Yes Requires the Possibility of No

by Scott Garrabrant 6mo17th May 20192 min read39 comments

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1. A group wants to try an activity that really requires a lot of group buy in. The activity will not work as well if there is doubt that everyone really wants to do it. They establish common knowledge of the need for buy in. They then have a group conversation in which several people make comments about how great the activity is and how much they want to do it. Everyone wants to do the activity, but is aware that if they did not want to do the activity, it would be awkward to admit. They do the activity. It goes poorly.

2. Alice strongly wants to believe A. She searches for evidence of A. She implements a biased search, ignoring evidence against A. She finds justifications for her conclusion. She can then point to the justifications, and tell herself that A is true. However, there is always this nagging thought in the back of her mind that maybe A is false. She never fully believes A as strongly as she would have believed it if she just implemented an an unbiased search, and found out that A was, in fact, true.

3. Bob wants Charlie to do a task for him. Bob phrases the request in a way that makes Charlie afraid to refuse. Charlie agrees to do the task. Charlie would have been happy to do the task otherwise, but now Charlie does the task while feeling resentful towards Bob for violating his consent.

4. Derek has an accomplishment. Others often talk about how great the accomplishment is. Derek has imposter syndrome and is unable to fully believe that the accomplishment is good. Part of this is due to a desire to appear humble, but part of it stems from Derek's lack of self trust. Derek can see lots of pressures to believe that the accomplishment is good. Derek does not understand exactly how he thinks, and so is concerned that there might be a significant bias that could cause him to falsely conclude that the accomplishment is better than it is. Because of this he does not fully trust his inside view which says the accomplishment is good.

5. Eve is has an aversion to doing B. She wants to eliminate this aversion. She tries to do an internal double crux with herself. She identifies a rational part of herself who can obviously see that it is good to do B. She identifies another part of herself that is afraid of B. The rational part thinks the other part is stupid and can't imagine being convinced that B is bad. The IDC fails, and Eve continues to have an aversion to B and internal conflict.

6. Frank's job or relationship is largely dependent to his belief in C. Frank really wants to have true beliefs, and so tries to figure out what is true. He mostly concludes that C is true, but has lingering doubts. He is unsure if he would have been able to conclude C is false under all the external pressure.

7. George gets a lot of social benefits out of believing D. He believes D with probability 80%, and this is enough for the social benefits. He considers searching for evidence of D. He thinks searching for evidence will likely increase the probability to 90%, but it has a small probability of decreasing the probability to 10%. He values the social benefit quite a bit, and chooses not to search for evidence because he is afraid of the risk.

8. Harry sees lots of studies that conclude E. However, Harry also believes there is a systematic bias that makes studies that conclude E more likely to be published, accepted, and shared. Harry doubts E.

9. A bayesian wants to increase his probability of proposition F, and is afraid of decreasing the probability. Every time he tries to find a way to increase his probability, he runs into an immovable wall called the conservation of expected evidence. In order to increase his probability of F, he must risk decreasing it.

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