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[SEQ RERUN] One Argument Against An Army

6 Post author: MinibearRex 21 July 2011 07:09PM

Title: [SEQ RERUN] One Argument Against An Army Tags: sequence_reruns Today's post, One Argument Against An Army was originally published on 15 August 2007. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):

It is tempting to weigh each counterargument by itself against all supporting arguments. No single counterargument can overwhelm all the supporting arguments, so you easily conclude that your theory was right. Indeed, as you win this kind of battle over and over again, you feel ever more confident in your theory. But, in fact, you are just rehearsing already-known evidence in favor of your view.


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This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Update Yourself Incrementally, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

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Comments (3)

Comment author: shminux 21 July 2011 09:56:39PM *  1 point [-]

Presumably no definitive (i.e. testable/falsifiable) evidence either way is originally available, so the whole argument appears to be rather anti-rationalist.

A better approach would be to set personal prejudices and idle musings aside and to attempt to construct a model that can be tested (for example: what Sylvanian-made tech would be capable of diverting asteroids? would it leave residue at the impact site? were there sudden and unexplained expenditures at the time the tech would have been designed/activated? what other artificial and/or natural events could have affected the strike timing/location?)

If one remains content with upshifting/downshifting probabilities, s/he is distracted from the only task that makes sense: building a testable model and testing it.

Comment author: khafra 22 July 2011 08:03:54PM *  3 points [-]

Shminux,Welcome to Lesswrong!

When using Traditional Rationality, we expect people to make claims and justify them with arguments. However, if we're just seeking the truth by the most effective means available, what may be considered evidence has a broader scope. Even in the absence of a repeatable test, we can say that there is evidence favoring one model over the alternatives.

Of course, if I were on the defense committee, I'd certainly demand some tests like the ones you described before voting for war with Sylvania; as the "ambient evidence" doesn't seem sufficient.

Comment author: shminux 22 July 2011 09:28:24PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the welcome. I understand that Hard Rationality is often not readily applicable and you are tempted to make do with what you have, such as in forensics.

The issue I have with this approach is that "the most effective means available" is not really effective, unless the issue is either clear-cut (shoelaces are either tied or untied) or not very important (what's the worst that can happen if wrongly reflected light makes you mistakenly believe that your shoelaces are tied?).

My concern (summarized in the last paragraph of my original comment) is that people naturally and subconsciously gravitate toward collecting evidence (comparatively easy) instead of building testable models (hard). This issue probably deserves a separate thread, unless it has already been discussed, in which case I'd appreciate a link.