All of pete22's Comments + Replies

What's the name of this cognitive bias?

That's really interesting, but I don't think it's what's going on here. The real-world routes are messier of course, and in the particular one that made me think of this question, my preferred longer route is closer to clockwise. I think it happens both ways.

2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey

I agree that it could be asking about which label people identify with and how that reflects those various norms, and that would also be an interesting question -- but in that case it should have been worded differently, or there should have at least been an "other" category. The way it was presented suggests an exhaustive scale.

2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey

OK, that makes sense. But then isn't this just a less-accurate version of the P(God exists) question?

To some extent, but not everyone may have a specific probability. And different people may outline the specific probabilities differently. Asking it as theist/agnostic/atheist also is implicitly asking about sociological, psychological, and epistemological norms at the same time due to the connotations of each of those terms.
2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey

I just took it. My issue, which I haven't seen mentioned yet, is with the use of "agnostic" as a midpoint on the scale between theism and atheism. I realize that's a common colloquial use now but I don't get how it's a meaningful category -- unless it's meant to refer to negative atheism, and the "atheism" answers refer to positive atheism? And in the historical use of "agnostic" I think it's a separate category altogether that could overlap with both atheism and theism.

Overall I found the questions very interesting though, and I'm curious to see the results.

It makes sense if one means by "agnostic" not "cannot be known" but "I don't know" or "I'm unsure." This makes sense in a general context and even more so in a a Bayesian context. In that context, one would have something like theists mean people that P(God exists) is high, atheists estimate that P(God exists) is low, and agnostics are in the midrange.
Beware of Stephen J. Gould

I realize this discussion is a few years old, but I just came across this post while browsing through the sequences, and I wanted to put in a word for Gould's book "Full House" that was the main target of this post, since I just read it last year.

First of all, only a third of the book is about evolutionary biology at all. The part I remember more was a discussion of the disappearance of .400 hitting in baseball, using similar statistical arguments.

Second, in the the section that was about evolution, I did not come away with the impression that he... (read more)

Scott Adams: 'Mockability Test'

None of these examples involves an actual proposition that can be 'reasonable' or true or false. I don't think this is the kind of mockery that Adams is talking about.

Scott Adams: 'Mockability Test'

Thanks for all the replies. As I said in the post, I also don't think Adams is completely serious. Here is the weaker version of his argument that I find interesting: if someone can make you (or maybe other rational/informed people) laugh at your beliefs, should that cause you to reassess your level of certainty in those beliefs?

In other words, I don't think Adams really believes that someone "successfully" mocking your opinions automatically makes them false -- but he's asserting at least some connection between this kind of humor and truth. Whi... (read more)

If it's a belief you've previously thought of as obvious and left unexamined, then this is probably a useful heuristic. Otherwise, no.
Most of the time when I see someone (myself included) mock their own beliefs, it translates to "yes, I'm not an idiot - I understand that these are low-status. That said,"
As other commenters have said, mockery is mainly a status game and the funny thing is to lower the status of the mocked person ("only an idiot can believe such silly nonsense"). The success of mockery relies upon speaker's rhetorical qualities and opinions (often read: prejudices) of the audience. I almost think that these are the only things it relies upon while truth of the belief doesn't matter. As for the weaker version, it is damned difficult to laugh at one's own beliefs, no matter how false they are. I even suspect that the correlation is opposite: if one's beliefs are well founded, one may feel more comfortable making fun of them, because one is certain that the humor doesn't threaten the beliefs which are part of one's perceived identity.
The Craigslist Revolution: a real-world application of torture vs. dust specks OR How I learned to stop worrying and create one billion dollars out of nothing

Actually, if you click through the link to Buckmaster's quote, there's an insta-poll right underneath it: "Should Craigslist take text ads to fund charity?" As of now there are 729 total votes and it's running 70% against. Facebook may have a little higher overlap with CL's userbase than ZDnet, but I would think the overlap in both cases is significant. Doesn't this weigh against the views of any future FB group, especially since (as Platypus points out) a poll should count for more than a petition?

The Craigslist Revolution: a real-world application of torture vs. dust specks OR How I learned to stop worrying and create one billion dollars out of nothing

This was my first thought too. Taking the question further -- even if, by some reliable polling method, you could draw a Venn diagram of CL and facebook users, wouldn't there be a lot of selection bias? If, say, 40% of CL users are also on facebook, by definition they're probably a lot more tolerant of ads than the other 60%.

