what does 2% failure rate per year even mean when it's presented independent of a number of uses per year

This is a good observation. You can look up what the average number of uses per year is. If I remember right, I've seen some condom efficacy studies include that information.

I feel like I'm missing something basic here that would let me see why it's a useful piece of information on its own.

You're not missing anything basic, you're correctly perceiving ambiguity where ambiguity does exist. Even when information is really important, I've found that it's often been omitted simply because products are marketed to the average person, not to nerdy people like me, and most people don't want to think as much as I do. For this reason, I've found it's very important to be careful not to assume that the world is doing sensible things or giving me all the information. They're not just leaving information out, they're also not being held accountable by a world full of people who think as much as I do. Therefore, they can get away with slapping various nonsense marketing claims and out-of-context data on their boxes without people questioning them.

For this reason, I've found it's very important to be careful not to assume that the world is doing sensible things or giving me all the information.

Yeah, this is good advice in general, and it's definitely what I was doing wrong this time.

Public Service Announcement Collection

by Eliezer Yudkowsky 1 min read27th Jun 2013330 comments


P/S/A:  There are single sentences which can create life-changing amounts of difference.

  • P/S/A:  If you're not sure whether or not you've ever had an orgasm, it means you haven't had one, a condition known as primary anorgasmia which is 90% treatable by cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • P/S/A:  The people telling you to expect above-trend inflation when the Federal Reserve started printing money a few years back, disagreed with the market forecasts, disagreed with standard economics, turned out to be actually wrong in reality, and were wrong for reasonably fundamental reasons so don't buy gold when they tell you to.
  • P/S/A:  There are many many more submissive/masochistic men in the world than there are dominant/sadistic women, so if you are a woman who feels a strong temptation to command men and inflict pain on them, and you want a large harem of men serving your every need, it will suffice to state this fact anywhere on the Internet and you will have fifty applications by the next morning.
  • P/S/A:  Most of the personal-finance-advice industry is parasitic and/or self-deluded, and it's generally agreed on by economic theory and experimental measurement that an index fund will deliver the best returns you can get without huge amounts of effort.
  • P/S/A:  If you are smart and underemployed, you can very quickly check to see if you are a natural computer programmer by pulling up a page of Python source code and seeing whether it looks like it makes natural sense, and if this is the case you can teach yourself to program very quickly and get a much higher-paying job even without formal credentials.