Continuing the theme that the “Conjunction Fallacy” experimental results can be explained by social dynamics, let’s look at another social dynamic: the Law of Least Effort (LoLE).

(Previously: Can Social Dynamics Explain Conjunction Fallacy Experimental Results? and Asch Conformity Could Explain the Conjunction Fallacy.)

The Law of Least Effort says:

the person who appears to put the least amount of effort out, while getting the largest amount of effort returned to him by others, comes across as the most socially powerful.

In other words, it’s higher status to be chased than to chase others. In terms of status, you want others to come to you, rather than going to them. Be less reactive than others.

Visible effort is a dominant issue even when it’s easy to infer effort behind the scenes. Women don’t lose status for having publicly visible hair and makeup which we can infer took two hours to do. You’re not socially permitted to call them out on that pseudo-hidden effort. Similarly, people often want to do learning and practice privately, and then appear good at stuff in front of their friends. Even if you can infer that someone practiced a bunch in private, it’s often socially difficult to point that out. Hidden effort is even more effective when people can’t guess that it happened or when it happened in the past (particularly childhood).

To consider whether LoLE contributes to the Conjunction Fallacy experimental results, we’ll consider three issues:

  1. Is LoLE actually part of the social dynamics of our culture?
  2. If so, would LoLE be active in most people while in the setting of Conjunction Fallacy research?
  3. If so, how would LoLE affect people’s behavior and answers?

Is LoLE Correct Today?

LoLE comes from a community where many thousands of people have put a large effort into testing out and debating ideas. It was developed to explain and understand real world observations (mostly made by men in dating settings across many cultures), and it’s stood up to criticism so far in a competitive environment where many other ideas were proposed and the majority of proposals were rejected.

AFAIK LoLE hasn’t been tested in a controlled, blinded scientific setting. I think academia has ignored it without explanation so far, perhaps because it’s associated groups/subcultures that are currently being deplatformed and cancelled.

Like many other social dynamics, LoLE is complicated. There are exceptions, e.g. a scientist or CEO may be seen positively for working hard. You’re sometimes socially allowed to put effort into things you’re “passionate” about or otherwise believed to want to work hard on. But the broad presumption in our society is that people dislike most effort and avoid it when they can. Putting in effort generally shows weakness – failure to avoid it.

And like other social dynamics, while the prevalence is high, not everyone prioritizes social status all the time. Also, people often make mistakes and act in low social status ways.

Although social dynamics are subtle and nuanced, they aren’t arbitrary or random. It’s possible to observe them, understand them, organize that understanding into general patterns, and critically debate it.

Is there a rival theory to LoLE? What else would explain the same observations in a different way and reject LoLE? I don’t know of something like that. I guess the main alternative is a blue pill perspective which heavily downplays the existence or importance of social hierarchies (or makes evidence-ignoring claims about them in order to virtue signal) – but that doesn’t make much sense in a society that’s well aware of the existence and prevalence of social climbing, popularity contests, cliques, ingroups and outgroups, etc.

Would LoLE Be Active For Conjunction Fallacy Research?

People form habits related to high status behaviors. For many, lots of social behavior and thinking is intuitive and automatic before high school.

People don’t turn off social status considerations without a significant reason or trigger. The Conjunction Fallacy experiments don’t provide participants with adequate motivation to change or pause their very ingrained social-status-related habits.

Even with a major reason and trigger, like Coronavirus, we can observe that most people still mostly stick to their socially normal habits. If people won’t context switch for a pandemic, we shouldn’t expect it for basically answering some survey questions.

It takes a huge effort and established culture to get scientists to be less social while doing science. And even with that, my considered opinion is that over 50% of working scientists don’t really get and use the scientific, rationalist mindset. That’s one of the major contributors to the replication crisis.

How Would LoLE Affect Answers?

Math and statistics are seen as high effort. They’re the kinds of things people habitually avoid due to LoLE and as well as other social reasons (e.g. they’re nerdy). So people often intuitively avoid that sort of thinking even if they could do it.

Even many mathematicians or statisticians learn to turn that mindset off when they aren’t working because it causes them social problems.

LoLE encourages people to try to look casual, chill, low effort, even a little careless – the opposite of tryhard. The experimental results of Conjunction Fallacy research fit these themes. Rather than revealing a bias regarding how people are bad at logic, the results may simply reveal that social behavior isn’t very logical. Behaving socially is a different thing than being biased. It’s not just an error. It’s a prioritization of social hierarchy issues over objective reality issues. People do this on purpose and I don’t think we’ll be able to understand or address the issues without recognizing the incentives and purposefulness involved.

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You suggest that the "law of least effort" has been ignored by academic researchers because they disapprove of people associated with it. It looks to me as if something different is going on.

I had a look at some writing about fallacies, heuristics and biases. I didn't find anything about the LoLE, but I likewise didn't find any other speculation about particular reasons why our brains tend to prefer low-effort approximate solutions most of the time.

That doesn't look to me like ignoring the LoLE, it looks like ignoring the question to which it's an answer: what are the factors that make us mostly avoid effort and hard concentration?

The two most likely reasons for this ignoring seem to me to be

  • that if what you're researching is what decisions people tend to make in particular situations, then the details of the underlying mechanisms might be interesting but aren't directly relevant and one might reasonably leave them for someone else to figure out; and
  • that it tends to feel like a question whose answer is so obvious (and maybe soe trivial) that it doesn't need looking into further: of course we conserve effort; what else would any living thing do? If the question were explicitly raised, I suspect many would just mutter something about efficiency and evolution and move on.

Neither of those has anything to do with the perceived skeeviness of the people associated with a particular other view.

Incidentally, in Kahneman's "Thinking, fast and slow" you will find the following sentence: "This is how the law of least effort comes to be a law". Kahneman's LoLE is not the same as yours. He just means that people conserve effort so far as they can. And the "this is how" just amounts to stating that effort is disagreeable. I'm pretty sure this is the second of my reasons above: it simply hasn't occurred to Kahneman that "why do our brains prefer to conserve effort?" is a question that needs asking at all.

My feeling -- which of course I have no concrete evidence for -- is that if it's true that the pickup-artists' LoLE is ignored by psychologists even when they do consider the actual question it purports to be an answer to -- and I have no idea whether that's true, not having seen much consideration of that actual question -- then the more likely explanation is that they haven't thought of it at all, rather than that they've thought of it and dismissed it because they don't like the people advocating it.

LoLE isn't about conserving effort. It's about appearing to conserve effort and social dynamics. So a comment like

of course we conserve effort; what else would any living thing do?

shows a lack of understanding of LoLE. E.g. people put a lot of effort into doing their makeup instead of conserving that effort.

In order to explain the conjunction fallacy (or other biases) LoLE is only any use if it does lead to actually conserving effort. (On the specific matter at hand; of course they may put effort into other things.) The alleged pattern is (unless I've badly misunderstood):

  • You ask me "which of these two things is more likely?"
  • If I think carefully through the options, I will see that it's more likely that Linda is a librarian simpliciter than that she's a feminist librarian.
  • But I don't do that, because I want to look like I'm doing everything effortlessly.
  • Instead I use some simple quick heuristic that lets me look effortless.
  • Unfortunately that leads me to the wrong answer.

And in this sequence of events, it's essential that I actually do put in less effort. If instead I had some way of looking as if I'm making no effort while actually doing the careful thinking that would get me the right answer, then I would get the right answer.

What am I missing here?

[EDITED to add:] Also: if the question at hand is why psychologists don't appeal to the LoLE as an explanation for the conjunction fallacy, and the answer (as I suggest) is that they already have what looks like an obvious explanation in terms of actually conserving effort, then it doesn't really matter that much whether the LoLE involves actual effort-conservation or merely apparent effort-conservation, no?

