alive for as long as possible. (Note that I do think the current system is broken as-is, but that is a discussion for another day.)

Comment author: Annoyance 07 May 2009 05:55:53PM 16 points [-]

I fear the massive levels of abuse it could bring -- the possibility that someone would commit suicide because their organs can take care of their family and they can't, that someone's organs could be used as collateral in a loan à la Merchant of Venice, and of course, the temptation to gain the organs of others by force..

Only the last is an abuse. The preceding points were merely uses that you're uncomfortable with.

I wish people would get this straight. Just because you're uncomfortable or disapproving of a particular utilization of a right or ability doesn't constitute an abuse of that right or ability.

Comment author: kragensitaker 11 August 2011 09:02:34PM 5 points [-]

Because "disapproving of" means that the right or ability doesn't comply with the speaker's moral values, while "abuse" means that the right or ability doesn't comply with objectively correct moral values?

Comment author: mattnewport 06 May 2009 10:45:33PM 3 points [-]

the possibility that someone would commit suicide because their organs can take care of their family and they can't

I wouldn't classify that as abuse, but I can see how some would.

and of course, the temptation to gain the organs of others by force

Yes, that seems like the biggest concern.

Has anyone attempted an analysis on this issue?

I'm not sure. There was a story a little while ago that Singapore was considering moves in this direction but it subsequently turned out to be inaccurate.

Your insurance idea is interesting, though it also sounds open to potential abuse.

Comment author: MBlume 06 May 2009 11:07:22PM *  0 points [-]

the possibility that someone would commit suicide because their organs can take care of their family and they can't.

I wouldn't classify that as abuse, but I can see how some would.

Two possibilities:

a) someone rationally chooses such an action because they have no better options.

b) someone is mentally ill, depressed, etc. and drastically undervalues the future worth of their life.

I would consider the fact that a) can happen to be indicative of something fundamentally broken in the society in which it occurs -- there should be better options. Of course, simply disallowing the deal doesn't necessarily address that, merely sweeps it under the rug.

I would consider b) abuse. I consider paternalism to carry with it an intrinsic evil, but there are greater evils, and the loss of a human life because of a potentially temporary confusion is one of them

Comment author: mattnewport 06 May 2009 11:53:24PM 11 points [-]

but there are greater evils, and the loss of a human life because of a potentially temporary confusion is one of them

Even if another human life is saved in the process? That is after all the context here.

Comment author: Princess_Stargirl 21 December 2014 05:19:22PM 2 points [-]

Sounds awesome to me. Some people get organs they need. Others get money. Even the "nightmare" scenarios only really occur when there was a pre-existing and serious problem. Usually the organ sale doesn't make things much worse.

Comment author: conchis 07 May 2009 02:04:39AM *  11 points [-]

Kieran Healy over at CrookedTImber presents evidence that, while opt-in vs. opt-out does make a difference to whether individuals agree to donate, this doesn't necessarily translate into differences in actual organ procurement rates, and argues that the real bottlenecks in many countries are organizational/logistical.

The apparent lesson: Don't assume that just by removing the obvious trivial obstacles, the problem will be solved. There may be less trivial obstacles lurking in the background.

P.S. Reading off the graphs, Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland all appear to have presumed consent.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 07 May 2009 02:58:00PM 16 points [-]

Mandatory donation would really screw you over if you were trying for cryonics.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 28 June 2011 12:19:11PM *  4 points [-]

Given mandatory donation, it seems reasonable to me that opting out of it would be standard part of the paperwork involved with signing up for cryonics.

Comment author: kragensitaker 11 August 2011 08:58:42PM *  4 points [-]

If you can opt out of it, it's not mandatory! You could get the best of both worlds, though: vitrify your head and donate the rest of your body. The only loss is, I think, your corneas.

