All of Epiphany's Comments + Replies

Ah! Good point! Karma for you! Now I will think about whether there is a way to figure out the truth despite this.

Ideas?

3CCC10y
Hmmm. Tricky. * Select a random sampling of people (such as by picking names from the phonebook). Ask each person whether they would like to fill in a survey which asks, among other things, for their IQ. If a sufficiently large, representative sample is taken, the average IQ of the sample is likely to be 100 (confirm if possible). Compare this to the average reported IQ, in order to get an idea of the size of the bias. * Select a random sampling of lesswrongers, and ask them for their IQs. If they all respond, this should cut out the self-selection bias (though the odds are that at least some of them won't respond, putting us back at square one). It's probably also worth noting that this is a known problem in statistics which is not easy to compensate for.

While mistakes can of course go in either direction, they don't actually go in either direction.

I intuit that this is likely to be a popular view among sceptics, but I do not recall ever being presented with research that supports this by anyone. To avoid the lure of "undiscriminating scepticism", I am requesting to see the evidence of this.

I agree that, for numerous reasons, self-reported IQ scores, SAT scores, ACT scores and any other scores are likely to have some amount of error, and I think it's likely for the room for error to be pretty... (read more)

3satt10y
As one of the sceptics, I might as well mention a specific feature of the self-reported IQs that made me pretty sure they're inflated. (Even before I noticed this feature, I expected the IQs to be inflated because, well, they're self-reported. Note that I'm not saying people must be consciously lying, though I wouldn't rule it out. Also, I agree with your three bullet points but still find an average LW IQ of 138-139 implausibly high.) The survey has data on education level as well as IQ. Education level correlates well with IQ, so if the self-reported IQ & education data are accurate, the subsample of LWers who reported having a "high school" level of education (or less) should have a much lower average IQ. But in fact the mean IQ of the 34% of LWers with a high school education or less was 136.5, only 2.2 points less than the overall mean. There is a pretty obvious bias in that calculation: a lot of LWers are young and haven't had time to complete their education, however high their IQs. This stacks the deck in my favour because it means the high-school-or-less group includes a lot of people who are going to get degrees but haven't yet, which could exaggerate the IQ of the high-school-or-less group. I can account for this bias by looking only at the people who said they were ≥29 years old. Among that older group, only 13% had a high school education or less...but the mean IQ of that 13% was even higher* at 139.6, almost equal to the mean IQ of 140.0 for older LWers in general. The sample sizes aren't huge but I think they're too big to explain this near-equality away as statistical noise. So IQ or education level or age was systematically misreported, and the most likely candidate is IQ, 'cause almost everyone knows their age & education level, and nerds probably have more incentive to lie on a survey about their IQ than about their age or education level. ---------------------------------------- * Assuming people start university at age 18, take 3 years to g
2private_messaging10y
Sceptics in that case, I suppose, being anyone who actually does the most basic "Bayesian" reasoning, such as starting with a Gaussian prior when you should (and understanding how an imperfect correlation between self reported IQ and actual IQ would work on that prior, i.e. regression towards the mean when you are measuring by proxy). I picture there's a certain level of Dunning Kruger effect at play, whereby those least capable of probabilistic reasoning would think themselves most capable (further evidenced by calibration; even though the question may have been to blame, I'm pretty sure most people believed that a bad question couldn't have that much of an impact). Wikipedia to the rescue, given that a lot of stuff is behind the paywall... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority#IQ "The disparity between actual IQ and perceived IQ has also been noted between genders by British psychologist Adrian Furnham, in whose work there was a suggestion that, on average, men are more likely to overestimate their intelligence by 5 points, while women are more likely to underestimate their IQ by a similar margin." and more amusingly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_penis_size#Erect_length Just about any internet forum would select for people owning a computer and having an internet connection and thus cut off the poor, mentally disabled, and so on, improving the average. So when you state it this way - mere "above average" - it is a set of completely unremarkable beliefs. It'd be interesting to check how common are advanced degrees among white Americans with actual IQ of 138 and above, but I can't find any info.
9CCC10y
Even if every self-reported IQ is exactly correct, the average of the self-reported IQ values can still be (and likely will still be) higher than the average of the readership's IQ values. Consider two readers, Tom and Jim. Tom does an IQ test, and gets a result of 110. Jim does an IQ test, and gets a result of 90. Tom and Jim are both given the option to fill in a survey, which asks (among other questions) what their IQ is. Neither Tom nor Jim intend to lie. However, Jim seems significantly more likely to decide not to participate; while Tom may decide to fill in the survey as a minor sort of showing off. This effect will skew the average upwards. Perhaps not 30 points upwards... but it's an additional source of bias, independent of any bias in individual reported values.

