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Elliot comments on The Affect Heuristic - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 November 2007 07:58AM

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Comment author: Elliot 27 November 2007 09:04:20PM 1 point [-]

I don't think these people are quite as silly as is made out. Let's look at the morality rate example. When you give a morality rate instead of casualty figures, you haven't necessarily communicated what that means for a community, or what it means on a large scale. That information is *implied*, but you haven't handed it to people on a silver platter. A wise person would create that knowledge himself -- he'd realize that if 20% die, and 5k people are infected, that's 1k dead. He'd think of lots of things like that. He'd figure out what it means in a variety of contexts. And he wouldn't pass judgment until he really understood the situation.

What is alleged about people seems to be that they have very bad judgment, or they are irrational. But if my analysis is correct, that need not be the case. We can explain the data simply in terms of widespread ignorance of how to draw consequences out of percentage figures, ignorance of how to create understanding of the implications of a technical fact.

If that's the case, we could approach the problem by thinking about how to communicate more useful information to people, and also how to educate people on how to think well. That is a hopeful and approachable conclusion.