Vegetarian/Omnivore Ideological Turing Test Judging Round!

by Raelifin1 min read20th Aug 201521 comments


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Come one, come all! Test your prediction skills in my Caplan Test (more commonly called an Ideological Turing Test). To read more about such tests, check out palladias' post here.

The Test:

In the test, you will be asked to read responses written by rationalists from LessWrong (and the Columbus Ohio LW group). These responses are either from a vegetarian or omnivore (as decided by a coin flip) and are either their genuine response or a fake response where they pretend to be a member of the other group (also decided by coin flip). If you'd like to participate (and the more, the merrier) you'll be asked to distinguish fake from real by assigning a credence to the proposition that a given response is genuine.

I'll be posting general statistics on how people did at a later date (probably early September). Please use the comments on this thread to discuss or ask questions. Do not make predictions in the comments. I got more entries than would be reasonable to ask people to judge, so if your entry didn't make it into the test, I'm sorry. We might be able to run a second round of judging. If you're interested in judging more entries, send me a PM or leave a comment. I tended to favor the first entries I got, when selecting who got in.

21 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:57 PM
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I am a big fan of the Ideological Turing Test, and applying it to different domains, and I was happy to participate in this one. However, I wonder whether this is an appropriate domain.

I think the ITT works best when there are coherent and well-defined opposing positions, of roughly equal size and intensity. The abortion debate is a good example - while there are differences in emphasis and gradations of support, it is clear what the two sides are. Other good examples are the minimum wage debate, the global warming debate, and the debate. The ITT works worst when the positions are incoherent and ill-defined, or of grossly unequal size and intensity. "Was Tony Blair a good Prime Minister?" is a good example - it's not clear what it means to be a good Prime Minister, there are people who (dis)approve of him for diametrically opposite reasons, and his detractors are much more invested in the question than are his defenders.

Sadly, vegetarianism is much more like the latter than the former. Some people are vegetarians for health reasons, others for animal welfare reasons. Vegetarians typically feel strongly about the issue; non-vegetarians simply don't care about it, and have typically not considered the issue nearly as strongly. There is no "opposing side" to vegetarianism that would drive the ITT; all that links non-vegetarians is that they don't find vegetarian arguments compelling.

I found these very difficult (with one exception -- one of the entries was mine). Perhaps I'm just bad at spotting the relevant cues, but I think actually vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism are probably easier to fake than (e.g.) liberalism/conservatism or theism/atheism. Being a vegetarian isn't a matter of all-encompassing worldview; you can turn an omnivore into a vegetarian by adjusting one or two opinions (e.g. on what sorts of diet are healthiest) or preferences (e.g., does meat taste delicious or gross) or values (e.g., is a chicken's suffering 0%, 1% or 50% as important as a human's), and it's probably not super-difficult for most thoughtful people to imagine themselves into the opposite position.

All felt realistic to me. With different degrees of believability, but none scored below 50% in my radar.

Yeah, I had much the same problem. And since allegedly each person was randomly labelled either "vegetarian" or "omnivore", clearly that indicates that we're failing to tell which is which. I made some (insufficient) attempt to adjust my probability estimates downward a little (effectively, updating on the knowledge that randomized answers usually look credible to me, so that my naive credibility judgements must be overgenerous), so that almost all my estimates were 40%-60%.

I fear that this one (at least with the sample of contestants we've got -- LW posters are an intelligent lot) is just too difficult.

I am prepared to be embarrassed if it turns out that some people were able to identify fakers much better than chance...

I pretty much agree with you. I think it'll be interesting to get the data out of this and see how competent the judges are compared to Leah's Christianity tests. A few people in my local group thought this would be a good topic.

I love the idea though it got hard to keep going with the number of items. I don't think I read page 2 as carefully as page 1.

I didn't include my username but will you be posting the full breakdown of which were and were not real?

Yes. I'll be providing the answer key in the stats post.

I find ideologies quite frustrating to deal with, and that's why I thought of but didn't answer the test.

Consequentially the body needs certain nutrients in order to survive. That's it; I can't see the point of the supposed false dilemma in the whole meat/vegan stuff. Get the nutrients, anyhow; problem solved, no ideology needed.

That's it

No, that is very much not it.

Human relationship with food is MUCH more complicated than "I need a set of nutrients to enter my body".

That's the difference between the practical and the theoretical.

I just think it would be useful to know what we should be aiming for instead of walking on water.

That's the difference between the practical and the theoretical.

If the difference is that big you need a better theory.

Isn't that just consequentialism's weak point? Saying is easier than doing.

"That's it" doesn't follow in any way from consequentialism.

Consequentialism doesn't tell you what should you care about.

I don't understand the point you're trying to make. I don't really know where we're heading to let's make this a little bit more detailed.

I tried to make some solid foundation about nutrition, and is that the human body needs abcdefgxyz to maintain itself. The most important thing about it is that it kicks ideologies out, because we now have a foundation we can go to in case we're wondering if something is "healthy"*.

You made the point that it's more complicated than a bare metal theory and you're correct, but the point was that we now know where to go. I'd like you to expand on that, too.

I don't think it's such a terrible theory. The "Consequentialism doesn't tell you what should you care about." implies we're going back to the ideologies I was trying to kick out.

*healthy is a grey area term. Sometimes I think it means it will boost your health. Sometimes it's supposed to help you with body functions. Sometimes it means that x is better than y. I think we should clear this word up too because it's annoying.

because we now have a foundation we can go to in case we're wondering if something is "healthy"*.

Well, kinda. Health is a function of many arguments, nutrition being one of them. The problem is that the arguments to the health function are not independent -- you don't get the luxury of changing just food and knowing that nothing else changed.

To give an example, I know some people who would consider being restricted to Soylent and nothing else to be cruel and unusual punishment, to the degree that the resulting unhappiness and stress will impact their health.

implies we're going back to the ideologies I was trying to kick out.

We're going back not to ideologies, but to values. You can't kick out values and be left with anything useful.

Meat eater counterargument: But! Tastiness!

Vegan counterargument: But! Torture!

Very quickly leading to the usual:

-- You are an idiot!

-- And you're evil!


I didn't say those were comprehensive arguments for Veganism or Meateating, just that they're fairly succinct and compelling arguments against "don't need ideologies. Just get your nutrients somehow."