Comment author: TimFreeman 11 August 2011 09:07:53PM 10 points [-]

The process of vitrifying the head makes the rest of the body unsuitable for organ donations. If the organs are extracted first, then the large resulting leaks in the circulatory system make perfusing the brain difficult. If the organs are extracted after the brain is properly perfused, they've been perfused too, and with the wrong substances for the purposes of organ donation.

Comment author: kragensitaker 13 August 2011 03:48:32AM 2 points [-]

Oh, thank you! I didn't realize that. Perhaps a process could be developed? For example, maybe you could chill the body rapidly to organ-donation temperatures, garrote the neck, extract the organs while maintaining head blood pressure with the garrote, then remove the head and connect perfusion apparatus to it?

Comment author: TimFreeman 13 August 2011 08:56:10PM 8 points [-]

For example, maybe you could chill the body rapidly to organ-donation temperatures, garrote the neck,..

It's worse than I said, by the way. If the patient is donating kidneys and is brain dead, the cryonics people want the suspension to happen as soon as possible to minimize further brain damage. The organ donation people want the organ donation to happen when the surgical team and recipient are ready, so there will be conflict over the schedule.

In any case, the fraction of organ donors is small, and the fraction of cryonics cases is much smaller, and the two groups do not have a history of working with each other. Thus even if the procedure is technically possible, I don't know of an individual who would be interested in developing the hybrid procedure. There's lots of other stuff that is more important to everyone involved.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 18 September 2011 10:42:54AM 1 point [-]

If you can opt out of it, it's not mandatory!

Right, but I assumed that Julian was still talking about Yvain's idea that Mblume referred to, where the government-mandated system is not strictly "mandatory" but rather the default option from which you can opt out.

Comment author: AnlamK 07 May 2009 02:10:16AM 4 points [-]

I was just going to talk about a similar research. So imagine my delight when you mentioned this!

This was actually done! I heard this in a talk by Dan Arielly (of "Predicatably Irrational" fame), which he called "his favorite social science research ever."

Basically, in countries in which you opt out of organ donation (I think these were some Scandinavian countries), the percentage of organ donors was really high. In countries where you "opt in" to organ donation, the percentage of organ donors was really low.

Okay, here is what a simple Google search yielded:

http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2008/10/dan_ariely_at_davidson.php

Comment author: thomblake 07 May 2009 03:45:53PM 1 point [-]

Actually, there's a case to be made for "screw your sentimental attachment to your meat parts -- we can save lives".

Not a good case. Not in any place with even a remote concern for liberty or natural rights. Unless, of course, that place also disallows inheritance; in that case, it could be argued that you don't own your body after you die.

Comment author: jimmy 07 May 2009 02:00:01AM 0 points [-]

I remember reading about this being tried somewhere. The response was that there was less donation because people didn't like the idea and took the "screw you!" attitude.

I don't remember where I read this, but I can try to find it if you'd like.

Comment author: MrHen 07 May 2009 02:59:49AM 4 points [-]

I don't remember where I read this, but I can try to find it if you'd like.

I would like to see it, considering that at least two other people are saying the exact opposite.

Comment author: jimmy 08 May 2009 12:18:45AM 2 points [-]

Hmm... I can't seem to find it =\

Comment author: taw 07 May 2009 01:54:09AM 0 points [-]

That's how it works in Poland. You can opt out of organ donation if you want. Almost nobody bothers.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 21 September 2014 07:06:16AM 4 points [-]

Near my house there is a car with a bumper sticker that reads “death before inconvenience.” Most people, most of the time, will take whatever choice requires least work.

Paul Graham, The Other Road Ahead

Comment author: Entraya 11 January 2014 04:02:09PM 4 points [-]

I read an article on Cracked about suicide. It seems that even the smallest of inconveniences can make a big difference in numbers of suicides, which is why guns are a terrible ideas to have easily accessible in your house. Humans are lazy. The amount of times I've postponed something, like moving the stuff I constantly have to walk over to reach my room, is way too high. I'd rather walk over a big crate 20 times a day than moving the things

Comment author: Alicorn 27 May 2009 02:11:18AM *  4 points [-]

This is somewhat untimely, but I just StumbledUpon this relevant article.