Your unintentional lie explanation does not explain how the SAT scores ended up so closely synchronised to the IQ scores - as we know, one common sign of a lie is that the details do not add up. Synchronising one's SAT scores to the same level as one's IQ scores would most likely require conscious effort, making the discrepancy obvious to the LessWrong members who took the survey. If you would argue that they were likely to have chosen corresponding SAT scores in some way that did not require them to become consciously aware of discrepancies in order t... (read more)

This would be a good point in the event that we were not discussing IQ scores generated by an IQ test selected by Yvain, which many people took at the same time as filling out the survey. This method (and timing) rules out problems due to relying on estimates alone, most of the potential for mis-remembering, (neither of which should be assumed to be likely to result in an average score that's 30 points too high, as mistakes like these could go in either direction), and, assuming that the IQ test Yvain selected was pretty good, it also rules out the proble... (read more)

0private_messaging10y
Look. People misremember (and remember the largest value, and so on) in the way most favourable to themselves. While mistakes can of course go in either direction, they don't actually go in either direction. If you ask men to report their penis size (quite literally), they over-estimate; if you ask them to measure, they still overestimate but not by as much. This sort of error is absolutely the norm in any surveys. More so here, as the calibration (on Bayes date of birth question at least) was comparatively very bad. The situation is anything but symmetric, given that the results are rather far from the mean, on a Gaussian. Furthermore, given the interest in self improvement, people here are likely to have tried to improve their test scores by practice, which would have considerably lower effect on iqtest.dk unless you practice specifically the Raven's matrices. The low scores on iqtest.dk are particularly interesting in light that the scores on the latter are a result of better assignment of priors / processing of probabilities (as, fundamentally, one needs to pick the choice which results in simplest - highest probability - overall pattern. If one is overconfident about the pattern they see being the best, one's score is lowered, so poor calibration will hurt that test more).

I did not intend to imply that you failed to back up your own data. That was intended as an amusing compliment.

7gwern11y
The cobbler's children don't always go unshod. :)

Both of the citations I was given by you guys said clearly that they were uncertain about the connection between race and IQ. That is the reason I don't agree - because even your citations do not agree. I assume those are the best citations you have, so that your citations do not agree with you makes your belief look very bad indeed.

Also, by arguing that the reason I don't agree is because I am statistically innumerate and that the reason I don't agree is because I'm too inept to understand, you have made an ad hominem fallacy. Attacking the person does... (read more)

4Vaniver11y
I don't think you're correctly distinguishing between multiple related claims. Claim A is that IQ distributions vary by race. This is supported by mountains of evidence. This alone is sufficient to justify using race as a factor when predicting IQ. This is the original point under discussion, as you argued against using race as a factor when predicting IQ both here and here. Claim B is that differences in measured IQs overestimate the actual differences in intelligence or life outcomes between races. There is substantial evidence against this claim, and it is only weakly related to the original point under discussion. (Were it true, it would suggest that estimating IQ is not as important when doing between-race comparisons as other estimations, but does not impact IQ estimation.) Claim C is that X% of difference in racial average IQ is due to genetic factors. It is currently not clear what X is for any particular between-race comparison, which the citations reflect. This is unrelated to the original point under discussion. Not quite. The arguments you've made recently are mostly social arguments- "you say Y, but your citation says Z, how do you account for that!"- rather than technical arguments. The arguments seem vacuous to a technical expert, because Y and Z turn out to be totally compatible, but may still seem impressive to a non-expert who is unfamiliar with the relationship between Y and Z. Similarly, a non-expert doesn't know what sort of claims do and don't need citations, and so may see a virtuous skeptic against credulous believers, rather than a crank who defends their perpetual motion machine by insisting on a citation for the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. (This is not to say that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is taken on faith; what it means is that there are some issues where ignorance, confusion, or denial is solid evidence against being a curious and open-minded scholar.) An effective social response is to poke at the technical content of your cla

Well, seeing an unknown man approaching you at night

Actually, it is far more prudent to avoid a stranger approaching me at night, regardless of his race - depending on the environment I am in.

If he is approaching from a dark alley, I will head away from him, whatever his race. If he approaches me at a party full of friends, I will speak to him.

The crime statistics are not so incredibly different for blacks and whites that you can simply trust all of the whites.

You can believe whatever you want to believe, it's just that such an attitude looks strange here.

That is not my attitude. I have been asking you for research. Did you see what I discovered about "The Bell Curve"? What do you say about that?

-1[anonymous]11y
Did you read the two paragraphs following your quoted sentence? It seems to me that they more or less settle the matter, and resolve your grayness regarding environment and genetics.

