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gwern comments on Skill: The Map is Not the Territory - Less Wrong

49 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 October 2012 09:59AM

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Comment author: gwern 08 October 2012 12:22:09AM 3 points [-]

Is this distance sufficient to explain the recentism bias? Can you give an example of how a great SF novel like Dune has 'inferential distance' so severe as to explain why more people are at any point buying the (incredibly shitty terrible) NYT-bestselling sequels by Kevin J. Anderson & Brian Herbert than the original?

Comment author: katydee 08 October 2012 12:30:17AM *  2 points [-]

"At any point" seems highly unlikely, since the sequels didn't exist during the same timespan as the original.

I would be surprised if the number of readers of any given Dune sequel were greater than the number of readers of Dune itself; such would indeed constitute evidence in favor of unreasonable recentism.

However, I think that the fact that the sequels are bought more often now is more likely to be the result of sampling bias rather than an actual reflection of the popularity of the original relative to its sequels.

Comment author: gwern 08 October 2012 12:44:25AM 2 points [-]

I would be surprised if the number of readers of any given Dune sequel were greater than the number of readers of Dune itself; such would indeed constitute evidence in favor of unreasonable recentism.

Well, that's where the sales figures comes into play and why I mentioned them. If every reader first buys Dune and only later - maybe - buys any sequel or prequel, then we would expect Dune to always outrank any of the others. To the extent that Dune does not appear on the rankings... The flow of buyers will reflect popularity.

Of course, some readers will not buy Dune and will read it a different way, but this is equally true of the sequels/prequels! Filesharing networks and libraries stock them too.

Comment author: katydee 08 October 2012 12:58:10AM *  3 points [-]

I expect that Dune is much, much more common in libraries than any of its sequels, or at least is checked out more often.

This is supported by a quick search of my local library catalog, which reveals that the library system here has zero to two copies of any given Dune sequel, nearly all of which are currently available, but six copies of Dune, only one of which is currently available.

The other library I sometimes visit appears to have zero to one copy of each Dune sequel, nearly all of which are currently available, but four copies of Dune, zero of which are available.

Obviously, this is a limited sample, but I expect that similar trends generally prevail.

Comment author: hairyfigment 08 October 2012 06:01:14AM 0 points [-]

this is equally true of the sequels/prequels!

Why would you think this? Besides what katydee says about libraries, I've gotten many SF books from my parents' stash over the years. To the point where I had to stop myself from generalizing and rejecting your claim out of hand.