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Schelling fences on slippery slopes

"One evening, I start playing Sid Meier's Civilization (IV, if you're wondering - V is terrible)" THANK YOU. ;D

Thomas C. Schelling's "Strategy of Conflict"

The example was just to make an illustration, and I wouldn't read into it too much. It has a lot of assumptions like, "I would rather sit around doing absolutely nothing than take stroll in the wilderness," and, "I have no possible landing position I can claim in order to make my preferred meeting point seem like a fair compromise, and therefore I must break my radio."

Blue or Green on Regulation?

Amen. Blue vs. Green thinking is the norm, and I have been accused (negatively) of being a liberal and a conservative in the same day.

Your opinion doesn't sound like mine, so it's probably the other side's opinion.

The Scales of Justice, the Notebook of Rationality

The paper "The Affect Heuristic in Judgments of Risks and Benefits" doesn't mention explicitly separating benefit from risk in the critical second experiment (and probably not the first either, which I didn't read). If I were brought in and given the question, 'In general, how beneficial do you consider the use of X in the U.S. as a whole?', then I would weigh all positive and negative aspects together to get a final judgment on whether or not it's worth using. "Benefit" CAN be a distinct concept from risks, but language is messy, and it can be (and I would) interpreted as "sufficiency to employ". As a result, depending on the reader's interpretation of "benefit", it's possible that any lowering of perceived risk will NECESSARILY increase perceived benefit, no logical error required.

Rather sloppy science, if you ask me.

Being a teacher

People call me an excellent teacher, and I've probably spent more time figuring out why people think I'm an excellent teacher than I have getting better at teaching. Some techniques I find universally applicable:

  1. Teach yourself. Imagine yourself knowing everything you now know minus the thing that needs to be taught and everything that requires that knowledge as a prerequisite. Now picture trying to teach yourself. Humans are terrible at remembering when they learned something, how long it took them, what it felt like and where they had problems, etc. By starting with the idea of how you would teach yourself, you're focusing on what you would absolutely NEED to tell ANYONE regardless of their prior knowledge or understanding; these are good things to focus on. Just as importantly, you also prime your brain to think about the subject on a less automatic level.

  2. Metaphors are absolutely critical. Everyday human experience seems to very far more within people's minds than it does on the outside. Give concrete examples from the physical world as metaphors: the internet is not a big truck, it's a series of tubes! It might be funny, but it made at least as much sense as anything else in the speech.

  3. Talk a LOT. Throw out a lot of information and your student will tend to latch onto the one thing that they were missing and ask about it, leading to a breakthrough. When you make an important point, repeat it a second or third time in different ways, then explicitly point it out later during examples. When the student is actually attempting something that requires a great deal on concentration, be absolutely silent unless they need a nudge; otherwise, avoid ever letting the room be silent for more than five seconds. This doesn't mean rush through your explanations, it means belabor the point and add more metaphors if possible. It also means build a habit in your student of talking about his thought process so you can gauge what to say next and when it's appropriate to move on.

  4. Prime the mind to recognize. Try to employ a fixed set of terms, even if you have to make it up on the spot, so that you can immediately point it out later and the student will know what you're trying to point out. If you sum up a conceptual explanation by calling it "ordered complexity", you can then point it out later, "see, that's what I meant by ordered complexity!" This will pull the entire explanation into their thought process the moment that it's needed.

  5. If all else fails, give up and go back to basics. If it seems like you're not making progress for a while - if they simply don't "get it" - you've usually incorrectly assumed that the student has a prerequisite level of skill or knowledge. Stop immediately and trace back to prerequisites that are most likely to not be met, do some trouble-shooting to find the biggest culprit, and start a new lesson in the trouble spot. Resist the urge to do a quick-fix bare-bones lesson to get them up to speed so you can return to the original lesson; you must endeavor to genuinely teach them the more basic knowledge/skill, or you will just waste your time later.

Fun and Games with Cognitive Biases

I think the most straightforward "edutainment" design would be a "rube or blegg" model of presenting conflicting evidence and then revealing the Word of God objective truth at the end of the game - different biases can be targetted with different forms of evidence, different models of interpretation (e.g. whether or not players can assign confidence levels in their guesses), and different scoring methods (e.g. whether the game is iterative, whether it's many one shots but probability of success over many games is the goal, etc.).

A more compelling example that won't turn off as many people (ew, edutainment? bo-ring) would probably be a multiplayer game in which the players are randomly led to believe incompatible conclusions and then interact. Availability of public information and the importance of having been right all along or committing strongly to a position early could be calibrated to target specific biases and fallacies.

As someone with aspirations to game design, this is a particularly interesting concept. One great aspect of video game culture is that most multiplayer games are one-offs from a social perspective: There's no social penalty for denigrating an ally's ability since you will never see them again, and there's no gameplay penalty for being wrong. This means that insofar as any and all facets in the course of a game where trusting an ally is not necessary, one can greatly underestimate the ally's skill FOREVER without ever being critically wrong. This makes online gaming perhaps the most fertile incubator of socially negative confirmation bias anywhere ever. If an ally is judged poorly, there's no penalty for declaring them as poor prematurely, and in fact people seem to apply profound confirmation bias on all evidence for the remainder of the game.

Could a game effectively be designed to target this confirmation bias and give the online gaming community a more constructive and realistic picture? I'll definitely be mulling this over. Great post.

Ability to react

Complete agreement; I'm in exactly the same boat.

One thing I've noticed is that high-speed action-reaction iterations seem beyond my grasp to truly master; one example is tracking objects with mouse movements in video games; I am exceptional compared to most humans, but among other highly-trained gamers, I seem to be a poor performer - even though my tested reflex speed is normal. This makes me a great general and a poor soldier. Any other good-analysis-bad-reaction minds care to weigh in on this? I'm curious if there's a connection.

Welcome to Less Wrong!

Rationalist blogs cite a lot of biases and curious sociological behaviors which have plagued me because I tend optimistically accept what people say at face value. In explaining them in rationalist terms, LW and similar blogs essentially explain them to my mode of thinking specifically. I'm now much better at picking up on unwritten rules, at avoiding punishment or ostracism for performing too well, at identifying when someone is lying politely but absolutely expects me to recognize it as a complete lie, etc., thanks to my reading into these psychological phenomena.

Additionally, explanations of how people confuse "the map" to be "the territory" have been very helpful in determining when correcting someone is going to be a waste of time. If they were sloppy and mis-read their map, I should step in; if their conclusion is the result of deliberately interpreting a map feature (flatness, folding) as a territory feature, unless I know the person to be deeply rational, I should probably avoid starting a 15-minute argument that won't convince them of anything.

Procedural Knowledge Gaps

Like SRStarin said, you can actually just hook negative to any old metal around the opening, because THE WHOLE CAR EXERIOR is negatively charged. How cool is that?? Many cars have a point in the hood opening near the battery mount that is shaped to be easily clipped-to.

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