Actually, the most useful application for individual businesses in this case would be (in the event that IQ tests are good at predicting who will be a good worker) to request IQ scores as part of a job application, not to discriminate based on race - this is not to say that it would be useful for society as a whole. I am not sure what it would do to society as a whole. On the one hand, if there's a correlation between race and IQ, more people of each race with a low IQ might find themselves worse off. However, if employers become more willing to hire bl... (read more)

6Eugine_Nier11y
The problem is that this is currently illegal in the USA. This was in fact precisely the point of the parent comment. When is this ever the case in practice?

Yes, I've read Ioannidis. However you're using this quote here as a rather blatant aid to your confirmation bias.

I think everyone should consider that published research findings are likely to be wrong each time they are seeking research findings. If you agree that we should be skeptical about research findings, why do you think that asking questions about whether the research controlled for multiple factors, was replicated etc. should be taken as evidence of confirmation bias? Maybe you disagree that we should be skeptical about research findings?

... (read more)
3pianoforte61110y
That there are population level differences in IQ is not controversial (except in the sense that evolution is controversial because more than 30% of Americans don't believe in it). That IQ is a useful proxy for general intelligence and a useful tool in determining life outcomes is not controversial. That IQ is heritable is not controversial. That the differences are genetic is controversial but the data does seem to suggest that much of the difference is indeed genetic and another portion is biological (pre-natal care, early nutrition). http://occidentalascent.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/the-facts-that-need-to-be-explained/ Every objection you've listed so far has been addressed in exhaustive detail in the above link.
-2Lumifer11y
Sigh. I don't believe you're listening and really have no inclination to play the "yes, but" game. Neither do I feel the need to prove anything to you. You can believe whatever you want to believe, it's just that such an attitude looks strange here.

Ok thanks. However, I am aware that "most published research is wrong" (PLOS Medicine) and know that there are factors that need to be controlled for in studies on race and IQ (in the second numbered list). Do you also claim that these factors were controlled for, that the key study or studies have been replicated, and that this is quality data that generally avoids research pitfalls? That's what I am looking for.

5Lumifer11y
Yes, I've read Ioannidis. However you're using this quote here as a rather blatant aid to your confirmation bias. There have been many, many studies which all show the same thing. These are findings which have been confirmed, re-confirmed, and confirmed once again. Precisely because these results are so controversial they have been the subject of very thorough checking, vetting, and multiple attempts to debunk them. The results survived all this. What, do you think that for the last 50 years no one really tried to find holes in the studies showing racial IQ differences? Many highly qualified people tried. The results still stand.

As the saying goes, "Life is an IQ test."

As a stand-alone statement, I would probably leave this alone. But as a response to "What about nurture", the first thing that comes to mind is:

Has Vaniver adequately corrected for the just world fallacy?

The predictive ability of IQ on income (and most other statistics of interest) is very similar for each race, which suggests that differences in measured IQ scores map onto differences in life outcomes.

Ok, that's interesting, but it does nothing to rule out nurture factors that would imp... (read more)

6Vaniver11y
It's not clear to me why you would be interested in nurture factors. There are two things going on here: the ability of IQ to measure intelligence, and the historical causes of intelligence. With the exception of disorders that prevent people from testing well without significantly impacting life outcomes, the historical causes of intelligence don't appear to have much to do with the ability of IQ to measure intelligence. A nurture factor (like, for example, being breastfed as a child or being struck on the head) actually alters someone's intelligence, and their intelligence influences both their test scores and their income. Again, this looks like it's mixing up the historical causes and the predictive ability. If the predictive ability is the same independent of race (it is), then it doesn't matter why the racial IQ averages are the way they are. What we would need to show to discount IQ measurements is that the IQ measurements are not as predictive for members of one race than another. As an example of a real bias like this, girls tend to get better grades than standardized test scores alone would predict. In order to get an accurate estimate of what a girl's grades would be from her standardized test scores, you need to adjust upwards because she's a girl. Symmetrically, boys score better than one would expect from their grades, and so when predicting scores one needs to adjust upwards. When moving in the opposite direction, one would need to adjust downwards; a girl's grades overestimate her standardized test scores. But note that this doesn't mean we throw out the data- it's still predictive! We just adjust it the correct quantitative amount. Now, do we know the historical causes of that effect? I'm not familiar with that field, but it seems like there are lots of plausible theories that probably have support. Even without knowing the causes, though, we can use our estimates of the size of the effect in order to predict more accurately. What would you cal

When you're deciding what to replace X with in the following statement, it most certainly does matter:

"X have a lower IQ on average."