Case study: Melatonin

Let's say it's midnight, I'm tired, and I'm home alone with nothing better to do. I know I have to get up early and I'll feel better / be more productive the next day in direct proportion to how much sleep I get. I still just don’t want to go to bed. It requires real force of will not to stay up and find something else to do, even if it just amounts to reading random stuff online or otherwise killing time.

I’ve gotten better at just making myself go to bed anyway in that situation, but I don’t know why it should take any effort in the first place. Going to ... (read more)

Use cron to make your browser open a new tab once a minute starting at midnight that says "GET TO BED!"
This is my experience as well, for the most part. The only times I recall "going to bed" feeling like a good idea is when I've been so far into exhausted sleep deprivation that base instincts took over and I found myself doing so almost involuntarily. Even in those cases, my conscious mind was usually confabulating wildly about how I wasn't actually going to sleep, just lying down for a half a moment, not sleeping at all... right up until I pretty much passed out. It's rather vexing.
Case study: Melatonin

Same here, and I agree it's puzzling. Especially not wanting to go to bed. With most of my behaviors that don't have an obvious motivation, I can think it through and figure out what's going on, but not with this one.

I wonder if it's a latent anti-bedtime reaction from childhood?

Speaking of which, why do all "good" American parents enforce bedtimes? I would think that if they enforced the getting-up time, the kids would take care of the getting-to-sleep part on their own.
Could you guys be more specific about what you hate about going to bed and about getting up? I don't even know whether you've all got the same problem.
Mandating Information Disclosure vs. Banning Deceptive Contract Terms

I think there's also a sort of commons problem with disclosure relating to time/attention: for any given 5000-word EULA or warranty or credit card disclosure supplement, it's plausible that someone could have read and understood it. But it's impossible for anyone to function in the modern world and thoroughly review all the information that's "disclosed" to them.

In a perfect theoretical world, this wouldn't be necessary: you would just need a few people to read each standard piece of paperwork and raise hell about particularly unfair or non-marke... (read more)

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

OK, but why do you keep saying "if"? The judge is making an argument on your terms. He is trying not to privilege the hypothesis. He is starting from the premise of Guede's involvement, and he does find a reason to infer the involvement of someone else. He does not conclude that the trail goes utterly cold, but instead that it leads convincingly to Raffaele and Amanda.

Now, you may disagree with this argument, but I still haven't heard the substance of your disagreement. All you've done is gainsay it.

Don't get me wrong -- I think your original po... (read more)

No he isn't! He's starting from the premise that some investigator found the condition of Meredith's clothing and bloodstains to be unusual given the hypothesis of only one killer. As far as I can tell, he has failed to update properly on the lack of connection between Guede and anyone else who might be a suspect -- not to mention the lack of other evidence (e.g. DNA) that would indicate two or more killers. I'm starting to suspect that we may just have a disagreement about how strong the anti-Knox evidence is. Yes, I agree it isn't literally zero. But that's not the point. The point is that it is utterly dwarfed by the other evidence. Exactly how strong of a dwarfing is this? Well, that's what seems to be the point of contention. I claim the net evidence of Knox's guilt yields a probability of no more than 0.1; you're uncomfortable going below 0.35. The only way to resolve this would be to do some sort of rigorous calculation of the inferential power of clothing-mechanics-analysis evidence -- something which I think would take us too far away from our main topics here. I suppose I can console myself with the fact that it's good news for Amanda and Raffaele (and bad news for the prosecution) if what are probably the most intelligent and sophisticated discussions of their case on the whole Internet consist of vociferous arguments about whether the probability of their guilt should be 0.35, 0.1, or even lower.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

One thing to remember is that Mignini fired the coroner doing autopsy investigation when that person said it was the injuries of a single perpetrator. He then hired someone who said it was more than one perpetrator. If you would like, I can find a link to back it up. So the original report said one person caused the injuries.

Again, can you give us your source for this? I'm not doubting you, I just want to get an idea of where it comes from.

The lack of DNA evidence of a additional perpetrators corroborates the single suspect coroner's result.
The following is from a recap of the defense's arguments on closing day. The recap was written by Kelly Brodbeck who was summarizing Ghirga's arguments. I think he got the rundown from a person present at the trial. This is the first thing I can cite. Will continue to look for more. "He talked about how Mignini stated that the position and condition of Meredith showed that there was more than one person involved in the murder, but when the coroner Dr. Lali said that the body did not show that more than one person was involved, Mignini fired him and replaced him with someone who agreed with his assertions. He said “I wonder why he was really fired??” "
No problem... I think even Mignini doesn't dispute it. But I'll seek it out.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

OK, fair enough. I think I understand your standard better now. But let's go back to the actual case. Here's a quote from that truejustice site's summary of the Micheli report:

2) Judge Micheli explains that blood evidence proves that Meredith was wearing her bra when she was killed. Nor is it just the blood on her bra which demonstrates this. It’s also where the blood isn’t on her body. He says that Meredith was wearing her bra normally when she laid in the position in which she died, and she was still wearing it for quite some time after she was dead. H

... (read more)
If, starting from the premise of Guede's involvement, there are reasons to infer the involvement of someone else, then that sort of thing may very well be worth paying attention to. If the trail through Guede goes utterly cold, however, there comes a point where you just have to declare that Guede's actions + there's-something-we're-missing-about-that-other-"evidence" is a more parsimonious explanation of the data than Guede's actions + someone-like-Amanda-Knox-is-guilty. In this situation, we should suspect that, if we bothered to investigate further, we would find that we were missing something. And sure enough, by golly, that's what often seems to happen. []
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

I tried a Google search -- I get a few mentions of Mignini firing his coroner, but they either don't mention a reason or they say it was punishment for leaks to the press. None seem to be from impartial sources, i.e. one is from that truejustice site, another is an article in the Stranger (seattle weekly) by a friend of Amanda's ...the closest thing to a real news site was a Vanity Fair article, and like the others it doesn't mention the first coroner saying there was one assailant.

This is the problem I mentioned in another comment -- all of our info is s... (read more)

It was part of the trial, however, which is why people cite it.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

Anna, I'd be curious to see the link on this when you get a chance.

If you type "Mignini fired coroner" into Google, a list of articles comes up. There were too many from which to choose. Additionally, a great specific, scientific explanation and analysis on the LCN DNA gathering and testing can be found at ScienceSpheres by Mark Waterbury. He starts the blog that way. He has a PhD in materials science.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

I'm with Nick -- there are very few primary sources available in English, and none of the stuff people are linking to, even the articles in mainstream media, seems like a completely reliable source to me -- especially on all these he said/she said issues of what evidence was actually adduced in court and if so whether it was effectively refuted.

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

Come to think of it, why would a further (unknown) DNA sample even be enough? You've got an explanation for the crime. Surely there are far more likely priors than a double murder that would explain a second DNA sample, right? "Similarly incriminating" might not really be possible; much of what made the first sample so incriminating is that it matched a guy who you already had reason to suspect. Or did you mean that an unknown DNA sample would not suffice, only one that matched another suspect?

If the victim's body and surroundings contains DNA from two different individuals, that would suggest multiple attackers.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

That's setting the bar pretty high. What about witnesses who claim to have seen two men running from the scene, or heard multiple voices at the time of the murder?

those would be the witnesses that appeared months later and whose testimony is doubtful. The running feet and scream women's story cannot be true... a reenactment later showed them to be impossible and they were actually not sure if it was Halloween the night before when there would have been a lot more rowdy students around... And the eyewitness was also discredited.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

You're right, this is the part I have trouble understanding. Partly because I have trouble separating the facts of this particular case from the theoretical point you're making. So if you'll humor me for a second: let's say you're the chief of police somewhere, and one of your detectives comes back from a murder scene and tells you "we've arrested a prime suspect and we've got very strong evidence against him, including an ironclad DNA match that ties him to the murder. but we don't think he acted alone, because of X, so we want to keep looking for an... (read more)

Two examples that come to mind immediately: -Similarly incriminating DNA from someone else in addition to the prime suspect. -Information acquired from the prime suspect himself that points to accomplices.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

By far the most important evidence in a murder investigation will therefore be the evidence that is the closest to the crime itself -- evidence on and around the victim, as well as details stored in the brains of people who were present during the act.

the evidence against Guédé is such that the hypothesis of her guilt is superfluous -- not needed -- in explaining the death of Meredith Kercher

I think you’re begging the question here. Those who are convinced that K&S are guilty seem to believe that the evidence from the crime scene itself suggests tha... (read more)