FWIW this is not how I learned it in psychology class. It was about humans not wanting to do things that took more energy.  Looks like it's called "principle of least effort" on wikipedia:

I buy that there's another thing called Law of Least Effort that's about signaling, but maybe worth disambiguate by calling it "signaling low effort?"

The similar naming is unfortunate. It's LoLE in the article I linked explaining it as well as in that author's book, but I'll think about disambiguating in the future.

I have noticed something similar in art. Artists are supposed to create their art in mysterious ways. If it can be explained, it is not the true art. For example, many people who aspire to write novels are horrified when you suggest to them that they should attend a writing workshop. Even giving them evidence that many successful authors attended workshops at some moment of their career does not remove the visceral opposition to the idea; if you learn the art from others, it is fake; if you use a known mechanism, it is fake.

Together with your example of women not losing status for doing make-up, it seems to me that the problem is not effort per se, but rather effort made publicly. Even the hard-working scientist and CEO are supposed to do their work behind the curtain, mysteriously.

Why is mysterious work high-status, but non-mysterious work low-status?

From instrumental perspective, it would seem that mysterious work is easier to protect again copying. If I do my work in public, my advantage is fragile; anyone could observe me and do the same thing. If you could install a hidden camera on your CEO, maybe you would find out that their everyday work is actually quite simple and you could do it too -- but you can't, and therefore even in the hypothetical case you could do the work, you will never know, and you will never get it.

But socially, this explanation gets it backwards. Yes, the CEO could order the employees to show him all their work, could investigate their processes in detail, could ask them to provide a documentation on all their trade secrets, and their only options would be to obey or to lose their jobs... but the CEO most likely will not do that; at least not for the purpose of copying their trade secrets. When the CEO asks someone to explain themselves, it is usually done to show them who is the boss. Socially, the privacy of your work is not an instrument to get power, but rather a symbol of already having it.

If other people can scrutinize your work and ask you to explain yourself, you are low-status.

If you can close the door and tell everyone to fuck off, you are high-status.

(Hence the popularity of open spaces, from the perspective of management. Hence the popularity of remote work, from the perspective of workers.)

LoLE comes from a community where many thousands of people have put a large effort into testing out and debating ideas.

And they did it publicly. Which explains why they are treated as low-status.

tl;dr -- the problem of "public effort" is the lack of privacy (which signals low status), not the effort itself

Thanks for the reply. I think privacy is important and worth analyzing.

But I'm not convinced of your explanation. I have some initial objections.

I view LoLE as related to some other concepts such as reactivity and chasing. Chasing others (like seeking their attention) is low status, and reacting to others (more than they're reacting to you) is low status. Chasing and reacting are both types of effort. They don't strike me as privacy related. However, for LoLE only the appearance of effort counts (Chase's version), so to some approximation that means public effort, so you could connect it to privacy that way.

Some people do lots of publicly visible work. There are Twitch streamers, like Leffen and MajinPhil, who stream a lot of their practice time. (Some other people do stream for a living and stream less or no practice.) Partly I think it's OK because they get paid to stream. But partly I think it's OK because they are seen as wanting to do that work – it's their passion that they enjoy. Similarly I think one could livestream their gym workouts, tennis practice sessions, running training, or similar, and making that public wouldn't ruin their status. Similarly, Brandon Sanderson (a high status fantasy author) has streamed himself answering fan questions while simultaneously signing books by the hundreds (just stacks of pages that aren't even in the books yet, not signing finished books for fans), and he's done this in video rather than audio-only format. So he's showing the mysterious process of mass producing a bunch of signed books. And I don't think Sanderson gets significant income from the videos. I also don't think that Jordan Peterson putting up recordings of doing his job – university lectures – was bad for his status (putting up videos of his lecture prep time might be bad, but the lecturing part is seen as a desirable and impressive activity for him to do, and that desirability seems like the issue to me more than whether it's public or private). The (perceived) option to have privacy might sometimes matter more than actually having privacy.

I think basically some effort isn't counted as effort. If you like doing it, it's not real work. Plus if it's hidden effort, it usually can't be entered into evidence in the court of public opinion, so it doesn't count. But my current understanding is that if 1) it counts as effort/work; and 2) you're socially allowed to bring it up then it lowers status. I see privacy as an important thing helping control (2) but effort itself, under those two conditions, as the thing seen as undesirable, bad, something you're presumed to try to avoid (so it's evidence of failure or lack of power, resources, helpers, etc), etc.

Chasing others (like seeking their attention) is low status, and reacting to others (more than they're reacting to you) is low status.
The (perceived) option to have privacy might sometimes matter more than actually having privacy.

Yes, and yes.

I think that the content of the work matters, too. Like, if I think that university professors are high status, then watching a professor giving lectures is simply watching someone demonstrating high status. (And this is relative to my status, because if I am upper-class and I think of all people doing useful work - including professors - as losers, then watching the professor's lecture is in my eyes just confirmation of his low status.)

Maybe another important thing is how your work is.... oriented. I mean, are you doing X to impress someone specific (which would signal lower status), or are you doing X to impress people in general but each of them individually is unimportant? A woman doing her make-up, a man in the gym, a professor recording their lesson... is okay if they do it for the "world in general"; but if you learned they are actually doing all this work to impress one specific person, that would kinda devalue it. This is also related to optionality: is the professor required to make the video? is the make-up required for the woman's job?

By the way, status is not a dichotomy, so it's like: not having to make any effort > making an effort to impress the world in general > making an effort to impress a specific person. Also, the specific work is associated with some status, but doing that work well is relatively better than doing it poorly. So, publishing your work has two effects: admitting that you do X, and demonstrating that you are competent at X. And the privacy also impacts the perceived competence: can you watch the average lesson recorded by a hidden camera, or only the best examples the professor decided to share?

But my current understanding is that if 1) it counts as effort/work; and 2) you're socially allowed to bring it up then it lowers status.

Seems correct. "I spend 12 hours a day working on my hobby" sounds cool (unless the hobby is perceived as inherently uncool); "I spend 12 hours a day doing my job" sounds uncool (unless the job is perceived as inherently cool and enjoyable).

Maybe another important thing is how your work is.... oriented. I mean, are you doing X to impress someone specific (which would signal lower status), or are you doing X to impress people in general but each of them individually is unimportant? A woman doing her make-up, a man in the gym, a professor recording their lesson... is okay if they do it for the "world in general"; but if you learned they are actually doing all this work to impress one specific person, that would kinda devalue it. This is also related to optionality: is the professor required to make the video? is the make-up required for the woman's job?

That makes sense.

You can also orient your work to a group, e.g. a subculture. As long as its a large enough group, this rounds to orienting to the world in general.

Orienting to smaller groups like your high school, workplace or small academic niche (the 20 other high status people who read your papers) is fine from the perspective of people in the group. To outsiders, e.g. college kids, orienting to your high school peers is lame and is due to you being lame enough not yet to have escaped high school. Orienting to a few other top academics in a field could impress many outsiders – it shows membership in an exclusive club (high school lets in losers/everyone and hardly any the current highest status people are in the club).

I think orienting to a single person can be OK if 1) it's reciprocated; and 2) they are high enough status. E.g. if I started making YouTube videos exclusively to impress Kanye West, that's bad if he ignores me, but looks good for me if he responds regularly (that'd put me as clearly lower status than him, but still high in society overall). Note that more realistically my videos would also oriented to Kanye fans, not just Kanye personally, and that's a large enough group for it to be OK.

I didn't have other immediate, specific comments but I generally view these topics as important and hard to find quality discussion about. Most people aren't red-pilled and hate PUAs/MRAs/etc or at least aren't familiar with the knowledge. And then the PUAs/MRAs/etc themselves mostly aren't philosophers posting on rationalist forums ... most of them are more interested in other stuff like getting laid, using their knowledge of social dynamics to gain status, or political activism. So I wanted to end by saying that I'm open to proposals for more, similar discussion if you're interested.