You can choose "People of African descent" or you can choose "People from poor backgrounds" or "People with serious health conditions" or "People with drug addictions" or any number of other things.

When attempting to determine how best to help a school in a black ghetto that is failing, and you're choosing between spending money on remedial courses or on a school nutrition ... (read more)

-4Eugine_Nier11y
Well, seeing an unknown man approaching you at night, granted this is more about criminality than IQ but the correlation is the same. Also thinking about whether affirmative action and the desperate impact doctrine are reasonable ideas.
7Muhd11y
If the results of the racial IQ studies are true, then that is very important because it disproves the doctrine of ethnic cognitive equality. Many people, especially in America, have this idea that all ethnic groups must have exactly equal average cognitive ability, and that if one or more ethnic groups perform below average on a test of aptitude, that is taken as strong evidence that the test is invalid and racially biased and thus cannot be used. For this reason, many aptitude tests are severely restricted in their use since they are considered racist. This in turn would have a negative economic impact if these tests are actually valid, since employers and colleges are forced to use other, less effective means to vet candidates.
3Jiro11y
You might be in a situation where you need to decide how to allocate money to help a black school or a white school. If white people have higher IQs, and if money is worse at improving the performance of students who do poorly because of IQ than it is at improving the performance of students who do poorly for other reasons, then you should allocate the money to the white school. You might be in a situation where you need to hire a white person or a black person and have no information about their IQs, but you would prefer an employee with a higher IQ. You then should hire the white person. Of course, this is exactly why using IQ this way is a bad idea.
4Lumifer11y
The Bell Curve book is a standard source. Otherwise a quick look at Wikipedia provides this:
-3wedrifid11y
This comment could be improved by the removal of "+1 karma.".

This reads like a classic case of motivated cognition.

Did you stop to make distinction between me being influenced by motivated cognition and alternate explanations like:

  1. Me seeing significant flaws in data that would otherwise support your conclusion. Part of this may be that I've spent a significant amount of time reading about IQ and giftedness and I have learned that there are a lot of pitfalls to doing IQ related research.

  2. Me simply being unaware of relevant data. (This might be the case in the event that the people who supplied my data were in

... (read more)
3Vaniver11y
As the saying goes, "Life is an IQ test." The predictive ability of IQ on income (and most other statistics of interest) is very similar for each race, which suggests that differences in measured IQ scores map onto differences in life outcomes. To the extent that a medical condition makes someone test poorly, it generally also makes them live poorly. (There are a handful of prominent exceptions to this- like dyslexia- which don't significantly impact the main point.) Now, where those IQ differences come from in the first place is an interesting question. Many people have looked at it, and the consensus answer for individual IQ differences is "somewhere between 50% and 80% of it is genetic," and the extrapolation from that to group IQ differences is somewhat controversial but seems straightforward to me. A perhaps more interesting question is "what knobs do we have to adjust those IQ differences?" Here's Jason Richwine explaining that all serious scientists have agreed on the basics of IQ for decades, and the media is completely mistaken on the state of reality and scientific consensus. It seems pretty relevant to me, because it looks like basic statistical innumeracy on your part, unless you think the IQ distribution of African Americans is tremendously skewed such that the mean intelligence is the 75th percentile of intelligence, rather than the 50th percentile like it would be in a symmetric distribution. (Or you think that the African average is higher than the African American average, which is very much not the case.)
-3Eugine_Nier11y
If your point is that it's not clear to what extent the difference in intelligence is due to nature or nurture, I agree but would like to point out that for many applications it doesn't matter.
3Lumifer11y
In Africa? It so happens that the world is much bigger than the USA and the people in sub-Saharan Africa test for IQ pretty much the same as African-Americans. Sure, you can control for wealth/economic status. Or you can go and test poor peasants in China and poor peasants in Africa. You seem to think that this is a white-vs-black US problem. It's not. The highest-average-IQ large group of people is East Asians, like Han Chinese -- not Caucasian whites. I am curious -- how do you figure out that in a distribution close to normal only 25% are higher than the mean?
0wedrifid11y
This is true, the overhead for adopting and learning somewhat arbitrary cultural norms can be significant. This is particularly the case for those whose instincts are less finely targeted towards social conformance. This is a class predictably overrepresented on less wrong. That said, you have now had the preference explained to you in clear English. The need for calculating probabilities for countless hypothetical downvote causes is largely removed and this one hypothesis "Saying +1 Karma causes some downvotes" is now comfortably high. Now it is a choice whether you want to spend emotional effort fighting that norm or whether you let it go and adapt. There are many times where it worthwhile to fight the tide and attempt to influence social norms in a desired direction. I do this constantly in my battle against what I call bullshit. However it is important to chose one's battles. In no small part because if one spends their influence attempting to fight irrelevant things then there is less credibility remaining for fighting the battles that matter. In this case people don't like "+1 karma" as part of a general distaste for all unnecessary references to the karma based meta-level. I expect that if you had responded "Ok, thank you for explaining. I'll adopt different word use in my reinforcement." then you would have been upvoted and also had people reverse their downvotes of the earlier comment. People being cooperative and updating tends to be appreciated. I personally request that you change this detail of style rather than escalating your dissent. It is frustrating to watch otherwise rational people undermining their credibility due to what amounts to social awkwardness. Lose gracefully on small things so that you win more things that matter.

