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NancyLebovitz comments on Debiasing as Non-Self-Destruction - Less Wrong

25 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 07 April 2007 08:20PM

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Comment author: NancyLebovitz 25 May 2011 06:07:57PM -1 points [-]

I was wondering if engineers were less biased than other scientific types?

Apparently not.

There's a surprising correlation between studying engineering and being a terrorist. I don't know if the correlation holds up for people who actually work in engineering rather than just having studied it.

I also haven't seen anything that looks solid about why the correlation exists.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 May 2011 06:41:32PM 0 points [-]

There's a surprising correlation between studying engineering and being a terrorist. I don't know if the correlation holds up for people who actually work in engineering rather than just having studied it.

I wonder how much of that is due to possible cognitive traits or simple competence. Because it's only natural to be more inclined to sign up for things if you're going to good at it. And apart from commandos engineers seem to be the ideal recruits.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 25 May 2011 06:49:16PM 1 point [-]

Sorry no source, but from what I've read, people with engineering degrees are recruited because they're recruitable as suicide bombers, they're not wanted for bombmakers or because they'd be good at positioning themselves for maximum damage.

Comment author: Autolykos 04 July 2013 09:29:27PM 1 point [-]

Danger, wild speculation ahead: I'd assume it has something to do with the saying "Engineers can't lie." I can imagine constantly experiencing that doing things in violation with reality leads to failure, while at the same time hearing politicians lie pretty much every time they open their mouth and having them get elected again and again (or not failing in another way), to make quite a few of them seriously fed up with the current government in particular and humanity in general. Some less stable personalities might just want to watch the world burn at that point. Which should make them recruitable as terrorists, if you use the right sales pitch.

Comment author: somejan 03 August 2011 12:29:39PM 3 points [-]

Might it be that engineering teaches you to apply a given set of rules to its logical conclusion, rather than questioning if those rules are correct? To be a suicide bomber, you'd need to follow the rules of your variant of religion and act on them, even if that requires you to do something that goes against your normal desires, like kill yourself.

I'd figure questioning things is what you learn as a scientist, but apparently the current academic system is not set up to question generally accepted hypotheses, or generally do things the fund providers don't like.

Looking at myself, studying philosophy and also having an interest in fundamental physics, computer science and cognitive psychology helps, but how many people do that.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 August 2011 03:40:20PM 2 points [-]

It's hard to say especially since terrorists are a tiny proportion of engineers, and it would be good to study engineers rather than guessing about them.

Engineer-terrorists mystify me. Shouldn't engineers be the people least likely to think that you can get the reaction you want from a complex system by giving it a good hard kick?

Comment author: somejan 06 August 2011 04:56:51PM 1 point [-]

As another datapoint (though I don't have sources), I heard that among evangelical church leaders you also find a relatively higher proportion of engineers.

Comment author: lessdazed 06 August 2011 05:29:46PM *  0 points [-]

Isn't that assuming the reaction they want isn't for part of the system to break? We wouldn't have inducing armageddon as a goal, but other optimization systems don't work exactly as we do.

The reaction they want is the one their religious system directs, and the process that created those rules was different than the process that created humans, so I think you're indirectly anthropomorphising the religious system.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 August 2011 08:54:42PM 0 points [-]

Some religious people do want to set off armageddon, and some terrorists want to start ethnic/racial wars. However, my impression is that some terrorists have more specific political goals.

Comment author: christopherj 09 November 2013 03:26:52AM 1 point [-]

Shouldn't engineers be the people least likely to think that you can get the reaction you want from a complex system by giving it a good hard kick?

Anyone who's done much repair knows the value of percussive maintenance.

Comment author: lessdazed 06 August 2011 05:24:42PM 1 point [-]

Engineers would be much more used to received abstract rules being useful than other people (would be).