I find this topic difficult to discuss, because as an (undiagnosed) aspie, I probably miss many obvious things about social behavior, which means that I work with incomplete data. If I find a counter-example to a hypothesis, that's probably useful, but if the hypothesis sounds plausible to me, that means little, because I can easily overlook quite obvious things.

I am intellectually aware of the taboo against the "PUA/MRA/etc" cluster. My interpretation is that for a man, showing weakness is low-status, and empathy towards low-status men is also low-status, so discussing male-specific problems in empathetic way means burning your social karma like wildfire. (The socially sanctioned way to discuss male-specific problems is to be condescending and give obviously dysfunctional advice, thus enforcing the status quo. Enforcing status quo is obviously the thing high-status people approve of, and that is what ultimately matters, socially.) But I do not feel the taboo viscerally. I hope I gained enough politically-incorrect creds by writing this paragraph to make the following paragraphs not seem like an automatic dismissal of an inconvenient topic.

The difficult thing about learning "how people function" is that, simply said, everyone lives in a bubble. Not only is the bubble shaped by our social class, profession, hobbies, but even by our beliefs, including our beliefs about "how people function". Which is, from epistemic perspective, a really fucked up situation. Like, for whatever reason, you create a hypothesis "most X are Y"; then you instinctively start noticing the X who are Y, and avoiding and filtering out of your perception the X who are not Y; then at the end of the day you collect all data your observed and conclude that, really, almost all X are Y. It doesn't always work like this, sometimes something pierces your bubble painfully enough to notice, but it happens often. And it's not just about your perception; if you believe that all X are Y, sometimes the X who are not Y will avoid you; so even if you later improve your attention, you still get filtered data. I don't want to go full postmodern here, but this stuff really is crazy.

So I wonder how much of the "PUA/MRA/etc" knowledge is really about the world in general, and how much is a description of their own bubble. Do the PUAs really have a good model of an average human, or just a good model of a drunk woman who came to a nightclub wanting to get laid? Do the MRAs generalize from their own bitter divorce a bit too much? How many edgy hypotheses are selected for their edginess rather than because they model the reality well? Also, most wannabe PUAs suck at being PUAs, which makes their models even less useful. The entire community is selecting for people who have some kinds of problems with social interaction, which on one hand allows them to have a lot of unique insights, but on the other hand probably creates a lot of common blind spots. Maybe it's a community where the blind are trying to lead the blind, and the one-eyed are the kings. And the whole business of "selling the advice that will transform your life" actively selects for Dark Arts.

So... it's complicated. I would like to learn from people who are guided neither by social taboos nor by edginess. And I am not sure if I could contribute much beyond an occassional sanity check. Furthermore, I think it is important to actually go out and interact with real people; and I don't even follow my own advice here. (The COVID-19 situation provides unique problems but also unique opportunities. If people socialize in smaller groups, outside, and don't touch each other, it means less sensory overload. When the entire world is weird, any individual weirdness becomes less visible.) I am completely serious here: good theory is useful, but practice is irreplaceable; and I think my most serious mistake is lack of practice.

Sometimes I even wonder whether I overestimate how much the grass is greener on the other side. Like, I know a few attractive and popular people, who got divorced recently, which in my set of values constitutes a serious fail, especially when it happens to people who probably did not suffer by lack of options. Apparently, just like intelligence, social skills are also a tool many use to defeat themselves.

Do the PUAs really have a good model of an average human, or just a good model of a drunk woman who came to a nightclub wanting to get laid?

PUAs have evidence of efficacy. The best is hidden camera footage. The best footage that I’m aware of, in terms of confidence the girls aren’t actors, is Mystery’s VH1 show and the Cajun on Keys to the VIP. I believe RSD doesn’t use actors either and they have a lot of footage. I know some others have been caught faking footage.

My trusted friend bootcamped with Mystery and provided me with eyewitness accounts similar to various video footage. My friend also learned and used PUA successfully, experienced it working for him in varied situations … and avoids talking about PUA in public. He also observed other high profile PUAs in action IRL.

Some PUAs do daygame and other venues, not just nightclubs/parties. They have found the same general social principles apply, but adjustments are needed like lower energy approaches. Mystery, who learned nightclub style PUA initially, taught daygame on at least one episode of his TV show and his students quickly had some success.

PUAs have also demonstrated they’re effective at dealing with males. They can approach mixed-gender sets and befriend or tool the males. They’ve also shown effectiveness at befriending females who aren’t their target. Also standard PUA training advice is to approach 100 people on the street and talk with them. Learning how to have smalltalk conversations with anyone helps people be better PUAs, and also people who get good at PUA become more successful at those street conversations than they used to be.

I think these PUA Field Reports are mostly real stories, not lies. Narrator bias/misunderstandings and minor exaggerations are common. I think they’re overall more reliable than posts on r/relationships or r/AmITheAsshole, which I think also do provide useful evidence about what the world is like.

There are also notable points of convergence, e.g. Feynman told a story ("You Just Ask Them?” in Surely You’re Joking) in which he got some PUA type advice and found it immediately effective (after his previous failures), both in a bar setting and later with a “nice” girl in another setting.

everyone lives in a bubble

I generally agree but I also think there are some major areas of overlap between different subcultures. I think some principles apply pretty broadly, e.g. LoLE applies in the business world, in academia, in high school popularity contests, and for macho posturing like in the Top Gun movie. My beliefs about this use lots of evidence from varied sources (you can observe people doing social dynamics ~everywhere) but also do use significant interpretation and analysis of that evidence. There are also patterns in the conclusions I’ve observed other people reach and how e.g. their conclusion re PUA correlates with my opinion on whether they are a high quality thinker (which I judged on other topics first). I know someone with different philosophical views could reach different conclusions from the same data set. My basic answer to that is that I study rationality, I write about my ideas, and I’m publicly open to debate. If anyone knows a better method for getting accurate beliefs please tell me. I would also be happy pay for useful critical feedback if I knew any good way to arrange it.

Business is a good source of separate evidence about social dynamics because there are a bunch of books and other materials about the social dynamics of negotiating raises, hiring interviews, promotions, office politics, leadership, managing others, being a boss, sales, marketing, advertising, changing organizations from the bottom-up (passing on ideas to your boss, boss’s boss and even the CEO), etc. I’ve read a fair amount of that stuff but it’s not my main field (which is epistemology/rationality).

There are also non-PUA/MGTOW/etc relationship books with major convergence with PUA, e.g. The Passion Paradox (which has apparently been renamed The Passion Trap). I understand that to be a mainstream book:

About the Author Dr. Dean C. Delis is a clinical psychologist, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and a staff psychologist at the San Diego V.A. Medical Center. He has more than 100 professional publications and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology.

The main idea of the book is similar to LoLE. Quoting my notes from 2005 (I think this is before I was familiar with PUA): “The main idea of the passion paradox is that the person who wants the relationship less is in control and secure, and therefore cares about the relationship less, while the one who wants it more is more needy and insecure. And that being in these roles can make people act worse, thus reinforcing the problems.”. I was not convinced by this at the time and also wrote: “I think passion paradox dynamics could happen sometimes, but that they need not, and that trying to analyse all relationships that way will often be misleading.” Now I have a much more AWALT view.

The entire community is selecting for people who have some kinds of problems with social interaction

I agree the PUA community is self-selected to mostly be non-naturals, especially the instructors, though there are a few exceptions. In other words, they do tend to attract nerdy types who have to explicitly learn about social rules.

Sometimes I even wonder whether I overestimate how much the grass is greener on the other side.

My considered opinion is that it’s not, and that blue pillers are broadly unhappy (to be fair, so are red pillers). I don’t think being good at social dynamics (via study or “naturally” (aka via early childhood study)) makes people happy. I think doing social dynamics effectively clashes with rationality and being less rational has all sorts of downstream negative consequences. (Some social dynamics is OK to do, I’m not advocating zero, but I think it’s pretty limited.)