If you intend to use an African prejudgment heuristic like 1 (below) rather than reacting as if you've done an equation that takes into account other relevant data like 2 (below), then I think your probability equation needs an upgrade.

1) African prejudgment heuristic: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower than those of whites, therefore this specific African individual is likely to be relatively stupid compared to my white friends."

2) Reasoning that Takes Relevant Data Into Account: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower th... (read more)

Reasoning that Takes Relevant Data Into Account: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower than those of whites. However, there are known flaws with IQ tests such as cultural bias, so that figure might be wrong. Most published research findings are false (PLOS Medicine), so I should apply healthy skepticism to all the research I read. This is not likely to be an accurate piece of data to use as a Bayesian prior.

This reads like a classic case of motivated cognition. You don't want to believe the conclusion; therefore, you selectively look for po... (read more)

0Lumifer11y
All of that looks like rationalization of a pre-determined belief.
3A1987dM11y
Who the hell downvotes this?

There isn't prejudice against people with a high IQ.

Perhaps you intended that within a specific context from the comment above like "These introduction examples don't cause a problem because of prejudice, but because they sound like claims to superiority", in which case I'd agree with you. However, I disagree about whether there exists prejudice against people with high IQs in the broader context. If that's truly what you meant, I'd be happy to elaborate, but please specify so I am not accidentally arguing with a strawman.

And no, you can't

... (read more)
3Jiro11y
I'm sure you could find one specific example in the world of someone prejudiced against someone because of high IQ, but I'd say that in general, there isn't such prejudice. There may be prejudice against intelligence, but that's not the same thing, and even that only exists in a few limited situations. I don't see the relevance. A claim of superiority (especially an unwarranted one) isn't the same thing as actual superiority.

if you're looking for a another milieu that tends to brand and shun obsessive pursuits ... you might look to the concept of sprezzatura among the sporting aristocracy.

Hmm... that's an interesting idea - that the existence of a mainstream sporting culture which shuns one of the traits that nerds have in common might have scared off a larger proportion of the people who are not gifted from the nerd subculture? Thanks for this idea. +1 karma.

I have never heard of this "sporting aristrocracy" - is that a term you made up on the spot for this context, or am I just unaware of this term?

1metastable11y
I don't think "sporting aristocracy" has much currency as a phrase. I mean the class of European aristocrats to whom the trades and business and educations suitable for the trades and business were mostly taboo (they could be warriors or clergy or, until the field was professionalized, scientists). The men hunted and sailed and raced and rowed. They also invented the various types of football, and started intercollegiate athletics in the US. See The Shooting Party for an example: Lord Hartlip is a good shot, but is ashamed to be seen practicing. Also Chariots of Fire in which Lord Lindsay "trains" by jumping hurdles topped with flutes of champaign and is contrasted with Harold Abrahams, the Jewish runner who hires a professional coach. Goes all the way back past Baldassare Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, which discusses the way a true gentleman does everything right while making it seem easy and unpracticed.

It's pretty uncommon among industrialized countries to keep education (more or less) unified as late as 12th grade, and under these circumstances I can see intellectuality coming to be associated with a subcultural alignment; whereas under something like the German system, classes would end up being fragmented along giftedness lines before strong subcultural cliques form.

That's an interesting factor, but I question whether it is a cause, or a symptom (which potentially has effects similar to the original cause). I ask "Why did America choose to de... (read more)

I am interested in finding out what the rest of the world does and how you found out about their reactions to intellectually gifted people. I'd also be interested in finding out why you think this happens in America but not everywhere else. Would you mind sharing?

The nerd subculture certainly exists (with local variations) in Europe and East Asia, but the impression I get is that it's coupled less to childhood intelligence and more to that subculture's various touchstones: you're about as likely to identify as a nerd if you like, say, literary sci-fi, but being smarter than the average bear isn't as good a predictor of liking SF.

