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Yvain comments on Fact Posts: How and Why - Less Wrong

71 Post author: sarahconstantin 02 December 2016 06:55PM

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Comment author: Yvain 05 December 2016 06:12:12AM 12 points [-]

Some additional thoughts:

  • Don't underestimate Wikipedia as a really good place to get a (usually) unbiased overview of things and links to more in-depth sources.

  • The warning against biased sources is well-taken, but if you're looking into something controversial, you might have to just read the biased sources on both sides, then try to reconcile them. I've found it helpful to find a seemingly compelling argument, google something like "why X is wrong" or "X debunked" into Google, and see what the other side has to say about it. Then repeat until you feel like both sides are talking past each other or disagreeing on minutiae. This is important to do even with published papers!

  • Success often feels like realizing that a topic you thought would have one clear answer actually has a million different answers depending on how you ask the question. You start with something like "did the economy do better or worse this year?", you find that it's actually a thousand different questions like "did unemployment get better or worse this year?" vs. "did the stock market get better or worse this year?" and end up with things even more complicated like "did employment as measured in percentage of job-seekers finding a job within six months get better" vs. "did employment as measured in total percent of workforce working get better?". Then finally once you've disentangled all that and realized that the people saying "employment is getting better" or "employment is getting worse" are using statistics about subtly different things and talking past each other, you use all of the specific things you've discovered to reconstruct a picture of whether, in the ways important to you, the economy really is getting better or worse.

Comment author: Jiro 08 December 2016 05:12:46AM 1 point [-]

Don't underestimate Wikipedia as a really good place to get a (usually) unbiased overview of things and links to more in-depth sources.

Don't overestimate it, either.

Comment author: Manfred 08 December 2016 11:24:30PM 3 points [-]

I would recommend just correctly estimating everything, really.

Comment author: Lumifer 09 December 2016 03:58:35PM 0 points [-]

Yes, but there is the bias-variance trade-off.

Comment author: Viliam 12 December 2016 01:35:14PM *  0 points [-]

Don't underestimate Wikipedia as a really good place to get a (usually) unbiased overview of things and links to more in-depth sources.

Always look at the Talk page, to get an overview about what kind of information is being removed from the article.

Connotational disclaimer: I don't mean to imply that the removed information is always or even usually true. It's just, sometimes the opposing views are at least mentioned in the article in a "criticism" section, but sometimes they are removed without a trace ("the article is already too long" can be a convenient excuse, especially when one side can make it too long by adding many irrelevant details).