I don’t think high status correlates well with happiness. Both for ultra high status like celebs, which causes various problems, and also for high status that doesn’t get you so much public attention.

I think rationality correlates with happiness better. I would expect to be wrong about that if I was wrong about which self-identified rational people are not actually rational (I try to spot fakers and bad thinking).

I think the people with the best chance to be happy are content and secure with their social status. In other words, they aren’t actively trying to climb higher socially and they don’t have to put much effort into maintaining their current social status. The point is that they aren’t putting much effort into social dynamics and focus most of their energy on other stuff.

I am intellectually aware of the taboo against the "PUA/MRA/etc" cluster.

I too am intellectual aware of that but don’t intuitively feel it. I also refuse to care and have publicly associated my real name with lower status stuff than PUA. I have gotten repeated feedback (sometimes quite strongly worded) about how my PUA ideas alienate people, including from a few long time fans, but I haven’t stopped talking about it.

[Edit for clarity: I mostly mean hostile feedback from alienated people, not feedback from people worrying I'll alienate others.]

I would like to learn from people who are guided neither by social taboos nor by edginess. And I am not sure if I could contribute much beyond an occassional sanity check.

I’d be happy to have you at my discussion forums. My community started in 1994, (not entirely) coincidentally the same year as The community is fairly oriented around the work of David Deutsch (the previous community leader and my mentor) and myself, as well as other thinkers that Deutsch or I like. A broad variety of topics are welcome (~anything that rationality can be applied to).

You made a lot of good points.

As I said, my main problem is lack of practice, not theory. I will skim your forum, but probably that's it. Too bad geography doesn't allow the option of hanging out together, debating theory and practicing it.

There is also a book called The Passion Paradox; is there a chance you have read both and confused them? (Or maybe existence of another book with the same name was the reason for renaming.)

Speaking of PUA celebrities, Neil Strauss (approximately my age) is divorced after having one child. I have a happy family with two kids. Of course, different people optimize for different things, and sex is mostly not used for reproduction, but it still feels weird when I am more successful in family life and reproductively than a famous expert on sex and relationships. I mean, the main reason I became interested in PUA decades ago was fear that I might not be able to... well, have the type of life I have now... and somehow Neil Strauss, the famous PUA, does not (despite having many great skills that I don't have). This is related to the "overestimating the greener grass on the other side". I guess my only remaining hero is Athol Kay.

But of course there are also other reasons to expand social skills, such as increasing my income, or increasing my impact on the world.

Thanks for the debate!

I read the older, now-renamed book that I linked. The newer one has different authors. I saw it when searching and confirmed the right author for the one I read by searching old emails.

Your argument is that the "Law of Least Effort" motivates people not to try very hard, and not trying very hard produces conjunction-fallacy-like effects.

It seems to me that

  • this is an overcomplicated explanation, in that we don't need the "Law of Least Effort" to motivate people not to try very hard (conserving resources is valuable in itself, and effort is usually disagreeable), and
  • it doesn't explain why we get the conjunction fallacy in particular; it's not obvious that this particular sort of wrong answer is lower-effort than the right answer.

We already have the law of least effort for extensive other reasons. It's already a major part of our culture, so we should apply the tools we have. I understand it wouldn't look that way to someone who is new to the issue, but try to see it from a different perspective. If you want to debate that, fine, but assuming contrary premises to mine is missing the point.

And as I said this is not the full explanation. It's a followup post. LoLE explains not doing math, being careless, etc. It helps reinforce stuff I already covered which explains the particular result more.

It seems like you're saying that it's ... somehow improper to write something that implies doubt about your premises? (I don't think I'm assuming contrary premises to yours, though I don't see any particular reason why that would be a problem, but I am indeed not simply assuming that your premises are right.) If I've understood right, then I don't understand what problem you see. If not, then maybe you could explain what your objection actually is?

I'm also not sure quite what those "extensive other reasons" are. You say "LoLE hasn’t been tested in a controlled, blinded scientific setting". You tell us that it's been extensively debated and has stood up to criticism in (what you don't quite say explicitly but I'm pretty sure is) the pickup-artist community. I don't think LW should adopt a norm of accepting things merely because someone tells us they have stood up to criticism among pickup artists.

(Reason 1: it's just one smallish group of people; such groups can easily develop biases of many kinds, and it's not hard to imagine ways in which that could happen in that group in particular. Reason 2: we don't even know that LoLE has stood up to criticism in that community; all we know is that you say it has.)

Imagine that someone comes here and writes an article about how some cognitive bias is explained by the Law Of X, which is well known among { Trotskyites | evangelical Christians | radical feminists | burglars }. I don't think it would be reasonable for that person to respond to criticism of the article by saying: "it's not appropriate to question the truth and applicability of the Law of X -- it's well established, as { Trotskyites | evangelical Christians | radical feminists | burglars } can attest". Why is this case different?

Re all your comments, do you want to attempt to debate these matters to a rational conclusion? I don't think we're going to reach a quick conclusion/agreement and I don't know if you're interested enough to make a serious effort at an organized, persistent-over-time discussion.

A common discussion failure case is something like someone decides (often around when they start losing the argument) that the other guy's messages are low quality and not worth engaging with further. Another is there are too many relevant tangents, so I’ll just stop discussing. I’d like mutual agreement in advance not to do those, as well as some discussion of appropriate discussion methodology. Otherwise, due to large inferential distance issues, I wouldn’t expect us to get anywhere substantial and would prefer to abort at the start rather than have the discussion end in the middle.

On the basis of past discussions with you, I suspect that when you say "debate these matters to a rational conclusion" you may mean something like "commit to never ever deciding that the discussion is no longer providing anyone with enough enlightenment to be worth the effort involved". And the answer is: no, I do not want to make any such commitment, and I don't think anyone ever should, because it amounts to undertaking to give a potentially limitless amount of time and effort to something of finite value. (I doubt that anyone else here will be willing to make such a commitment either. If that's truly something you require in order to have a discussion then I think that's functionally equivalent to not being interested in discussion. Of course you don't have to be interested in discussion! But in that case maybe you should say so up front.)

My position on that methodological question has not changed appreciably since a previous discussion we had, though of course what you're wanting now is not necessarily the same as what you wanted then and so my opinion of what you want now might differ from my opinion about what you wanted then.

This is my proposed approach for unilateral discussion ending:

I'd be interested if anyone has any other attempts at solving the same problem that could be used instead.

I am interested in discussion, but not one plagued by certain problems (summarized briefly above re arbitrarily ending discussions in the middle without explanation or resolution). If you will acknowledge the problems are a real concern, we can talk about potential rational ways to address them which aren't overly burdensome to anyone. Do those problems concern you too? Would you like to do anything to address them if it wasn't too expensive? If not, why?

So, to summarize the proposal behind that link:

  • an "impasse", here, is anything that stops the original discussion proceeding fruitfully;
  • when you encounter one, you should switch to discussing the impasse;
  • that discussion may also reach an impasse, which you deal with the same way;
  • it's OK to give up unilaterally when you accumulate enough impasses-while-dealing-with-impasses-while-dealing-with-impasses;
  • you propose that a good minimum would be a chain of five or more impasses.

I think only a small minority of discussions are so important as to justify a commitment to continuing until the fifth chained impasse.

I do agree that there's a genuine problem you're trying to solve with this stuff, but I think your cure is very much worse than the disease. My own feeling is that for all but the most important discussions nothing special is needed; if anything, I think there are bigger losses from people feeling unable to walk away from unproductive discussions than from people walking away when there was still useful progress to be made, and so I'd expect that measures to make it harder to walk away will on balance do more harm than good.