I don't know why this happens, but I suspect it has something to do with the American educational system. It's pretty uncommon among industrialized countries to keep education (more or l... (read more)

... more objectivity than is warranted

Oh good point. Okay. I think that objectivity might be the problem with "Hi, I'm a genius." but I'm not sure that's the problem with "Hi, I'm gifted." I'll try another thought experiment on non-objective statements:

  1. "Hi, I'm nice."
  2. "Hi, I'm gifted."
  3. "Hi, I'm beautiful."
  4. "Hi, I'm awesome."
  5. "Hi, I'm wonderful."

Hmm, the problem with these is that nice, awesome, wonderful and beautiful all refer to traits that are too small in scope or too vague... (read more)

0Jiro11y
I would argue that 1) "too vague" is just a subclass of "claims to be more objective than is warranted" and 2) "gifted" is in fact as vague as the other examples. Yes, but that's not all of it. The point is that because people are skeptical about IQ, making a claim about your IQ says (to such people) "I think I am objectively better, but I'm basing that claim on something which cannot support it". Three, sir. Because you can't disentangle such a claim from a claim of being objectively superior (and specifically, an unjustified claim of being objectively superior). Being nice or beautiful can certainly influence your personality, views, or lifestyle and you can't go around claiming those either. It's not a problem unique to giftedness.
3Nornagest11y
I think this is probably more true in the US than in a lot of other places. Our cultural habit of steering intellectually (and especially mathematically) gifted kids into the "nerd" pigeonhole and concomitant subculture doesn't seem to be well reflected in the rest of the world.

Let's be clear. Racial groupings are really very significant pieces of evidence. There's huge amounts of genetics that correlates, huge amounts of culture that correlates, huge amounts of wider environment that correlates. It would be frankly astonishing if things like IQ, reaction time, hight, life expectancy, and rates of disease didn't also correlate.

Culture and environment are not race. Therefore, if you're studying race, those influences should be taken out of your scientific experiment. It's extremely difficult to remove things like culture and ... (read more)

-1Eugine_Nier11y
So what you're saying is that it's ethically wrong to use Bayesian reasoning.

I don't think it's superiority. A counterpoint in thought experiment form:

  1. "Hi, I'm the president of the United States"
  2. "Hi, I run my own business."
  3. "Hi, I'm a model."
  4. "Hi, I'm Albert, the guy who came up with E equals MC squared."
  5. "Hi, I'm a genius."

I think the numbers do make statements sound bad (I couldn't figure out a way to word the above using a number without making it sound like bragging) but that's irrelevant to the question I'm trying to answer, so it's essentially one of those factors that s... (read more)

3Jiro11y
I'd suggest something that is related to what you're saying: the problem isn't that "I'm a genius" is an objective statement. The problem is that a statement made with more objectivity than is warranted. The person saying this thinks it makes him objectively better. It doens't just apply to intelligence; consider "I'm a model" versus "I'm beautiful". The latter would get negative reactions. Stating that you're a secret agent is actually an objective statement; you either are or you're not. Stating that you're a genius is likely to be interpreted as a general claim of mental superiority that is somewhat based on objective characteristics, but not by as much as you're claiming it to be. Even if the person claiming to be a genius says "I have high IQ" instead, I've observed that people on Less Wrong give much higher credence to IQ than people outside Less Wrong. Telling an average person that you have a high IQ is telling him "I believe I am objectively superior, but I'm basing my belief on this number that is very narrowly applicable, doesn't capture all of what we mean by intelligence, and many of whose past uses have been discredited."

I'm looking for a reading recommendation on the topic of perverse incentives, especially incentives that cause people to do unethical things. Yes, I checked "The Best Textbooks on Every Subject" thread and have recorded all the economics recommendations of interest. However, as interested as I am in reading about economics in general, my specific focus is on perverse incentives, especially ones that cause people to do unethical things. I was wondering if anyone has explored this in depth or happens to know a term for "perverse incentives ... (read more)

9NancyLebovitz11y
Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management has a fair amount about the limits of incentive plans. From memory: incentives can work for work that's well-defined and can be done by one person. Otherwise, the result is people gaming the system and not cooperating with each other. I don't remember whether the book covered something I heard about in the 70s or 80s about a car company which had incentives for teams assembling cars rather than an assembly line. I was told about a shop owned by partners which had an incentive system for bringing in sales for the shifts the partners worked. The result was that the partners wouldn't tell customers to come back if it might be on someone else's shift.
-2shminux11y
For example...?

Why does this not apply to rifles? / Again, why isn't this isomorphic to "Human equipped with weapon X" versus "unarmed human"?