I don't believe there was a staged break-in, but even if there was, how does one logically go from "staged break-in" to Amanda staging it? I detect a logical gap.
"little effort was taken to remove evidence against Guede himself, even very obvious things like flushing the toilet." The assumption here is that Knox and Sollecito carefully removed their DNA, but did not remove Guede's. Isn't the more rational explanation for all of the evidence against Guede, and the lack of evidence against K&S, that Guede did it and K&S weren't even there, as they have always claimed, and as Guede claimed no less than 5 times? Further, there's a lot of supposition about a "clean-up" floating around on the web, but no evidence of one. There's lot of talk about bleach, bleach receipts, bleach on the knife, etc., but no evidence was introduced to support any of these claims. Another claim is no prints were found for Knox, therefore she must've wiped them down. This presumes, incorrectly as it turns out, that no unusable prints were found. In fact, lots of smeared, smudge, or partial prints were found. The prosecution's own expert witness on fingerprints, Giuseppe Privateri, testified he saw no sign of the place being wiped down for prints. There were lots of prints, just not a lot of usable ones, which is totally normal since the way we use our hands often causes the oils left behind to be smeared. Also, to believe this theory of a clean-up, one has to believe that with Superman-like enhanced vision, Knox and Sollecito could see their fingerprints and DNA, and Guede's, and could selectively remove their without disturbing his. This seems far-fetched in the extreme. In the bathroom, some of Kercher's blood was found mixed with Knox's DNA, probably from splashing onto a hair follicles or dead skin cell from Knox. Why didn't this happen in Kercher's room, where the orgy took place? No intermingling of sweat, saliva, or other bodily fluids- in an orgy?!?! It boggles the mind. Last, a lamp from Knox's room, her only source of light, was found on the floor in Kercher's room, possibly put there by Guede as he tried to look for his possessions, or
A bizarre or unexpected condition of the crime scene is not the explanandum here; Meredith's death is. One person is entirely sufficient to have killed Meredith, and the DNA evidence establishes with virtual certainty that Guede had the kind of contact with her necessary to accomplish this. Unless the evidence suggesting someone else was involved is of comparable power to the DNA evidence against Guede (something on the order of 30 bits), then (and this is the part people have trouble understanding) even paying attention to it at all is automatically hypothesis-privileging. (EDIT: Eliezer corrects [] below. What I actually wanted to argue [] here was that, given the certainty of Guede's involvement, the lack of connection between him and Knox or Sollecito is strong evidence against their involvement -- probably enough on its own to outweigh the comparatively weak evidence against them provided by the alleged indications of multiple attackers at the crime scene.) Yes, we might be curious about the unusual mechanics of the crime scene given only one person, but unless they are so strange that assuming someone else's guilt of murder (when we already have a suspect) would constitute a reasonable explanation for them, we have to regard the whole question as a distraction.
One thing to remember is that Mignini fired the coroner doing autopsy investigation when that person said it was the injuries of a single perpetrator. He then hired someone who said it was more than one perpetrator. If you would like, I can find a link to back it up. So the original report said one person caused the injuries.
You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event

I just went to Wikipedia and found a more articulate version of what I'm trying to say:

Gardner-Medwin argues that the criterion on which a verdict in a criminal trial should be based is not the probability of guilt, but rather the probability of the evidence, given that the defendant is innocent (akin to a frequentist p-value). He argues that if the posterior probability of guilt is to be computed by Bayes' theorem, the prior probability of guilt must be known. This will depend on the incidence of the crime, which is an unusual piece of evidence to consi

... (read more)
This is an interesting point and one where I think the legal system is wrong from a strict rationality sense but I can see the argument given that juries are human and so not very rational. It is common for juries to either not be given information which is very relevant to the prior probabilities of guilt or instructed to discard it. The debate in the UK over whether previous convictions should be admissible as evidence is a good example. From a strict Bayesian/rationality point of view, all information is potentially relevant and more information should only improve the decisions made by the jury. Information about previous convictions is very relevant when determining priors for certain types of crimes, particularly sexual offences which triggered calls for changes to the law in the UK. The counter argument is that telling juries about prior offences will bias them too much against the defendant, in recognition of the fact that juries are prone to certain kinds of irrational bias. The rules about keeping juries away from potentially prejudicial media coverage exist for similar reasons. The failure to avoid this in the Amanda Knox case is one of the criticisms leveled against the prosecution by her supporters.
You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event

I have a different objection to the premise: the presumption of innocence in modern legal systems means that the job of the jury (and by extension the legal teams) is not just to arrive at a probability of guilt but at a certain level of confidence around that probability.

I realize that these can technically be made equivalent by endless "priors" -- i.e. a juror walks into the courtroom with a certain set of beliefs, ie probability .8 that someone on trial is guilty, .01 that a sex crime would have been committed by a female rather than a male, e... (read more)

I don't think those are two separate things. What does it mean to be 50% sure that there is a 90% probability someone committed the murder? If you're not sure you should just lower your probability of guilt. I think Eliezer had it right that when answering the question you should give your best estimate of the probability that each suspect committed the murder. The question of what probability corresponds to 'beyond reasonable doubt' is a separate one and isn't actually raised in the original question. Personally I think you'd have to assign at least a 90% probability of guilt to convict but the exact threshold is open to debate.