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Lumifer comments on The D-Squared Digest One Minute MBA – Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101 - Less Wrong

1 Post author: Benquo 19 March 2017 06:48PM

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Comment author: Lumifer 20 March 2017 03:20:41PM *  1 point [-]

What interesting ideas do you find here? This looks like a ranty of-course-it's-clear-in-the-rearview-mirror "wisdom" to me.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 20 March 2017 09:49:08PM 2 points [-]

A) the audit notion ties into having our feedback cycles nice and tight, which we all like here.

B) This would be a little more interesting if he linked to his advance predictions on the war so we could compare how he did. And of course if he had posted a bunch of other predictions so we could see how he did on those (to avoid cherry-picking). That would rule out rear-view-mirror effects.

Comment author: satt 24 March 2017 12:13:17AM 1 point [-]

This would be a little more interesting if he linked to his advance predictions on the war so we could compare how he did. And of course if he had posted a bunch of other predictions so we could see how he did on those (to avoid cherry-picking).

We may be able to get part of the way there. I found the following suspiciously prediction-like (and maybe even testable!) statements by Ctrl-Fing the pre-invasion posts on D-Squared's blog.

From October 21, 2002:

On the other hand, I am also convinced by Max Sawicky’s argument that Iraq is likely to be the first excursion of an American policy of empire-building in the Middle East, which is likely to be disastrous under any possible performance metric.

But, I retain my original belief that improvement in Iraq is politically impossible unless there is some sort of shooting war in the area culminating in the removal of Saddam Hussein. I don’t set much score by “national-building”, and don’t really believe that what the Gulf needs is more US client states, and I never believed any of the scare stories related to the “WMD” acronym which is currently doing such sterling duty in picking out weblog authors who don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about. [...]

So, how can we square these beliefs a) that something has to be done and b) that if something is done, it will be a disastrous imperial adventure by George Bush.

February 20, 2003:

But apparently, having given up on the bin Laden connection and the Saddam-has-nukes idea, we are now going to be emotionally blackmailed into a war. In my experience, good ideas don’t usually need quite so many outright lies told to support them, but what the hey.

This February 26, 2003 post doesn't explicitly make predictions, but it's clearly written from the premise that the Bush administration would "completely fuck[] up" "the introduction of democracy to Iraq". Compare the end of the footnote on this February 5, 2003 post.

There might be empirical claims relating to WMD in later posts. Such might still count as predictions because the amount of WMD to be found in Iraq remained contentious for some time after the invasion.

Comment author: Benquo 23 March 2017 05:48:00PM 0 points [-]

Strong agreement on (B).

Comment author: Benquo 20 March 2017 07:44:53PM 0 points [-]

Putting zero weight on the estimates of people or institutions with a track record of misrepresentations seems obvious but also really hard to do, so it's interesting to see what sort of person can do it anyway, despite substantial social momentum on the other side. Overall, this seems like an extension of the recent Slate Star Codex post about lying on the internet. If lying is cheap and effective, then this level of caution is entirely appropriate.

To give a decision-relevant example, I think this sort of attitude would have long since given up on something like EA as mostly worthless. Is that excessively skeptical?

Comment author: Lumifer 20 March 2017 08:07:31PM 0 points [-]

Putting zero weight on the estimates of people or institutions with a track record of misrepresentations seems obvious

I don't know about that. How are you going to deal with information coming out of the political establishment, for example? There is an abundant track record of misrepresentations, but if you just discard all of it, you are left with very little.

Or take such an institution as Internet X-D

Plus the OP quite explicitly decided that reversed stupidity is intelligence: "This was how I decided that it was worth staking a bit of credibility on the strong claim that absolutely no material WMD capacity would be found".

Comment author: dglukhov 20 March 2017 08:47:19PM 0 points [-]

Just out of curiosity, how much work would you expect to complete to look for evidence of WMD (or lack thereof)? I'm sure it'd take more than just a couple of quick phone calls to the CIA, or even a trip to the region itself...

Comment author: Lumifer 20 March 2017 09:04:05PM 0 points [-]

How much work for whom to achieve what degree of confidence?

Comment author: dglukhov 21 March 2017 12:56:39PM 0 points [-]

I wouldn't know, I don't know the space of evidence in the first place. I guess in hindsight, that question is a little silly, since you can't know until you know.

What I really wanted to capture was the idea that looking for such evidence seems highly impractical for the average person writing a simple blog. The logistics of going out and finding such evidence doesn't seem trivial. Unless I'm not particularly creative, I'd at least start by integrating into the military operation there, which can range anywhere from active service to doing some civilian work contract there. Even then, I'd have to know the right people with the right informants, evidence of WMD would likely be sensitive information and even more like be kept under wraps for this reason.

Comment author: Lumifer 21 March 2017 04:22:33PM 0 points [-]

looking for such evidence seems highly impractical for the average person writing a simple blog

Right. Which implies that the average person shouldn't have a strong opinion on the topic.

Unless she can analyze the publicly-available contradictory information and come to a conclusion (which still shouldn't be particularly strong because it's all based on hearsay, essentially).