Killer robots pose a threat to democracy that rifles do not. Please see "Near-Term Risk: Killer Robots a Threat to Freedom and Democracy" and the TED Talk link therein "Daniel Suarez: The kill decision shouldn't belong to a robot". You might also like to check out his book "Daemon" and it's sequel.

Once more: Why are "Killer Robots" different from "machine guns&

... (read more)
-2RolfAndreassen11y
This is not obvious. Many's the innocent who has been killed by some tense soldier with his finger on the trigger of a loaded weapon, who didn't make an ethical decision at all. He just reacted to movement in the corner of his eye. If there was an ethical decision made, it was not at the point of killing, but at the point of deploying the soldier, with that armament and training, to that area - and this decision will not be made by the robots themselves, for some time to come. If you don't like machine guns, how about minefields? The difference between a killer robot and a minefield seems pretty minuscule to me; one moves around, the other doesn't. Your mistake is in identifying pulling the trigger as the ethically important moment.

Ok, I'll post about this in the open thread to gauge interest / see if anyone else knows of a pre-existing LW post on these specific obviousness problems.

Ah, okay. I'll edit my comment then.

Thanks for your comments, I'm inclined to basically agree with what you've said.

I am glad to know that my comments have made a difference and that they were welcome. I think LessWrong could benefit a lot from The Power of Reinforcement, so I am glad to see someone doing this.

the only solution is to make these autonomous technologies as absolutely safe as possible.

Actually, I don't think that approach will work in this scenario. When it comes to killer robots, the militaries will make them as dangerous as possible (but controllable, of course). H... (read more)

It was written to Yvain. I was under the impression that Yvain was studying psychology, not medicine. Now that his website link has changed, I'm not sure there's a way for me to look this up.

7Alicorn11y
Yvain has graduated medical school; he is concentrating in psychiatry but it's still an MD.

My purpose with this is not to argue, but to get people to really think about the measures he suggests because I think we can have a more realistic view than the one presented by Peter at the Conscious Entities blog.

P1 - Restricting killer robot production would come at great cost, would pose risks, and isn't likely to happen.

Great Cost:

To ban killer robots, you would also have to ban:

  • 3-D printers (If they can't make parts for killer robots now, they'll probably be able to make them later.)

  • Personal robots (If they can hold a gun then people could pul

... (read more)
4fowlertm11y
Thanks for your comments, I'm inclined to basically agree with what you've said. Bans are almost never the answer and probably wouldn't work anyway. Which, if that's true, means machine ethics is even more important, because the only solution is to make these autonomous technologies as absolutely safe as possible.

I'm torn here. Do I tell you that's a good point because combination strategies can be much more effective at preventing pregnancy, or do I let you know that the efficacy rate for STIs are subject to the same forces as the efficacy rates for pregnancy?

I guess I can do both. You'll decide what risk to take in any case.

The amount of protection that you can get from a condom against STIs is not as good as the amount of protection you get against pregnancy. Not everyone can give you an STI (about 20% of the population) whereas most straight couplings can le... (read more)

2coffeespoons11y
Pretty much all the non monogamous people I know get regular tests. So yes, most people use testing in addition to condoms. I don't have casual sex any more, really, but I never caught an STI when I did. Oh, and most condoms sold in the UK contain spermicide.

I'm glad you seem to be aware of this problem. Unfortunately, I don't think the rest of the world is aware of this. The dictionary currently defines obvious as meaning "easily seen" and "evident", unfortunately.

Thanks for taking a moment to let me know that my comment is appreciated and that this information makes a difference for you. I find that, like Luke says in The Power of Reinforcement, knowing that a behavior of mine has made a difference and is wanted "increases the probability that the behavior will occur again".

I think LessWrong could really use more positive reinforcement, so I hereby positively reinforce you for showing the humility to positively reinforce.

0Skeeve11y
You're welcome.

Hahahah! Oh, that's terrible. Now I just realized that my meaning was not entirely explicit. I edited my statement to add the part about not supporting points.

Good link. I like that Grognor mentions that obviousness is just a matter of perception and people's ideas about what's obvious will vary, so we shouldn't assume other people know "obvious" things. However, I think that it's really important for us to be aware that if you think something is obvious, you stop questioning, and you're then left with what is essentially a first impression - but I don't see Grognor mention that semantic stop sign like effect in the post, nor do I see anything about people using obviousness as a way to falsely suppor... (read more)

0Kaj_Sotala11y
Not that I could recall.
2gwern11y
No; he's quit LW.

The guy you're linking to seems sketchy as hell.

