Epistemic Status: Public service announcement. We will then return to regularly scheduled programming.

Written partly as a response to (Robin Hanson): Why be Contrarian, responding to the book Inadequate Equilibria by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Warning: Applause lights incoming. I’m aware. Sorry. Seemed necessary.

We the people, in order to accomplish something, do declare:

You have the right to think.

You have the right to disagree with people where your model of the world disagrees.

You have the right to disagree with the majority of humanity, or the majority of smart people who have seriously looked in the direction of the problem.

You have the right to disagree with ‘expert opinion’.

You have the right to decide which experts are probably right when they disagree.

You have the right to disagree with ‘experts’ even when they agree.

You have the right to disagree with real experts that all agree, given sufficient evidence.

You have the right to disagree with real honest, hardworking, doing-the-best-they-can experts that all agree, even if they wouldn’t listen to you, because it’s not about whether they’re messing up.

You have the right to have an opinion even if doing a lot of other work would likely change that opinion in an unknown direction.

You have the right to have an opinion even if the task ‘find the real experts and get their opinions’ would likely change that opinion.

You have the right to update your beliefs based on your observations.

You have the right to update your beliefs based on your analysis of the object level.

You have the right to update your beliefs based on your analysis of object-level arguments and analysis.

You have the right to update your beliefs based on non-object level reasoning, on any meta level.

You have the right to disagree with parts of systems smarter than you, that you could not duplicate.

You have the right to use and update on your own meta-rationality.

You have the right to believe that your meta-rationality is superior to most others’ meta-rationality.

You have the right to use as sufficient justification of that belief that you know what meta-rationality is and have asked whether yours is superior.

You have the right to believe the object level, or your analysis thereof, if you put in the work, without superior meta-rationality.

You have the right to believe that someone else has superior meta-rationality and all your facts and reasoning, and still disagree with them.

You have the right to believe you care about truth a lot more than most people.

You have the right to actually care about truth a lot more than most people.

You have the right to believe that most people do care about truth, but also many other things.

You have the right to believe that much important work is being and has been attempted by exactly zero people, and you can beat zero people.

You have the right to believe that many promising simple things never get tried, with no practical or legal barrier in the way.

 

You have the right to disagree despite the possible existence of a group to whom you would be wise to defer, or claims by others to have found such a group.

You have the right to update your beliefs about the world based on clues to others’ anything, including but not limited to meta-rationality, motives including financial and social incentives, intelligence, track record and how much attention they’re paying.

You have the right to realize the modesty arguments in your head are mostly not about truth and not useful arguments to have in your head.

You have the right to realize the modesty arguments others make are mostly not about truth.

You have the right to believe that the modesty arguments that do work in theory mostly either don’t hold in practice or involve specific other people.

You have the right to not assume the burden of proof when confronted with a modesty argument.

You have the right to not answer unjustified isolated demands for rigor, whether or not they take the form of a modesty argument.

You have the right, when someone challenges your beliefs via reference class tennis, to ignore them.

You have the right to disagree even when others would not, given your facts and reasoning, update their beliefs in your direction.

You have the right to share your disagreement with others without providing evidence you expect them to find convincing.

You do not need a ‘disagreement license,’ of any kind, implied or actual, to do any of this disagreeing. To the extent that you think you need one, I hereby grant one to you. I also grant a ‘hero license‘, and a license license to allow you to grant yourself additional such licenses if you are asked to produce one.

You do not need a license for anything except when required by enforceable law.

You have the right to be responsible with these rights and not overuse them, realizing that disagreements should be the exception and not the rule.

You have the right to encourage others to use these rights.

You have the right to defend these rights.

Your rights are not limited to small or personal matters, or areas of your expertise, or where you can point to specific institutional failures.

Congress has the right to enforce these articles by appropriate legislation.

Oh, and by right? I meant duty. 

 

 

 

 


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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:59 AM

You have the right to have beliefs which you know or could reasonably conclude are probably false, though it is advisable you not exercise it.

You have the right to have beliefs which you have reason to believe are probably true, even if an overwhelming majority of well-informed experts disagrees, though it is advisable you exercise it only when you have a very good reason to believe you are right (i.e. when you have carefully considered expert majority disagreement as evidence of a strength relative to the capability of the experts and the nature of the system of incentives in which they operate, and have sufficiently strong evidence in the other direction).

You have the right to make a series of bald assertions on variations of these rights, interwoven such as not to imply a distinction between the advisable and the inadvisable, and in such large numbers that disagreement over any specific point can be dismissed as only minorly affecting the conclusion, and that refuting all points would be difficult due to the limitations of the forum in which they are posted.

You have the right to claim that anything is a duty, but everyone else has the right to ignore it.

I disagree. There's a certain minimum level of epistemic qualifications (knowledge, effort, research, etc) that entitles you to your own opinion in a domain. If you do not meet the minimum epistemic level in a domain, then you are not entitled to your own opinion, and you should default to domain experts.

I believe that the universe was created in the Big Bang , but this is merely expert opinion. It is not my own opinion, as I do not meet the minimum epistemic qualifications to have an opinion on cosmology/astrophysics, I default to expert opinion. In contrast, I believe "2 + 2 = 4", and this is my own opinion. If experts decided "2 + 2 = 3", then I am well within my epistemic right to disagree with them. Compare this with astrophysics, were my beliefs are merely the opinions of others with superior epistemic qualifications. When you truly understand a subject matter (and not just know the password), when the subject matter is truly part of you, then—and only then—are you epistemically qualified enough to have your own independent opinion. Only then can you disagree with experts.