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KnaveOfAllTrades 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: KnaveOfAllTrades 03 March 2014 01:03:31AM *  1 point [-]

I see two senses (or perhaps not-actually-qualiatively-different-but-still-useful-to-distinguish cases?) of 'I notice I'm confused':

(1) Noticing factual confusion, as in the example in this post. (2) Noticing confusion when trying to understand a concept or phenomenon, or to apply a concept.

Example of (2): (A) "Hrm, I thought I understood what, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" means when I first heard it; the words seemed to form a meaningful whole based on the way they fell together. But when I actually try to concretise what that could possibly mean, I find myself unable to, and notice that characteristic pang of confusion."

Example of (2): (B) "Hrm, I thought I understood how flight works because I could form words into intelligent-sounding sentences about things like 'lift' and 'Newton's third law'. But then when I tried to explain why a plane goes up instead of down, my word soup explained both equally well, and I noticed I was confused." (Compare, from the post: "I knew that the usefulness of a model is not what it can explain, but what it can't. A hypothesis that forbids nothing, permits everything, and thereby fails to constrain anticipation.")

Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 07 June 2014 02:56:29AM *  1 point [-]

It might be useful to identify a third type:

(3) Noticing argumentative confusion. Example of (3): "Hrm, those fringe ideas seem convincing after reading the arguments for them on this LessWrong website. But I still feel a lingering hesitation to adopt the ideas as strongly as lots of these people seem to have, though I'm not sure why." (Confusion as pointer to epistemic learned helplessness)

As in the parent to this comment, (3) is not necessarily qualitatively distinct (e.g. argumentative confusion could be recast as factual confusion: "Hrm, I'm confused by this hesitation I observe in myself to fully endorse these fringe ideas after seeing such seemingly-decisive arguments. Maybe this means something." (Observations of internal reaction are still observations about which one can be factually confused).