I agree. The reason I chose that specific page is because I did not find an adequate alternative list. I tried Googling site:.gov "symptoms of MTHFR" and site:.edu "symptoms of MTHFR" and only one result comes up - but it's specifically for homocysteinemia. That one result is reputable (nih.gov) but I know that it does not contain a full list of symptoms. It has left out important symptoms like depression and fatigue, which I know to be associated with MTHFR because I know people w... (read more)

2Alicorn11y
Are you talking to someone other than Yvain, about whom you wrote this remark?

Here's how 2% per incident is different:

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that the average number of uses per year is 100.

A 2% per incident risk will add up to a yearly 50% risk for the average user.*

A 2% per year risk already included 100 uses, so it is still 2% per year.

A 2% per year risk would add up to a 70% chance over the 35 or so years women are fertile and active and a 2% per incident risk would add up to a much, much higher risk, likely resulting in multiple pregnancies.*

* This is only if pure math reflects reality, which it probably doesn't bec... (read more)

1mwengler11y
No, it requires that the failures of condom usage be independent events from one another. That is to say, that person A using a condom at time B has the same probability of failure as person C using a condom at time D, even if C=A or B=D. Without knowing more, it is entirely possible that some fraction of men have supersperm which gets through condoms and that they account for all the failures, and those that use condoms but avoid supersperm will never fail. Alternatively it is possible that some group of people keep making the same mistakes and account for all the failures while another group of people use them right and don't fail. Math can be used to analyze all of these possibilities.
0A1987dM11y
I think the figure you're looking for is 1 - (0.98^100) = 0.87 (assuming no-one gets pregnant twice in the same year).

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

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

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

You're not missing anything basic, you're correctly perceiving ambiguity where ambiguity does exist. Even when information is really important, I've found t... (read more)

4Skeeve11y
Yeah, this is good advice in general, and it's definitely what I was doing wrong this time.

Yes, unfortunately, a large number of the people I've talked to do interpret it as 2% per lifetime.

Okay, I understand your alarm - you're probably thinking something along the lines of WTF, you're saying condoms aren't effective, why are you contradicting sex ed? If you want one quick reference to show you why you should be concerned about this, the Journal of Family Practice published a research survey that revealed the aftermath of these condom myths. I added it to the comment you were responding to. As for why I said what I said in the last comment: I tried finding a condom study that ran for longer than a year. I couldn't find one anywhere. The one year studies gave failure rates that ranged between 2% and 15%. Those figures can be found at Pubmed if you search for condom efficacy.

Caution is warranted for a few reasons:

  1. I've been told that the liver uses methylfolate for detoxification. If you take too much too soon, or ramp up too quickly, you will end up really feeling like hell because of the detoxification process. This may be more of a problem for people who have toxins built up in their system due to inefficient detoxification.

  2. I've been told that methylfolate can increase your blood pressure. Your doctor may need to be monitoring this.

  3. I've been told that if you do need all three of methylfolate, methylcobalamin and a h

... (read more)

Hmm. Good question. I think they'd have to test for the methylated versions, not the regular versions, and I do not know whether the standard procedure is to test for the methylated versions - but this is just me reasoning it out, not medical advice. To my knowledge, if MTHFR is suspected, they generally test for the MTHFR mutation itself.

There are a lot of people who want to believe that anyone can do anything, that we're all equals in every way. One can sometimes run into really nasty attitudes when talking about intellectual differences, clear examples of fluff like "we're all gifted" and myths like "giftedness goes away when children grow up". Granted, it would be kind of weird to see that on LessWrong because these guys seem pretty in touch with reality when it comes to acknowledging that intellectual differences exist. Perhaps it is, instead, mind projection fal... (read more)

In IT, if people don't use your software correctly, it's called "Bad user interface design." In business, if people don't like your product enough to actually use it, it's considered your responsibility to make a better product next time. Most people are blaming the condom users, but I think we can take the outside perspective instead. Instead of "shoulding" the condom users, let's criticize the product:

  • You have to remember the product when? This is kinda bad timing to remember stuff, you know?

  • They have to carefully concentrate

... (read more)
5coffeespoons11y
Replacing condoms doesn't work for people who aren't currently in monogamous relationships. We need them to protect against STIs. Encouraging people to entirely replace condoms would I should think lead to an increase in STIs. I've used condoms every single time I've had sex, and they've only failed twice. Both of the times they failed I took emergency contraception. I've never had a pregnancy scare. Of course I could be infertile, but many of my friends use the same method, and they find it effective. Others use a combination of hormonal contraception and condoms.

That's not quite what I meant, but that's a good article.

What I meant is more along the lines of... two people are trying to figure out the same thing together, one jumps to a conclusion and the other one does not. It's that distance between the first observation and the truth I am referring to, not the distance between one person's perspective and another's.

Reads that article again. I think this is my third time.

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