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Richard_Hollerith comments on The Baby-Eating Aliens (1/8) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 January 2009 12:07PM

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Comment author: Richard_Hollerith 01 February 2009 08:00:00PM 0 points [-]

Anna, it takes very little effort to rattle off a numerical probability -- and then most readers take away an impression (usually false) of precision of thought.

At the start of Causality Judea Pearl explains why humans (should and usually do) use "causal" concepts rather than "statistical" ones. Although I do not recall whether he comes right out and says it, I definitely took away from Pearl the heuristic that stating your probability about some question is basically useless unless you also state the calculation that led to the number. I do recall that stating a number is clearly what Pearl defines as a statistical statement rather than a causal statement. What you should usually do instead of stating a probability estimate is to share with your readers the parts of your causal graph that most directly impinges on the question under discussion.

So, unless Eliezer goes on to list one or more factors that he believes would cause a human to convert to or convert away from my system of valuing things (namely, goal system zero or GSZ) or one or more factors that he believes would tend to prevents other factors from causing a conversion to or away from GSZ, I am going to go on believing that Eliezer has probably not reflected enough on the question for his numbers to be worth anything and that he is just blowing me off.

In summary, I tend to think that most uses of numerical probabilities on these pages have been useless. On this particular question I am particularly sceptical because Eliezer has exhibited signs (which I am prepared to describe if asked) that he has not reflected enough on goal system zero to understand it well enough to make any numerical probability estimate about it.

I am busy with an urgency today, so I might take 24 h to reply to replies to this.