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How do you whittle path-dependent (probabilistic) questions?

by Mary Chernyshenko1 min read2nd May 2020No comments

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It's a skill I lack and moreso, a desire I find myself lacking; to structure discussion in such a way that the later probability estimates don't contaminate the earlier ones they really shouldn't.

For example, I am reading Zvi's post on buying/selling/holding on predictions of COVID-19. Besides the object-level stuff, it shows the way the author re-weighs odds according to the change in scope.

Most times I see this IRL, 1) it's not the norm to allocate time to speak about the structure, 2) people aren't used to tracking interconnected events and just lump things together because it's easier, 3) spoken language has its own limitations, like the inability to refer to specific claims very precisely etc. And it's odd to ask people a bunch of questions all mixed up, in order to not lead them Socratically to a conclusion. (I wish not-Socratic talking was not seen as so weird. After all, I know about myself that I'm not always selling something...)

Still, some people not only speak with clarity, but manage to keep track of what events are or are not mutually exclusive and steer the discussion to make it easier for everybody.

...and my question is, how?


I don't think it's always useful or pedagogical or in any way "best", and it only works in some settings. But it's still a thing of beauty.

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