(Not necessarily; perhaps there are things one could do that make premature walking-away harder but don't make not-premature walking-away harder. I don't know of any such things, and the phenomenon you alluded to earlier, that premature walking-away often feels like fully justified walking away to the person doing it, makes it harder to contrive them.)

I also think that, in practice, if A thinks B is being a bozo then having made a commitment to continue discussion past that point often won't result in A continuing; they may well just leave despite the commitment. (And may be right to.) Or they may continue, but adding resentment at being obliged to keep arguing with a bozo to whatever other things made them want to leave, and the ensuing discussion is not very likely to be fruitful.

I guess I haven't yet addressed one question you asked: would I like to address the premature-ending problem if it weren't too expensive? If there were a magical spell that would arrange that henceforth discussions wouldn't end when (1) further discussion would in fact be fruitful and (2) the benefits of that discussion would exceed the costs, for both parties -- then yes, I think I'd be happy for that spell to be cast. But I am super-skeptical about actually possible measures to address the problem, because I think the opposite problem (of effort going into discussions that are not in fact productive enough to justify that effort) is actually a bigger problem, and short of outright magic it seems very difficult to improve one of those things without making the other worse.

I'm glad that you seem to have largely understood me and also given a substantive response about your main concern. That is fairly atypical. I'm also glad that you agree that there are important issues in this general area.

I will agree to discuss to a length 3 impasse chain with you (rather than 5) if that'd solve the problem (I doubt it). I'd also prefer to discuss impasse chains and discussion ending issues (which I consider a very important topic) over the conjunction fallacy or law of least effort, but I'm open to either.

I think you're overestimating how much effort it takes to create length 5 impasse chains, but I know that's not the main issue. He's an example of a length 5 impasse chain which took exactly 5 messages, and all but the first were quite short. It wasn't a significant burden for me (especially given my interest in the topic of discussion methods themselves) and in fact was considerably faster and easier for me than some other things I've done in the past (i try very hard to be open to critical discussion and am interested in policies to enable that). If it had taken more than 5 messages, that would have only been because the other guy said some things I thought were actually good messages.

Discussion ending policies and the problems with walking away with no explanation are a problem that particularly interests me and I'd write a lot about regardless of what you did or didn't do. I actually just wrote a bunch about it this morning before seeing your comment. By contrast, I don't want to discuss the LoLE stuff with you without some sort of precommitment re discussion ending policies because I think your messages about LoLE were low quality and explaining the errors is not the type of writing I'd choose just for my own benefit. (This kind of statement is commonly hard to explain without offending people, which is awkward because I do want to tell people why I'm not responding, and it often would only take one sentence. And I don't think it should be offense: we disagree, and i expect your initial perspective is that there were quality issues with what I wrote, so I expect symmetry on this point anyway, no big deal.) It's specifically the discussions which start with symmetric beliefs that the other guy is wrong in ways I already understand, or is saying low quality stuff, or otherwise isn't going to offer significant value in the early phases of the discussion, that especially merit using approaches like impasse chains to enable discussion. The alternative to impasse chains is often no discussion. But I'd rather offer the impasse chain method over just ignoring people (though due to risk of offending people, sometimes I just say nothing – but at least I have a publicly posted debate policy and paths forward policy, as well as the impasse chain article, so if anyone really cares they can find out about and ask for options like that.)

As a next step, you can read and reply to – or not – what I wrote anyway about impasse chains today. Rationally Ending Discussions

You may also, if you want, indicate your good faith interest in the topic of too much effort going into bad discussions, and how that relates to rationally ending discussions. If you do, I expect that'll be enough for me to write something about it even with no formal policy. (I didn't say much about that in the Rationally Ending Discussions linked in the previous paragraph, but I do have ideas about it.) Anyone else may also indicate this interest or request a discussion to agreement or impasse chain with me (i'm open to them on a wide range of topics including basically anything about rationality, and i don't think we'll have much trouble finding a point of disagreement if we try to).

I think the whole "impasse chains" mechanism is unhelpful, and as you suspected I am not much more enthusiastic about using it with length 3 than with length 5. (Though if I were somehow required to have a discussion on those terms with either length 3 or length 5, I would indeed prefer length 3.)

The example you link to is interesting, but to me it seems like a fine example of how your approach doesn't work well! Not just because in that case the discussion ended up getting terminated as unconstructive -- of course that is inevitable given why you linked to it at all. But:

  • The "impasse chain" concept didn't end up actually being useful. The other person did things you found unhelpful; you declared an "impasse"; and then every time he responded you just stonewalled him incremented your impasse count until it reached 5.
    • ... Even though the responses you reacted to in this way were (so it seems to me) clearly responsive to the things you said constituted an impasse; e.g., asking for examples of what you were wanting with the arithmetic-expression tree.
  • It's entirely possible that the discussion was never going to be productive and so ending it was a good idea -- but the particular complaints that provoked its ending seem strange to me. E.g., you asked him to "make a tree of 1-2+3" to see whether he understood the notion of tree you were using; while his first attempt was (1) wrong because he misread the formula and (2) garbled because he thought he could use indentation in a way that didn't actually work, what he subsequently did was perfectly reasonable, especially in the context of "idea trees". And while I don't think he explained what he was saying about externalities super-clearly, I think his placement of those two propositions in the tree was quite reasonable.

So this has mostly served to confirm my initial opinion that having a discussion with some sort of impasse-chain-based rules for termination would not be any sort of improvement on (1) having a discussion whose ending condition is informal as usual or (2) not having a discussion at all.

As for whether you deign to respond to my comments about the actual topic of the post whose comments we're in, that's up to you. My (perhaps biased) evaluation of my own track record is that I am not in the habit of abandoning discussions because I'm losing the argument. (I do sometimes lose interest for other reasons, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that.) But if you reckon my comments are low-quality and I'm likely to bail prematurely, you'll have to decide for yourself whether that's a risk you want to take.

But if you reckon my comments are low-quality and I'm likely to bail prematurely, you'll have to decide for yourself whether that's a risk you want to take.

I have decided and I don't want to take that risk in this particular case.

But I believe I'm socially prohibited from saying so or explaining the analysis I used to reach that conclusion.

This is a significant issue for me because I have a similar judgment regarding most responses I receive here (and at most forums). But it's problematic to just not reply to most people while providing no explanation. But it's also problematic to violate social norms and offend and confuse people with meta discussion about e.g. what evidence they've inadvertently provided that they're irrational or dumb. And often the analysis is complex and relies on lots of unshared background knowledge.

I also think I'm socially prohibited from raising this meta-problem, but I'm trying it anyway for a variety of reasons including that there are some signs that you may understand what I'm saying. Got any thoughts about it?

LW is less constrained than most places by such social norms. However, to some extent those social norms are in place because breaking them tends to have bad results on net, and my experience is that a significant fraction of people who want to break them may think they are doing it to be frank and open and honest and discuss things rationally without letting social norms get in the way, but actually are being assholes in just the sort of way people who violate social norms usually are: they enjoy insulting people, or want to do it as a social-status move, or whatever. And a significant fraction of people who say they're happy for norms to be broken "at" them may think they are mature and sensible enough not to be needlessly offended when someone else says "I think you're pretty stupid" (or whatever), but actually get bent out of shape as soon as that happens.

If it's any consolation, I have my own opinions about the likely outcome of such a discussion, some of which I too might be socially prohibited from expressing out loud :-).

I hereby grant you and everyone else license to break social norms at me. (This is not a license to break rational norms, including rational moral norms, which coincide with social norms.) I propose trying this until I get bent out of shape once. I do have past experience with such things including on 4chan-like forums.

I agree with you about common cases.

What I don't see in your comment is a solution. Do you regard this as an important, open problem?

I think "this" in your last sentence is underspecified.

