Use resilience, instead of imprecision, to communicate uncertainty

by habryka1 min read20th Jul 20201 comment



Gregory Lewis (Thrasymachus here on LW) posted a great summary of a bunch of arguments I've referenced many times, about how it's better to communicate resilience instead of imprecision to communicate if you are uncertain about something. 

Suppose you want to estimate some important X (e.g. risk of great power conflict this century, total compute in 2050). If your best guess for X is 0.37, but you're very uncertain, you still shouldn't replace it with an imprecise approximation (e.g. "roughly 0.4", "fairly unlikely"), as this removes information. It is better to offer your precise estimate, alongside some estimate of its resilience, either subjectively ("0.37, but if I thought about it for an hour I'd expect to go up or down by a factor of 2"), or objectively ("0.37, but I think the standard error for my guess to be ~0.1").