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TheOtherDave comments on Free to Optimize - Less Wrong

25 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 January 2009 01:41AM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 December 2013 03:26:03PM 0 points [-]

So, if the "ignorance of the law is no excuse" principle were repealed by some culture C, would that surprise you, or would you merely consider it a demonstration that punishing people who are ignorant of the law is of enormous perceived moral significance to members of C?

Comment author: VAuroch 02 December 2013 11:26:29PM 0 points [-]

It would greatly surprise me if any culture viewed the possibility of punishing an accidental crime, no matter how severe, as worse than allowing people guilty of serious crimes to go unpunished using a specious claim of ignorance.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 03 December 2013 12:08:58AM 1 point [-]

OK, that answers my question, thanks.

For my own part, I would find that no more surprising than discovering a culture that viewed the punishing of an innocent person as worse than letting a guilty person go free.

Comment author: VAuroch 03 December 2013 03:22:55AM -1 points [-]

I view that as basically the same, and would consider that, also, to be highly surprising. No culture I'm aware of ever took an absolutist stance on that issue, in either direction. Largely because it's incredibly impractical.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 03 December 2013 04:23:56AM 1 point [-]

I'm not precisely sure what you mean by "absolutist" here, but I would certainly agree that for every culture there is some (P1,P2) for which that culture accepts a P1 chance of punishing an innocent person over a P2 chance of letting a guilty person go free.

Comment author: VAuroch 03 December 2013 10:55:00AM -1 points [-]

Basically, every culture ever is such a culture to an extent, so the only sense in which it could be a discovery would be if a culture had (P1,P2)=(epsilon,1-epsilon) or (P1,P2)=(0,1). Which I would consider highly surprising.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 03 December 2013 05:50:09PM 0 points [-]

every culture ever is such a culture to an extent

Yes, which is why I said I would agree this is true for every culture.

if a culture had (P1,P2)=(epsilon,1-epsilon) or (P1,P2)=(0,1). Which I would consider highly surprising.

Yes, I would consider that surprising as well. If that's what you mean by an absolutist stance, I agree with you that no culture took an absolutist stance on this issue, and that doing so is incredibly impractical.

But... consider two hypothetical criminal justice systems, J1 and J2, for which generally-accepted statistical studies demonstrate that J1 acquits 30% of guilty defendants and convicts 1% of innocent ones, and J2 acquits 1% of guilty defendants and convicts 30% of innocent ones.

Given a randomly selected culture, I cannot confidently predict whether that culture prefers J1 or J2. (Can you?)

Given a culture that prefers J1 to J2, all else being (implausibly) equal, I would comfortably describe that culture as viewing the punishing of an innocent person as worse than letting a guilty person go free. (Would you?)

I would not consider discovering C1 particularly surprising. (Would you?)