It is unfortunate that there are things that might be useful to say (because they convey potentially useful information) but that one usually can't or shouldn't because (1) they might cause offence or (2) they violate norms designed to reduce such offence-causing or (3) they would harm others' social status in a way we don't generally want people to be able to harm others' social status.

One "could" solve that problem by radically changing human nature such that people no longer get easily offended and can no longer be manipulated into changing their social-status judgements in inappropriate ways. Of course "could" is in scare-quotes there because no plausible way of changing human nature in such a way is in sight. (And if there were, I don't think I would want to trust either you or me with the human-nature-changing apparatus.)

Otherwise, I'm not sure what a solution to the problem might look like. People are offendable and manipulable, and if there's a way to design social norms to stop those buttons getting pushed excessively without sometimes preventing what might have been useful communication, I haven't seen any sign of it. And, as with the issue of wasting time on unproductive conversations / ending conversations prematurely, my feeling is that the problem you're focusing on is likely the wrong one because right now more harm is being done by rudeness and status-fights than by being unable to say otherwise-useful things that risk offending or status-fighting, and interventions that make those things more sayable will (in my view) likely do more harm than good.


Since you (more or less) asked for it, here is the brief version of my norm-breaking explanation of why I fear that discussions between us might be less fruitful than one would hope: 1. Our past discussions have not led anywhere useful; my perception (which I'm sure differs from yours) is that you have repeatedly attempted to switch from discussing issues that actually interest me (about, e.g., how well broadly-Bayesian approaches work, and about Popper's alleged refutation of empirical induction) to methodological issues (around e.g. what you call "paths forward"), and that you have repeatedly insisted that to discuss things with you others must adopt particular highly restrictive patterns of discussion which don't look to me as if they actually improve the discourse. 2. My tentative interpretation of this, and of other interactions of yours that I've observed -- and here comes the norm-breaking bit -- is that on some level you aren't really interested in discussion on an equal footing; you are looking for disciples not peers, you find discussion satisfactory only when you get to control the terms on which it happens, and when that doesn't seem possible you generally choose to engage in status-attacks on the other parties instead of discussing on equal terms. I don't think you are here on LW in order to have a discussion in which you and we might refine our ideas by correcting each others' errors; I think you are here to demonstrate your superiority and hopefully pick up some new disciples. 3. I have not been convinced, by what I have read of your writing and seen of your debating, that you are the intellectual superior of everyone around you as you seem to think you are, and in particular I am not convinced that you are my intellectual superior in ways that would justify treating you as a guru, nor that you are possessed of insights valuable enough that jumping through the methodological hoops you hold out would lead to gains that would justify the frustration involved.

Now, obviously I could be wrong about any or all of that; and even if I'm not, it's all perfectly compatible with your having some interesting ideas to share, useful critiques of things I currently believe, new information I don't have, etc. So I'm perfectly happy to engage with you on equal terms under something like the LW-usual norms of discussion; but jumping through your hoops would (1) be more annoying than any gains would justify, and (2) incentivize what I see as your harmful uncooperative and status-seeking behaviour patterns.

(If you disagree with my characterization of you -- which you may well do -- and care enough about changing it to take some time trying to do so -- which I suspect you don't -- then things that might change my mind include (1) providing recent examples where you engaged in discussion with someone who disagreed with you and decided that they were right and you were wrong and (2) providing recent examples where you conceded that someone else you were in discussion with was smarter than you, at least in some specific area relevant to the discussion. Or even, though of course it would be much less evidence, (3) providing recent examples where you had a discussion with someone you didn't already know to agree with you about most things and didn't attempt to lay down strict conditions they had to follow in order to continue the discussion. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not at all suggesting that you're obliged to do either of those things, nor that your not doing so would be strong evidence that my characterization of you is correct.)

I'd be more interested in discussing Popper and Bayes stuff than your LoLE comments. Is there any literature which adequately explains your position on induction, which you would appreciate criticism of?

FYI I do not remember our past conversations in a way that I can connect any claims/arguments/etc to you individually. I also don't remember if our conversations ended by either of our choice or were still going when moderators suppressed my participation (slack ban with no warning for mirroring my conversations to my forum, allegedly violating privacy, as well as repeated moderator intervention to prevent me from posting to the LW1.0 website.)

I do not know of any literature that I am confident says the exact same things about induction as I would. (There might well be some literature I would completely agree with; my opinions are not super-idiosyncratic. In this context, though, the relevant thing is probably what I think about what Popper thinks about induction, which is a much more specific topic, or even what I think about what you think about induction, equally specific but much less likely to be already addressed in the literature.)

We had some discussion before about Popper's argument where -- this summary should not be taken too literally, since its main purpose is to identify the argument in question -- he gives a certain additive decomposition of Pr(A|B) and calls one of the addends "deductive support" and the other "inductive support"; he then proves that the "inductive support" is a negative number, and says that therefore induction is nonsense. (I think I looked at that argument in particular because you said you found it convincing.) I find many things about his argument unsatisfactory; the most important, and the one I focused on before, is that I think all the work is being done by the names he uses ("deductive support", "inductive support") and I don't think the names accurately correspond to anything in reality. That is: his mathematical calculations are fine, it's really true that s() = s() + s(), but there's no good reason for giving the two addends the names he does, and if you just called them "support term 1" and "support term 2" then no one would think that his argument offered anything remotely like a refutation of induction. He's implicitly assuming some proposition like "support term 2 is the best characterization of what empirical evidence B gives for A"; he gives no justification for anything like that, and without it his argument doesn't make any real contact with what he's trying to prove.

This discussion was on Slack (which unfortunately hides all but the most recent messages unless you pay them, which LW doesn't). We had at least two other discussions going on concurrently, about whether our opinions about what propositions are true should be binary or something more like probabilistic and about the overall merits of "critical rationalism". The discussion largely broke down (in ways I am quite sure I saw as your fault and you saw as mine, which I don't propose to go into right now because this comment is long enough already) and then you got banned from the slack. At the point when it ended, I was happy to continue discussing Popper's argument or probabilistic beliefs or critical rationalism, but you were (I think) only interested in discussing two things: paths-forward-type methodologies, and how I was allegedly being an unsatisfactory participant in the discussion.

I don't think this comment thread would be a great venue for discussion of critical rationalism generally, of Popper's argument against induction, or of the idea that our opinions of propositions should generally be quantitative rather than binary (or, more strongly, that something like the language and techniques of probability theory are appropriate for quantifying them), what with it being nominally a discussion of how "the law of least effort contributes to the conjunction fallacy". If you are interested in pursuing any of those discussions, maybe I can make a post summarizing my position and we can proceed in comments there. But, fair warning, I will not have any interest in diverting the discussion to matters methodological, and while I will gladly undertake to argue in good faith I will not be giving any of the specific undertakings you frequently ask for.

This discussion was on Slack (which unfortunately hides all but the most recent messages unless you pay them, which LW doesn't).

Well, fortunately, I did save copies of those discussions. You could find them in the FI archives if you wanted to. (Not blaming you at all but I do think this is kinda funny and I don't regret my actions.)

FYI, full disclosure, on a related note, I have mirrored recent discussion from LW to my own website. Mostly my own writing but also some comments from other people who were discussing with me, including you. See e.g. and

I don't plan to review the 3 year old discussions and I don't want to re-raise anything that either one of us saw negatively.

If you are interested in pursuing any of those discussions, maybe I can make a post summarizing my position and we can proceed in comments there.

Sure but I'd actually mostly prefer literature, partly because I want something more comprehensive (and more edited/polished) and partly because I want something more suitable for quoting and responding to as a way to present and engage with rival, mainstream viewpoints which would be acceptable to the general public.

Is there any literature that's close enough (not exact) or which would work with a few modifications/caveats/qualifiers/etc? Or put together a position mostly from selections from a few sources? E.g. I don't exactly agree with Popper and Deutsch but I can provide selections of their writing that I consider close enough to be a good starting point for discussion of my views.

