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Rationality & Criminal Law: Some Questions

Most hands of poker are decided without showing the cards. Does that make the cards irrelevant? Of course not; everything that happens is conditioned by the probable outcome if there were a showdown, as judged by the players in the hand. Changing one player's hand could change everything, even if no one else ever sees it.

A change in the way verdicts are reached will be much more powerful, being seen by both sides. Therefore even if nothing is done about the plea bargain system (and something should be done), the key to the game is still the "showdown".

Rationality & Criminal Law: Some Questions

There may be some other sort of penalty that would both deter recidivism and also deter people from beginning criminality. Corporal punishment, for example.

Is cryonics necessary?: Writing yourself into the future

It seems unlikely that people would think that way. Taking myself as an example, I favor an extensive reworking of the powers, internal organization, and mode of election of the U.S. House of Representatives. I know that I'm the only person in the world who favors my program, because I invented it and haven't yet described it completely. I've described parts of it in online venues, each of which has a rather narrow, specialist audience, so there might possibly be two or three people out there who agree with me on a major portion of it, but certainly no one who agrees on the whole. That makes me an extreme minority.

There are plenty of extreme minorities I feel no sympathy for at all. Frankly, I think moon-hoax theorists should be shunned.

Less Wrong Book Club and Study Group

I'm in. I live in Kenosha, Wi., on campus at UWP. No car.

The Cameron Todd Willingham test

The bias toward false positives is probably especially strong in criminal cases. The archetypal criminal offense is such that it unambiguously happened (not quite like the Willingham case), and in the ancestral human environment there were far fewer people around who could have done it. That makes the priors for everyone higher, which means that for whatever level of probability you're asking for it takes less additional evidence to get there. That a person is acting strangely might well be enough -- especially since you'd have enough familiarity with that person to establish a valid baseline, which doesn't and can't happen in any modern trial system.

Now add in the effects of other cognitive biases: we tend to magnify the importance of evidence against people we don't like and excessively discount evidence against people we do. That's strictly noise when dealing with modern criminal defendants, but ancestral humans actually knew the people in question, and had better reason for liking or disliking them. That might count as weak evidence by itself, and a perfect Bayesian would count it while also giving due consideration to the other evidence. But these weren't just suspects, but your personal allies or rivals. Misweighing evidence could be a convenient way of strengthening your position in the tribe, and having a cognitive bias let you do that in all good conscience. We can't just turn that off when we're dealing with strangers, especially when the media creates a bogus familiarity.

Rationality quotes: May 2010

Well, unless I've remembered it wrong, only two or three people have ever survived that fall. If I'm wrong, substitute a plane. Or a personal unprotected atmospheric re-entry.

Sometime there really are problems that can't be helped.

Rationality quotes: May 2010

Someone just threw you off the Golden Gate Bridge.

There's one problem thinking won't much help with.

But then again, to make that point I had to reach for a problem nothing could be done about.

Theism, Wednesday, and Not Being Adopted

I would argue that people actually take the larger gamble when they enter romantic relationships, certainly when they get married, and probably with some other decisions like that.

Theism, Wednesday, and Not Being Adopted

So... have you provided her with the arguments?

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