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Er, how about the wisdom to know whether a thing should be changed in the 1st place?



Thanks for the great learning. One apparent inconsistency puzzled me a bit:

You go out of your way to say that you expect Θsens>1-Θspec (which looks sensible to me), then follow up by choosing a pair of priors which, assuming independence, appear to violate this expectation a significant fraction of the time - perhaps 20-25%, just eyeballing the distributions.

Can you comment on the apparent inconsistency, or straighten out my misconceptions?


Great post, thanks for the learning. I am a bit puzzled however as to why you go out of your way to say "In addition, we expect Θsens>1-Θspec," (which expectation BTW makes sense to me), only to follow this up by assuming priors for Θsens and Θspec which (assuming independence) violate this expectation with significant probability (perhaps 25% of the time, based on a crude eyeballing of the curves).

Can you help me better understand your thinking here (or clear up any misconception on my part)?


Yes Nisan, that is the gist as I recall it. One can see how such a tool might help with a whole host of dysfunctional discussion/meeting behaviors.

A skeptic might regard this as gimmicky, and point out that the discipline required to use the tool properly would, if present, have prevented the dysfunctions in the first place. To which I reply: Well, maybe. But it's cheap to try. You might even enjoy it.


Morendil, Thank you for reminding me of this book! A technique I remember being described there is very attractive to me. My memory will mangle the details, but basically it is a convention by which either party in a discussion (say, party A in a discussion with party B) can call a point of order to ask the other party (in this case, B) to state A's position to A's satisfaction.

I have tried this some with mixed results, which I suspect could have been better with more preparatory groundwork. I'd love to hear of others' experiences.


The best-ROI techniques I've found to date are getting sufficient sleep, and trying hard. I know that these work, andthey work quite reliably.

Another which is somewhat less reliable is 'sleeping on it.' I mean quickly and intensively priming the mental pumps on a task, then doing something else, then coming back (ideally after a good night's sleep) to the task later. I often perceive the benefit of signicant effortless processing which must have taken place in the interim,

Back to trying hard. To help w/ this, I tend to psych myself differently depending on the mental barrier of the hour, e.g. (just by way of example):

raring to go -> go (duh); low energy -> compete with self / make it a game / hyperoptimize; anxiety concerning outcome -> depersonalize, take cosmological perspective, dust-mote-on-dust-mote, etc.; self-doubt -> reflect on successes and known abilities, depersonalize; lazy -> see low energy; competition for focus -> promise self rewards if focus, quick-list competing demands then flush from mind, etc.; uncertainty - 80/20 rule, do-then-adjust, countless pithy sayings

The psych-up phase may take 5 seconds (most of my techniques are so familiar I just need a quick flash on them to get most of the effect). Ideally I've planned ahead sufficiently so that 'sleeping on it' is still an option if I feel insufficiently psyched after the psych-up phase. Sometimes, just reminding myself of this fallback makes the psych-up easier.

Fairly mundane stuff, but reasonably effective and equipment-free (the bed I'll be needing anyway:-)


Apprentice, You appear to be of like mind with - ironically, Russell himself (I'm not a Russell fanatic, really I'm not: - though I clearly find him a vein worth mining deeply on this particular topic:-). From 'Why I Am Not A Christian,' a 1927 talk to the National Secular Society in London (on a day on which I suppose his stomach was feeling better):

" I am told that that sort of view [of the earth eventually becoming cold, dead and lifeless] is depressing, and people will sometimes tell you that if they believed that, they would not be able to go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries about much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out -- at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation -- it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things."

I pledge NO MORE Russell quotes for the remainder of the day. Pacific Time.


Kazuo, I agree; given our current knowledge that quote is open to criticism on several points of fact (most obviously its focus on the solar system rather than whatever passes for the universe these days). That's why I said I admire it mainly for its courage and style.


Finally, a third from Russell that I admire chiefly for its unflinching courage. And love him or hate him, you've got to admit - the guy had a way with words:

"That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

"Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding dispair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."


A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world is suffering. (Bertrand Russell)

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