Comment author: hegemonicon 07 May 2009 04:20:53AM *  4 points [-]

Another example of this might be a deadbolt on your front door; it's sure not going to stop anyone hell bent on robbing you, but it makes it inconvenient enough that any 'opportunist' thieves won't bother.

At any given time, we have many conflicting desires and motivations, that are (generally) closely balanced. Desire to fit in socially and act moral (by not being a thief) vs the desire to maximise your own circumstances (by stealing someones stuff). Desire to maximise circumstances (by filling out the rebate form) vs desire to conserve energy (by being too lazy to do it). Perhaps trivial inconsistencies tip the balance of these motivations enough so that in most people, one will be favored over the other. Adding a rebate form makes tips it just enough so that your natural laziness wins out over your desire for money.

Since our natural desires tend to come from the dumb part of our brain, this has the effect of causing us to make non-optimal decisions.

Comment author: mattnewport 07 May 2009 04:42:00AM 5 points [-]

Another example of this might be a deadbolt on your front door; it's sure not going to stop anyone hell bent on robbing you, but it makes it inconvenient enough that any 'opportunist' thieves won't bother.

This is not quite the same. It's more like the joke about the hikers running from the bear: the first hiker shouts "we can't outrun a bear!", the second hiker shouts back: "I know, but I can outrun you!". Opportunist thieves will look for an easier target down the street, not give up and go home.

Comment author: hegemonicon 07 May 2009 11:57:43AM *  0 points [-]

It's not exactly the same as the other ones Yvain mentioned, but the mechanics of the situation - raising the 'price of admission' so that the vast majority of people are tipped in a certain direction, ie: not robbing your house - are similar enough that the same forces are probably at work.

Comment author: VAuroch 22 December 2013 04:33:35AM 0 points [-]

The deadbolt also adds another disincentive; breaking into a house and stealing (breaking and entering) is a significantly more severe crime than simple burglary

Comment author: bentarm 07 May 2009 12:30:51AM *  8 points [-]

Have you read Nudge? Given that it's the major popular source on the subject, it somehow seems incongruous to have a post with a major section on soft paternalism (they use 'libertarian paternalism') which doesn't even mention it (or at least the name 'Richard Thaler'). Save More Tomorrow is a real-life version of the pension plan you suggest (private, rather than government-run) which has had great success.

Libertarian Paternalism is almost exactly why I started to read the biases literature in the first place - it's the application of knowledge about the way people think/behave to economics.

Comment author: Jiro 03 January 2014 07:24:51PM 2 points [-]

There's a gradual shading from "soft paternalist" solutions to bans. Making someone take an extra 5 seconds to get their choice would probably not be considered a ban by many people. What about a minute? An hour? A week? What if it takes an hour, and you're a poor person who can't afford to get child care for the hour, or pay the taxi fare to go to the banned store on the outskirts of town? What if buying and having the item increases your chance of being harassed by the police, without the item itself being a crime to buy or have? (This actually happens in some places with open carry of guns.) Or increases the chance of child services coming and requiring you to go through months of hearings to get your children back?

Also, "soft paternalist" solutions tend to slip. If you want to discourage people from doing something and forcing them to go out of their way to do it doesn't discourage them enough to satisfy you, it's very tempting and usually very politically feasible to say "well, that's not working, so we need stronger measures like a real ban".

Comment author: Emily 07 May 2009 08:30:33AM *  2 points [-]

See Jonah Lehrer's book How We Decide. In fact, do this anyway. It's very good.

His blog, The Frontal Cortex, is also interesting.

Comment author: pjeby 06 May 2009 11:08:59PM 1 point [-]

Apparently all us folk brimming with ideas for posts didn't want to deal with the aggravation.

