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tel comments on Your Strength as a Rationalist - Less Wrong

69 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 August 2007 12:21AM

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Comment author: tel 29 October 2009 06:02:16AM 2 points [-]

Doesn't any model contain the possibility, however slight, of seeing the unexpected? Sure this didn't fit with your model perfectly — and as I read the story and placed myself in your supposed mental state while trying to understand the situation, I felt a great deal of similar surprise — but jumping to the conclusion that someone was just totally fabricating is something that deserves to be weighed against other explanations for this deviation from your model.

Your model states that pretty much under all circumstances an ambulance is going to pick up a patient. This is true to my knowledge as well, but what happens if the friend didn't report to you that once the ambulance he called it off and refused to be transported. Or perhaps at the same time his chest pains were being judged as not-so-severe the ambulance got another call in that a massive car pileup required their immediate presence.

Your strength as a rationalist must not be the rejection of things unlikely in your model but instead the act of providing appropriate levels of concern. Perhaps the best response is something along the lines of "Sounds like a pretty strange occurrence. Are you sure your friend told you everything?" Now we're starting to judge our level of confidence in the new information being valid.

Which is honestly a pretty difficult model to shake as well. So much of every bit of information you build your world with comes from other people that I think it pretty decent to trust with some amount of abandon.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 October 2009 11:04:14AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: tel 29 October 2009 11:49:18PM 1 point [-]

That's certainly sensible, and in But There's Still a Chance Eleiezer makes examples where this seems strong. In the above example, it depends a whole lot on how much belief you have in people (or, rather, lines of IRC chat).

I think then that your strength as a rationalist comes in balancing that uncertainty against some your prior trust in people. At which point, instead of predicting the negative, I'd seek more information.

Comment author: Dpar 14 January 2010 06:41:42PM *  0 points [-]

The level of "trust" you have in a person should be inversely proportional to the sensationalism of the claim that he's making.

If a person tells you he was abducted by a UFO, you demand evidence.

If a person tells you that on the way to work he slipped and fell down, and you have no concrete reason to doubt the story in particular or the person in general, you take that at face value. It is a reasonable assumption that a perfect stranger in all likelihood will NOT be delusional or a compulsive liar.


Comment author: tel 24 January 2010 01:23:25AM 0 points [-]

That makes sense if you're only evaluating complete strangers. In other words, your uncertainty about the population-inferred trustworthiness of a person is pretty high and so instead the mere (Occam Factor style) complexity of their statement is the overruling component of your decision.

In the stated case, this isn't a totally random stranger. I feel quite justified in having a less-than uninformative prior about trusting IRC ghosts. In this case, my rationally acquired prejudice overrules in inference about the truth of even somewhat ordinary tales.

Comment author: Dpar 11 May 2010 06:36:54AM *  0 points [-]

The author did not mention anything about an exceptionally high percentage of liars in IRC relative to the general population (which would be quite relevant to his statement) therefore there's no reason to believe that such had been HIS experience in the past.

Given that, there is no reason for HIM to presume that the percentage of compulsive liars in IRC would different from the general population. YOUR experiences may, of course, be drastically different, but they are not the subject of discussion here.