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Fight Zero-Sum Bias

The assertion is that people have a tendency to see things as zero sum even when they are not. Do you see why giving an example that is zero sum in some sense and not in another doesn't impact the validity of that claim?

Yes, but why is it new and useful information to know that people might have a zero-sum bias when one is aware one does not have an objective way to decide whether one should act to correct it in any given situation - i.e. should preference be given to the individual or the group, or the group or groups?

The concept "fight zero-sum bias" is just another way to say "think positive", "always look on the bright side of life", "be optimistic". It's nothing new, except the word "fight" makes this version war-like.

Unfortunately, humans are not naturally good Bayesianisms. We're not even naturally good traditional rationalists. We have a lot of cognitive biases. When we talk on LW about fighting we mean fighting against those biases so we can reason more accurately. Don't confusion fighting with some sort of deep ideological meaning. In this sense, fighting means something like grappling with oneself. The only ones we are fighting with is our imperfect reasoning algorithms that evolved to handle a very different environment.

I find the use of the word "fight" disconcerting. It's a messy word. The way we think is a mechanical process. If there is a right way to think it has the potential to be explained. The word "fight", which carries emotional and irrational connotations, need never be invoked. I don't think this is a trivial point.

It's possible that a zero-sum scenario may appear positive-sum once the zero-sum bias has been corrected, but that is merely a short term illusion because the fate of the individual is also tied to that of the group.

Also I disagree with the idea human psychology has evolved to "think the worst" of each other. Can it be proved we have a zero-sum bias? In many situations it would be more helpful to counter positive-sum bias - in Ponzi schemes, for example, not everyone can be a winner.

Fight Zero-Sum Bias

//The claim being made is that there are situations which are unambiguously not zero sum.//

I don't disagree with that claim.

//You haven't addressed that.//

A man called Nick Clegg recently took the advice of the author and acted against his zero-sum bias and decided to work with a leader from an opposition political party in a coalition government.

The outcome was positive-sum for Nick Clegg because he got to be Deputy Prime Minister, and for David Cameron because he got to be Prime Minister.

However, a lot of Liberal Democrat and Conservative voters (who as a group were represented by the two party leaders) got angry because they thought the situation of who should govern Britain was a zero-sum contest.

In this situation should the group have overcome its supposed zero-sum bias and urged the leaders to cooperate? Or perhaps they were right in their protests that it was a zero-sum situation, as the leadership deal, which is neither Conservative or Liberal, may turn out to be entirely self-serving for the careers of the two young party leaders and bad for Britain.

The proposed advice is not of use to this real world application.

//It may help for you to read the Sequences. No one is claiming that one should act like something is not zero sum when it is. Dealing with a cognitive bias is not accomplished by doing everything the exact opposite of what that bias would push you towards. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence. Fighting a cognitive bias doesn't mean assuming the exact opposite. It means being aware of the bias and being alert for when the bias may be influencing judgment.//

I'll take time to do so. I'm attracted to Bayesianism but I feel all this fighting business is getting away from science.

//Also, is it possible, if you please, to work a tiny bit on your grammar and punctuation?//

Capitals are back. I'll take the hit for the grammar and punctuation.

Fight Zero-Sum Bias

Sorry, I don't understand. Since when was the loser the winner?

What I mean is when Individual A and Individual B agree on a solution to ruling State X those INDIVIDUALS are the winners - the individual is the unit of winner.

But simultaneously there is a game going on between State X and State Y. The resolution of the leadership contest between A and B may have been positive-sum at the level of the individuals involved but what about at the level of the State?

And if it is bad for the state then it is bad for the individuals so what appeared to be a positive-sum outcome was actually an illusion, due to the multi-level problem. This has yet to be addressed by anyone.

To recap my very general position: the essay is ideological, not scientific. The title says everything.

Fight Zero-Sum Bias

and I have a match... as long as situations have the potential to be regarded by the unit of winner (individual, family, group?) as zero-sum then you're stuffed.

as I said below resolving a situation as positive-sum just shifts the zero-sum situation to another level: e.g. you vote in a Hawk|Dove leader as President, it's a win-win for sub-state groups but your state loses versus both the Doves and Hawks.

Fight Zero-Sum Bias

Can you not see the irony in the title of your post: "Fight Zero-Sum Bias"?

Fight Zero-Sum Bias

Another thing - what is your unit of winner?

The individual? The family? The group?

You are assuming scenarios such as Person A versus Person B, etc. What about Person A1 versus Group A which consists of Person Ans when there is simultaneous a game played between Group A and Group B?

Person A1 wants to be leader of Group A, and is in a run off with Person A2 for the role. Person A1 is running on making Group A's economy sound but Person A2 promises to protect Group A against threats made by Group B.

How can this situation, which is a very common trade-off in politics, be resolved in a positive-sum way? Seems to me you can only work a "positive-sum" solution by sweeping the zero-sum problem to another level of analysis.

If the skills of A1 and A2 are used together, that is a positive-sum alternative, but Group A will then not have sufficient protection and lose against Group B - so Group A loses the zero-sum game. If only A1 or A2 become the leader then either A1 or A2, and the alternative trajectories they stood for, will have lost.

What about Group A and Group B getting together to decide to share power? Group A and Group B are comprised of Person Ans and Person Bns. Ans and Bns have different life priorities...

Fight Zero-Sum Bias

But how do you resolve a situation where there is actually only enough of a resource for one individual or group in a positive-sum manner? The historical record is clear that there are zero-sum situations, and in those situations there can be only one winner.

I don't believe you when you say we live in a world of abundant resources or that we can simply create new resources or that we can design a perpetual motion society of "lasting prosperity".

An argument between you and me over your thesis would not end in two winners. I think it's a silly, ideological, unscientific proposal that is unquantifiable in all its essentials.

Awful Austrians

You will know a good epistemology by its fruits.