John-Henry

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Open Thread: July 2010, Part 2

Pen and paper interviews would almost certainly be more accurate. The problem being that images of people writing on paper are especially un-cinematic. The participants were encouraged to take as much time as they needed, many of which took several minutes before responding on some questions. However, the majority of them were concerned with how much time the interview would take up, and their quick responses were self imposed.

Whether the evidence is too messy to draw firm conclusions from, I agree that it is. This is an inherent problem with documentaries. Omissions of fact are easily justified. Also, just like in fiction films, a higher degree of manipulation over the audience is more sought after than accuracy.

Open Thread: July 2010, Part 2

I thought Less Wrong might be interested to see a documentary I made about cognitive bias. It was made as part of a college project and a lot of the resources that the film uses are pulled directly from Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong. The subject of what role film can play in communicating the ideas of Less Wrong is one that I have heard brought up, but not discussed at length. Despite the film's student-quality shortcomings, hopefully this documentary can start a more thorough dialogue that I would love to be a part of.

The link to the video is Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOYEJF7nmpE

Logical Rudeness

"Playing devils advocate" is the non-insidious way to describe this tactic when it's done in good faith, presumably with the other party being aware that one is not defending their true position or attacking those they necessarily think are false.

"I was just trying to make you think" definitely sets off alarms of back-pedaling and status dismissal. But, I've just as often heard "playing devils advocate" used for the same back-pedaling purpose. Though "playing devil's advocate" seems to be used in bad faith more often than "just trying to make you think" when someone doesn't care whether what they say is true or not. Sometimes it can be disguised as trying to help someone by training their ability to refute arguments. This can lead to the Advocate trying to "win" the argument with false beliefs and then updating the other party toward falsity as a sort of dominance. Or they can bail out with their status intact if it looks like they can't win. Kind of like claiming that what has become a fight is actually only sparring once it's gotten too intense. But only because they intentionally didn't commit to either fighting or sparring but were instead gauging their ability to win, and without realizing it. In this way they can be sure to never lose an argument. I did this sometimes when I was younger, before I knew better. Coming out of the argument with my status intact was a higher priority than coming closer to the truth.

Trolls who would benefit by claiming to be "playing devil's advocate" instead of "just trying to make you think", will. Making a good faith effort and Intentionality are everything for this.

December 2009 Meta Thread

I'm personally uncomfortable with endorsing another voting system that functions just like karma but with a different name. Having more than one set of numbers that can fluctuate from positive to negative and are differentiated in name alone sounds like a headache, as well as an interface that would scare me away were I not already familiar with the site.

Instead, I propose simple "I Agree" and "I Disagree" buttons. Rather than just tallying the amount of votes for either, it should simply attach one's name to the post via a pulldown tab, just like hiding and exposing child tabs in the comments section. Ideally the lists of those who agree or disagree, as well as how many votes are for either, would not be revealed until one clicked to reveal it. Or possibly make it so that one would have to vote before being able to see the results. Hopefully that would prevent people from being primed to agree with the majority (or being overly contrary).

This would reveal which discussions are actually contentious versus which are being supported by a vocal minority. It could also function as an all-purpose karma-neutral voting system.

Some possible problems: While I want to know who agrees with what, and from a Bayesian perspective this is going to help me be more accurate, I'm fearful that I would be too inclined to agree with prominent posters. I may be unable to discern whether I truly agree with something or am inclined to agree because I see that Eliezer supports an argument. Handled incorrectly it could turn into an in-group out-group situation.

edit: I forgot to include the purpose of having a list of names instead of an anonymous number. I want to know who's judgement I am relying on in matters that I don't have time to do research myself. Also, should I disagree, knowing who I am refuting would help to motivate me. Knowing that I am arguing with a practicing rationalist instead of an anonymous number helps encourage me to construct better arguments.

What's In A Name?

I live in the state of Georgia and recently I had noticed that I pay special attention to news stories about the country of Georgia. This happens despite that the country has no special relevance besides sharing a name with my state. This post gives me some insight as to why that happens.

This doesn't seem dissimilar to some experiences I had in elementary school. Whenever the teacher would read a story to the class, and a character had the same name as someone in the class, when the teacher read the name of that character, everyone in the class would look at that person. If the character in the story was doing something funny, then everyone would laugh at that person. The class thought it was especially funny when the character contrasted sharply with the person in class. If there was a character that was an old man named Jason, then the class would laugh that their Jason was 5 years old. Later there would probably be jokes about Jason being an old man or a game where Jason was playing the part of an old man. I don't yet know how this ties in, but it's seems interesting when thinking about names and identity.

When thinking about the first initial similarities, one thing came to mind:

"I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg."

"The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsatltteer be in the rghit pclae."

"The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?"

This seems to suggest that the mind uses a symbol recognition hack. Not that different from being able to scan a list and find your own name faster than someone elses. Is it possible that this bias shows up more often in written word than in speech? Could it be that when looking at a list of possible careers, our eyes are drawn toward symbols which trigger recognition and so we are more likely to focus on those?!?

I'm unsure whether you were using brute force as a hack to spur your musical imagination and create a good song or whether it was intended to isolate parts of composition you wanted to become more proficient in. Was the goal to create individual good songs or create a better understanding of music to apply later to a non-brute force style? It seems the brute force style is clearly wrongheaded as far as creating fully developed music, but you probably knew that going in (and it does serve as a good example of the null heuristic).

If it was instead a method to better learn music theory, did it work?

"Stuck In The Middle With Bruce"

It's possible that naming the part of us that makes us lose is oversimplifying the problem. We can consciously come up with rationalizations for why achieving one result counts as a "win" and another result as a "loss". But clean win/lose states don't exist in real life, which is much more messy. Instead winning and losing is achieving different results.

Is it possible that Bruce is just playing a different game, rather than solely attempting to make "me" lose my game? Bruce may actually be the person who wants things that we can't easily rationalize that we (me and Bruce as one person) want.

I can play a game of bowling against a beautiful woman and tell myself "I want to win this game". However, if Bruce has reason to think that losing is going to help my cause with the woman more than winning, and Bruce knows he wants that woman, then he may try to win his game at the expense of me winning mine. My lazy brain can't come up with the reasons why Bruce want's to throw a gutter ball (to get the woman) and Bruce can't figure out why I'm trying to throw strikes (to achieve my conscious win-state). If Bruce wins then my conscious mind is mad at Bruce for causing the loss without understanding why he did it (my brain is too lazy to figure it out).

Maybe if I beat Bruce then he may similarly be able to make my victory bittersweet without me being able to rationalize the reason for it, thus giving more reason to cave to Bruce in the future.