All of Nathan_Iver_O'Sullivan's Comments + Replies

Chapter 11 of the 9/11 commission's report, available here, shows the commission was very wary of hindsight bias. The failure to prevent the attacks is said to represent a "failure of imagination," meaning the intelligence community used the wrong model in evaluating terrorist threats.

If you note the study in the article, 56% of those told about the flood but warned to avoid hindsight bias stated the city was negligent, compared to 57% of those told about the flood but not warned to avoid the hindsight bias stated the city was negligent. 76% of the control group, without the benefit of hindsight, concluded the chances of failure were so remote the city could not be held negligent. Just being aware that you have a potential hindsight bias is clearly meaningless if you have no method for removing the bias. That said, the "failure of the imagination" sounds reasonable, but it's about as useful as my horoscope. I.e. it's not.

Hopefully Anonymous, my point is that optimal is functional. If we find that our "optimal" policy is not functional, we need to expand the scope of our cost-benefit analysis.

If enough people are seriously disgusted by the possibly of compulsory trials (and I think they would be), the policy is unlikely to pass a cost-benefit test. When people balk that a particular policy will take their freedom, they are essentially saying "this policy would cause me harm, since I value my freedom." We need to look outside the most obvious costs and... (read more)

I am not convinced that a utilitarian legal system is much different than the systems of modern Western societies. Most laws in such societies are passed on grounds of ethics, efficiency, or a combination of both. Many people assume that laws passed on ethical grounds are inefficient by utilitarian standards, but I don't think that's necessarily true.

Consider murder laws. These are typically justified with a moral argument: life is sacred. But when a person is killed by another, the cost is not just some abstract violation of moral principle--since it ... (read more)

Good idea. If it's successful, I suggest creating a new one every month or two.

Reading the history of Less Wrong backwards is funny.