It's worse than that; I've thought of probably upward of a dozen article ideas that I felt momentary inspiration to write, and promptly decided not to because of the Omega-cursed post editor that takes so many more clicks to get to than a comment box and doesn't accept the same markup.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 May 2011 09:26:49PM *  7 points [-]

The solution is to sidestep the technical inconveniences and write the text using whatever tools you are most comfortable with, and then, after the text is written, deal with the inconveniences. This way, the inconveniences are scheduled so that they don't stand between you and the important part of the task. (I write my posts in LaTeX, for example.)

Comment author: jimrandomh 06 May 2009 11:20:44PM 2 points [-]

Huh? The 'Create new article' button appears on every page, so long as you're logged in, so it's only one click. Using different markup is annoying, but you don't run into that until you've already written some stuff to add markup to.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 07 May 2009 04:47:17PM 2 points [-]

My OS and browser are badly out of date with the consequence that article submission doesn't work at all

I am wary of getting sucked in and ending up spending too much time on LessWrong, so this problem is failing to motivate me to get back on the upgrade treadmill. Basically, I'm unclear whether participating in LessWrong is a good use of my time, so I succumb to the temptations of superstition and treat the software problem as an ill-omen and blessing-in-disguise.

Perhaps the parallels to the Great Firewall of China are quite close. The effort required to solve a technical problem is certain, even if quite small. The pay-off is unkown. Lacking vital information one ends up reluctant to hazard even a small stake.

Comment author: TimFreeman 07 May 2011 09:03:04PM 0 points [-]

I have no clue how the source editor works. Fortunately, there's an "html" button there, and I know HTML. The HTML for some of the markup is not obvious, but you can always use the buttons to insert the markup, view the HTML, and then copy-and-paste the HTML into the document you're working on in your favorite editor.

I wouldn't edit an important document in a form on a page anyway -- my fingers know Emacs, and control-w means "delete selection" in emacs and "delete this tab and my entire form" in Firefox, so I often accidentally delete tabs when editing.

Comment author: Ivan_Tishchenko 21 October 2015 08:23:17PM 1 point [-]

Examples with credit vs cash may not be quite relevant to "trivial inconveniences". It seems to me, that the key here is, when one uses cash, they are physically giving away something material. With credit card, you just type in pin code, or sign a receipt, or whatever, but that does not register in System 1 as giving away something. So, no cash -- no System 1 intervention, thus less regret on bigger numbers.

Comment author: helldalgo 22 December 2015 01:08:30AM 2 points [-]

Counter example: I spend cash more frivolously than I use a card. Cash, in my head, is money that I've already allotted out of my available funds, and I'm more likely to be tempted to purchase trivial things if I have a wallet full of cash.

Comment author: Otus 09 May 2009 08:21:22PM 1 point [-]

"I don't know of any unifying psychological theory that explains our problem with trivial inconveniences."

I suspect it is simply the combination of uncertain outcome and an opportunity cost. If I'm surfing the web and meet a wall, why would I go through even a trivial effort, when I can just hit back and click the next link? Perhaps most don't expect higher utility from reading a blocked page than another one.

Comment author: Document 08 May 2013 05:49:50AM 0 points [-]

I feel like I've seen this (or something related) talked about elsewhere using the phrase "activation energy".

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 10 April 2013 04:21:38PM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 10 April 2013 02:45:45AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Vaniver 10 April 2013 02:58:47AM 1 point [-]

I would imagine not; I imagine you'd get more value out of targeted LW posts or more technical summaries written by neuroscientists / as textbooks.

Comment author: RichardChappell 07 May 2009 09:21:07PM 0 points [-]

I don't know of any unifying psychological theory that explains our problem with trivial inconveniences.

Ego-depletion? (Maybe not exactly right, but it seems to be in the ballpark at least...)

Comment author: Lojban 07 May 2009 07:22:20PM 0 points [-]

I don't think rebates are strictly added to bet on laziness. It's not always easy to change the price, so it offers some flexibility for later updates. Then there's quarterly earnings and other such stuff to muddy up the situation. Hi Eliezer. Hi everyone.