I also am broadly in favor of using literature in discussions, and trying to build on and engage with existing writing, instead of rewriting everything.

If you can't do something involving literature, why not? Is your position non-standard? Are you inadequately familiar with inductivist literature? (Yes answers are OK but I think relevant to deciding how to proceed.)

And yes feel free to start a new topic or request that I do instead of nesting further comments.

what I think about what Popper thinks about induction

I actually think the basics of induction would be a better topic. What problems is it trying to solve? How does it solve it? What steps does one do to perform an induction? If you claim the future resembles the past, how do you answer the basic logical fact that the future always resembles the past in infinitely many ways and differs in infinitely many ways (in other words, infinitely many patterns continue and infinitely many are broken, no matter what happens), etc.? What's the difference, if any, between evidence that doesn't contradict a claim and evidence that supports it? My experience with induction discussions is a major sticking point is vagueness and malleability re what the inductivist side is actually claiming, and a lack of clear answers to initial questions like those above, and I don't actually know where to find any books which lay out clear answers to this stuff.

Another reason for using literature is I find lots of inductivists don't know about some of the problems in the field, and sometimes deny them. Whereas a good book would recognize at least some of the problems are real problems and try to address them. I have seen inductivist authors do that before – e.g. acknowledging that any finite data set underdetermines theory or pattern – just not comprehensively enough. I don't like to try to go over known ground with people who don't understand the ideas on their own side of the debate – and do that in the form of a debate where they are arguing with me and trying to win. They shouldn't even have a side yet.

I think I looked at that argument in particular because you said you found it convincing

FYI I'm doubtful that I said that. It's not what convinced me. My guess is I picked it because someone asked for math. I'd prefer not to focus on it atm.

I also saved a copy of much of the Slack discussion. (Not all of it -- there was a lot -- but substantial chunks of the bits that involved me.) Somehow, I managed to save those discussions without posting other people's writing on the public internet without their consent.

You do not have my permission (or I suspect anyone else's) to copy our writing on LW to your own website. Please remove it and commit to not doing it again. (If you won't, I suspect you might be heading for another ban.)

(I haven't looked yet at the more substantive stuff in your comment. Will do shortly. But please stop with the copyright violations already. Sheesh.)

No. Quoting is not a copyright violation. And I won't have a discussion with you without being able to mirror it. Goodbye and no discussion I guess?

Quoting is a copyright violation in every jurisdiction I know of, if it's done en masse. Evidence to the contrary, please?

Evidence to the contrary, please?


Before October 2014, copyright law permitted use of a work for the purpose of criticism and review, but it did not allow quotation for other more general purposes. Now, however, the law allows the use of quotation more broadly. So, there are two exceptions to be aware of, one specifically for criticism and review and a more general exception for quotation. Both exceptions apply to all types of copyright material, such as books, music, films, etc. - first link on google. there are more details about conditions there, and particularly what you'd have to show in order to prove infringement. Good luck ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Quoting is a copyright violation in every jurisdiction I know of, if it's done en masse.

"en masse" is vague.

Wow, you know about a lot of different legal frameworks. How does copyright violation work in Tuvalu and Mauritius? I've always wondered.

-- general comments --

It's trivial to see that your idea of quoting is incomplete because most instances of quoting you see aren't copyright violations (like news, youtube commentary, academic papers, whatever).

However, you obviously care about copyright violations deeply, so I suggest you get in touch with google too; they are worse offenders.

Since you care about *COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT* and not *BEING CRITICISED* surely this blatant infringement of your copyright is a much larger priority. The probability of someone seeing material which is infringing your copyright is orders of magnitude larger on google than on a small random website.


Edit/update/mini-post-mortem: I made this post because of an emotional reaction to the post above it by @gjm, which I shouldn't have done. Some points were fine, but I was sarcastic ("Wow, you ...") and treated @gjm's ideas unfairly, e.g. by using language like "trivial" to make his ideas sound less reasonable than they might be (TBH IANAL so really it's dishonest of me to act with such certainty). Those statements were socially calibrated (to some degree) to try and either upset/annoy gjm or impact stuff around social status. Since I'd woken up recently (like less than 30min before posting) and was emotional I should have known better than to post those bits (maybe I should have avoided posting at all). There's also the last paragraph, "Since you care about ..." part, which at best is an uncharitable interpretation and at worst is putting words in gjm's mouth (which isn't okay).

For those reasons I'd like to apologies to gjm for those parts. I feel it'd be dishonest to remove them so I'm adding this update instead.

Yep, "en masse" is vague, and what it turns out curi actually did -- which is less drastic than what his use of the word "mirrored" and his past history with LW led me to assume -- was not so very en masse as I feared. My apologies, again, for not checking.

I didn't, of course, claim to know what happens in every jurisdiction; the point of my "in every jurisdiction I know of" was the reverse of what you're taking it to be.

I don't know anything much about the law in Tuvalu and Mauritius, but I believe they are both signatories to the Berne Convention, which means that their laws on copyright are probably similar to everyone else's. The Berne Convention requires signatories to permit some quotation, and its test for what exceptions are OK doesn't give a great deal of leeway to allow more (see e.g., so the situation there is probably similar to that in the UK (which is where I happen to be and where the site you linked to is talking about).

The general rule about quoting in the UK is that you're allowed to quote the minimum necessary (which is vague, but that's not my fault, because the law is also vague). What I (wrongly) thought curi had done would not, I think, be regarded as the minimum necessary to achieve a reasonable goal. But, again, what he actually did is not what I guessed, and what he did is OK.

If someone sees something I wrote on Google and takes an interest in it, the most likely result is that they follow Google's link and end up in the place where I originally wrote it, where they will see it in its original context. If someone sees something I wrote that curi has "mirrored" on his own site, the most likely result is that they see whatever curi has chosen to quote, along with his (frequently hostile) comments of which I may not even be aware since I am not a regular there, and comments from others there (again, likely hostile; again, of which I am not aware).

None of that means that curi shouldn't be allowed to quote what I said (to whatever extent is required for reasonable criticism and review, etc.) but I hope it makes it clearer why I might be more annoyed by curi's "mirroring" than Google's.

(Thanks for the update; as it happens I didn't see your comment until after you posted it. Not that there's any reason why you need care, but I approve of how you handled that.)

I didn't quote you en masse. I didn't just dump all your posting history. I quoted some specific stuff related to my critical commentary. Did you even look?

I had not looked, at that point; I took "mirrored" to mean taking copies of whole discussions, which would imply copying other people's writing en masse. I have looked, now. I agree that what you've put there so far is probably OK both legally and morally.

My apologies for being a bit twitchy on this point; I should maybe explain for the benefit of other readers that the last time curi came to LW, he did take a whole pile of discussion from the LW slack and copy it en masse to the publicly-visible internet, which is one reason why I thought it plausible he might have done the same this time.

gjm, going forward, I don't want you to comment on my posts, including this one.

Noted. (I take it "this one" means this post rather than requesting that I not acknowledge having read this comment.)

I don't 100% promise to comply (e.g., if I see you saying something importantly false and no one else comments on it, I might do so) but I'll leave your posts alone unless some need arises that trumps courtesy :-).

Since in connection with this you publicly slandered me over on your website, I will add that I consider your analysis there of my motives and purposes to be extremely wrong.

I think that attempting to discuss something as broad as "the basics of induction" might be problematic just because the topic is so broad. People mean a variety of different things by terms like "induction" or "inductivism" and there's a great danger of talking past one another.

