Neil

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Parapsychology: the control group for science

If parapsychology is studying the patently non-existent, then the fact that parapsychologists don't typically spend their time debunking their own subject might suggest they are not up to par in some way, as a group, with "the rest of" science - unless you concede that other branches of science would also carry on in the face of total collapse in the credibility of their subject.

Efficient prestige hypothesis

I wonder if you could in theory separate out part of the prestige value. Part of the prestige value of a product would be related to its exclusivity - things that are easily got don't confer prestige for obvious reasons.

So suppose you were looking at two schools that were equally prestigous but one was smaller, more expensive, required better social connections and higher academic achievement to access, and was more preferred by people in higher circles than the other. Then you might conclude that this smaller school derived more of its prestige from its exclusivity than the other school did, and hence on other indicators which might matter more, the larger, less exclusive school was actually better.

Our House, My Rules

For most kinds of persuasive argumentation, especially in complicated and emotionally laden subjects like child rearing, arguments work on us without us ever being able to fully evaluate their merit. And in that world, it does make sense to down-weight arguments that have some bias built into them.

When we are dealing in such topics, we presumably have our own bias on the subject, and in making some assessment of the degree to which another's argument might need discounting due to their bias, we may bring our own bias into play. Are we then risking just ignoring people (at least to a degree) because they disagree with us?

I'd like to turn the question back on itself here, should we distrust your argument that allows us to discount arguments, especially in emotive debates, on the grounds its conclusion is possibly self-serving for you? that it excuses your discounting of people you disagree with in emotive arguments?

The continued misuse of the Prisoner's Dilemma

Since a bid's winningness is contingent on other bids you can't use winning as a proxy for understanding. If they all thought and acted like Ashley and broke the pact with 5 cent bids would they all have got a round of applause for their great insight in bidding 5 cents?

The Value of Nature and Old Books

The oldest non-fiction book I've read (cover-to-cover) as it happens was a book of Seneca's letters (first century). His Stoic philosophy might hold some interest to people here.

The continued misuse of the Prisoner's Dilemma

I think it's odd that he would say that only Ashley understood the game, not because she may actually be the loser in the wider scheme of things, but because the relevance of the Prisoner's Dilemma is that is actually supposed to be a dilemma. His saying only her action showed understanding suggests he doesn't think it's a real dilemma at all. He thinks it's a question with an answer: defect.

Rationality Quotes: October 2009

I think he's saying something more limiting - we cannot tell if we imagine things that cannot exist.

or even as far as - we cannot tell if things cannot exist. :)

Let them eat cake: Interpersonal Problems vs Tasks

Arthur C Clarke said it -

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Let them eat cake: Interpersonal Problems vs Tasks

I think your description of the alien with the cigarette pack highlights the fact the problem with advice often lies in the fact that it's too chunky. By that I mean the steps are described at too high a level. This can happen when there's a great difference in the levels of experience of the advisor and the advised, and the advisor has become so familiar with the processes they have been conceptually black boxed. In fact the black boxing is a necessary part of the process - you ride a bike well when you no longer think about how to ride a bike, and you socialise well when you're no longer aware of what you're doing to make your socialising successful. If the advisor doesn't realise that the advised has no idea how these black boxes work, the advice isn't worth much to him.

Non-Malthusian Scenarios

In the long term (and I mean the very long term) people will evolve to get around the obstacles that stop them producing the children they could.

If contraception decouples sex from reproduction, people will evolve to be less interested in sex and more directly interested in babies.

If entertainment proves more compelling than having kids, people will evolve to be less entertainable.

If being a responsible, well adjusted person is limiting family size, people will evolve to be irresponsible, poorly adjusted people.

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