For instance, the sort of induction principle I would (tentatively) endorse doesn't at first glance look like an induction principle at all: it's something along the lines of "all else being equal, prefer simpler propositions". There are lots of ways to do something along those lines, some are better than others, I don't claim to know the One True Best Way to do it, but I think this is the right approach. This gets you something like induction because theories in which things change gratuitously tend to be more complex. But whether you would call me an inductivist, I don't know. I am fairly sure we don't disagree about everything in this area, and it's quite possible that our relevant disagreements are not best thought of as disagreements about induction, as opposed to disagreements about (say) inference or probability or explanation or simplicity that have consequences for what we think about induction.

(My super-brief answers to your questions about induction, taking "induction" for this purpose to mean "the way I think we should use empirical evidence to arrive at generalized opinions": It's trying to solve the problem of how you discover things about the world that go beyond direct observations. "Solve" might be too strong a word, but it addresses it by giving a procedure that, if the world behaves in regular ways, will tend to move your beliefs into better correspondence with reality as you get more evidence. (It seems, so far, as if the world does behave in regular ways, but of course I am not taking that as anything like a deductive proof that this sort of procedure is correct; that would be circular.) You do it by (1) weighting your beliefs according to complexity in some fashion and then (2) adjusting them as new evidence comes in -- in one idealized version of the process you do #1 according to a "universal prior" and #2 according to Bayes' theorem, though in practice the universal prior is uncomputable and applying Bayes in difficult cases involves way too much computation, so you need to make do with approximations and heuristics. I do not, explicitly, claim that the future resembles the past (or, rather, I kinda do claim it, but not as an axiom but as an inductive generalization arrived at by the means under discussion); I prefer simpler explanations, and ones where the future resembles the past are often simpler. For evidence to support one claim over another, it needs to be more likely when the former claim is true than when the latter is; of course this doesn't follow merely from its being consistent with the former claim. Most evidence is consistent with most claims.)

Damn. Just realized I was looking to follow someone as a disciple, without thinking in those terms.

Oh brother...I am a sheep after all. What a mess. I do want to learn from curi though, but I hate the idea of being someone's disciple.

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What do you mean by "it's already a major part of our culture"? Specifically, do you mean (1) that conserving visible effort is a thing people do a lot in our culture (i.e., LoLE is right) or (2) that the idea that people conserve visible effort is well established in our culture (i.e., LoLE is well known)? (To me, "LoLE is a major part of our culture" means #2, but it sounds as if you may mean #1.)

Although the title of this post is "The Law of Least Effort Contributes to the Conjunction Fallacy", almost all of the actual post is dedicated to explaining what the LOLE is, to suggesting that it's neglected because of prejudice against the people it's associated with, and so forth.

The portion that actually purports to link the LOLE to the conjunction fallacy just says this:

LoLE encourages people to try to look casual, chill, low effort, even a little careless -- the opposite of tryhard. The experimental results of Conjunction Fallcy research fit these themes.

And, sure, something like that might be true, but you need to do better than that to be convincing. E.g., come up with some experimental design where, if your theory is right, the LoLE should have a stronger effect on some participants than others, and look for systematic correlation between expected-LoLE-ness and conjunction effect. (If your theory is right then it seems like this should apply to many other "effort-conserving" fallacies besides the conjunction effect, so maybe those should be tested for too.) And then actually do the experiment or persuade someone else to do it.

[EDITED to fix a typo.]

Let's take wikipedia's example of the conjunction fallacy:

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

Which is more probable?

A: Linda is a bank teller.
B: Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

The majority of people choose the answer B. So you ask, why do the majority of people choose option B? If you explain the conjunction fallacy to them most if not all of them will change their minds and choose option A. So what is going on? Could it be that they're choosing option B because they actually think that they're answering a different question? What question are they answering?

Take these possible answers to possible questions:

Question: unknown
A: Rick is a scientist
B: Rick is a scientist and has gray hair
Question: unknown
A: Bella is a pianist
B: Bella is a pianist with glasses
Question: unknown
A: Shaggy has a soulpatch
B: Shaggy has a soulpatch and a green shirt

Now, if B is the correct awnser for all these examples, and you take your Occam's razor, what can infer about the questions?

Well, B answers have more associations with the questions than the A answers. So if we go back to the first question, why do most people choose B over A? Why do they answer the question "which of these two answers have more associations with the question" instead of the *actual* question being asked? It's because answering that question requires less energy. It's the default heuristic that's programmed into your brain, it only requires system 1 thinking.

Because that's the default heuristic programmed in by evolution, it's going to be used by default. To change it, you need to activate your System 2 thinking to update your system 1 thinking to trigger your system 2 thinking when you come across questions like these, this requires a lot of energy. For whatever reason, our evolution prioritized conservation of energy over answering the conjunction questions correctly.

I suspect you and most of the readers here have a "tricky question alarm" trigger programmed in our system 1. When we see questions like these our tricky question alarm goes off and our system 2 activates so we can reason over them. Not everyone has this "tricky question alarm" trigger programmed in their head, and even if you do have such a trigger, it does not always go off.

One way you can verify this is by checking how fast people answer these kind of questions. I suspect that people who answer B instead of A are much faster in giving their answers because they don't activate their system 2.

It is primarily an energy conservation thing, not a social thing.

Did you read my previous linked posts, which this post is a followup to?

I've skimmed over it. But I guess I have not written down my thoughts on how the Conjecture fallacy relates to social behavior.

If the following two statements are true:

1. The conjunction fallacy mistake is made mainly because people overly rely on system 1 thinking.
2. Complex social behavior, like deception requires system 2 thinking.

Then the following statement is obviously false:

3. People make the conjecture fallacy mistake because of complex social behavioral reasons.

I think statement 1 and 2 are true, therefore I think 3 is false. But because I think 3 is false does not mean I think that making the cojecture fallacy mistake has no social implications. Someone who knows the default heuristics programmed into humans has advantages over those that don't in social situations.

People make the Conjecture fallacy mistake for the same reason as when they read the following question:

“A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

The first thought that enters your mind is $0.10 cents. That's your system 1 speaking. If you want to figure out the correct awnser you'll have to use your system 2. Does the fact that system 1 thinks "$0.10" have social implications? sure. Does system 1 think "$0.10" because of complex social reasons? I doubt it.

Complex social behavior, like deception requires system 2 thinking.

I don't think this is true. I've definitely told lies that I didn't think about making. I think an awful lot of complex social behavior is system one - I don't think most people flirt in system two, for example.

Sure, but the first time you told that lie you probably used system 2 thinking. Your brain might have optimized this process by creating a heuristic and programmed it into system 1, making lying a simple reactionary response. If you're using only system 1 it's not conscious deception. You're not *deciding* anything, it a simple reaction.

As for your example, I think most people with no experience flirt with their system 2, optimizing their thought processes to use the least amount of system 2 as possible. Though you are right that I might have phrased my statement better.

Statement 2 should have been:

Conscious deception uses system 2 thinking. Non conscious deception uses system 1 thinking. Accidental deception uses no thinking (added for completion).

Would be a better statement I think.

What is your goal here? Do you want to find a point of disagreement and try seriously to discuss it persistently over time to a conclusion?

My point is that the statement

*The Law of Least Effort Contributes to the Conjunction Fallacy*

Is false. for the reasons mentioned above.

Consider the scenarios: Alec: Please come up with a good haiku

Bob: OK. gets out phone, types in notes for 10 minutes, visibly counting syllables on fingers

Cal: OK. sits quietly sipping a beverage for 10 minutes

Bob and Cal come up with the same haiku.

In this scenario, Cal is signalling slack. How praiseworthy that is is context dependent. If Alec was looking for someone to take this request seriously, Bob looks better. If Alec was looking for someone to do further work in the future, Cal looks better.

I think this one might be reaching a bit. This version of energy conservation by "pick up artists" seems more off track than something in behavioral economics might present.

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Saying something "seems more off track" is not an argument criticizing some error in it.

I see now that I completely misunderstood you and was careless and did not think my response carefully. I apologize, this was lazy of me and I should do better.