# JackV

Karma: 202
• And a cou­ple of years later, I’ve not adopted this full-time, but I keep com­ing back to it and mak­ing in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments.

• This res­onated with me in­stantly, thank you!

I now re­mem­ber, I used to do some­thing similar if I needed to make de­ci­sions, even minor de­ci­sions, when drunk. I’d say, “what would I think of this de­ci­sion sober”? If the an­swer was “it was silly” or “I’d want to do it but be em­bar­rassed” I’d go ahead and do it. But if the an­swer was “Eek, ob­vi­ously un­safe”, I’d as­sume my sober self was right and I was cur­rently over­con­fi­dent.

• For what it’s worth, I quib­bled with this at the time, but now I find it an in­cred­ibly use­ful con­cept. I still wish it had a more trans­par­ent name—we always call it “the worst ar­gu­ment in the world”, and can’t re­mem­ber “non­cen­tral fal­lacy”, but it’s been re­ally use­ful to have a name for it at all.

• I think this is a use­ful idea, al­though I’m not sure how use­ful this par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple is. FWIW, I definitely re­mem­ber this from re­vis­ing maths proofs—each proof had some num­ber of non-ob­vi­ous steps, and you needed to re­mem­ber those. Some­times there was just one, and once you had the first line right, even if there was a lot of work to do af­ter­wards, it was always “sim­plify­ing in the ob­vi­ous way”, so the rest of proof was ba­si­cally “work it out, don’t mem­o­rise it”. Other proofs had LOTS of non-ob­vi­ous ideas and were a lot harder to re­mem­ber even if they were short.

• FWIW I think of ac­tivi­ties that cost time like ac­tivi­ties that cost money: I de­cide how much money/​time I want to spend on leisure, and then in­sist I spend that much, hope­fully choos­ing the best way pos­si­ble. But I don’t know if that would help other peo­ple.

• I guess “un­known knowns” are the coun­ter­point to “un­known un­knowns”—things it never oc­curred to you to con­sider, but didn’t. Eg. “We com­pletely failed to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that the econ­omy would mu­tate into a con­ti­nent-sized pi­ano-de­vour­ing shrimp, and it turned out we were right to ig­nore that.”

• FWIW, I always strug­gle to em­brace it when I change my mind (“Yay, I’m less wrong!”)

But I ad­mit, I find it hard, “ad­vo­cat­ing a new point of view” is a lot eas­ier than “ad­mit­ting I was wrong about a pre­vi­ous point of view”, so maybe striv­ing to do #1 whether or not you’ve done #2 would help change my mind in re­sponse to new in­for­ma­tion a lot quicker?

• 2 Dec 2013 11:51 UTC
8 points

I don’t like a lot of things he did, but that’s the sec­ond very good ad­vice I’ve heard from Rums­feld. Maybe I need to start re­spect­ing his com­pe­tence more.

• Do we make sug­ges­tions here or wait for an­other post?

A few friends are An­glo-Catholic (ie. mem­bers of the Church of England or equiv­a­lent, not Ro­man Catholic, but catholic, I be­lieve similar to Epis­co­palian in USA?), and not sure if they counted as “Catholic”, “Protes­tant” or “Other”. It might be good to tweak the names slightly to cover that case. (I can ask for preferred op­tions if it helps.)

• I took the sur­vey.

I think most of my an­swers were the same as last year, al­though I think my es­ti­mates have im­proved a lit­tle, and my hours of in­ter­net have gone down, both of which I like.

Many of the ques­tions are con­sid­er­ably cleaned up—much thanks to Yvain and ev­ery­one else who helped. It’s very good it has sen­si­ble re­sponses for gen­der. And IIRC, the “fam­ily’s re­li­gious back­ground” was tidied up a bit. I won­der if any­one can an­swer “athe­ist” as re­li­gious back­ground? I hes­i­tated over the re­sponse, since the last re­li­gious ob­ser­vance I know of for sure was G be­ing brought up catholic, but I hon­estly think liv­ing in a protes­tant (or at least, an­gli­can) cul­ture is a big­ger in­fluence on my par­ents cul­tural back­ground, so I an­swered like that.

I have no idea what’s go­ing to hap­pen in the raf­fle. I an­swered “co­op­er­ate” be­cause I want to en­courage co­op­er­at­ing in as many situ­a­tions as pos­si­ble, and don’t re­ally care about a slightly-in­creased chance of < \$60.

• I em­phat­i­cally agree with that, and I apol­o­gise for choos­ing a less-than-perfect ex­am­ple.

But when I’m think­ing of “ways in which an ob­vi­ously true state­ment can be wrong”, I think one of the promi­nent ways is “hav­ing a differ­ent defi­ni­tion than the per­son you’re talk­ing to, but both as­sum­ing your defi­ni­tion is uni­ver­sal”. That doesn’t mat­ter if you’re always care­ful to delineate be­tween “this state­ment is true ac­cord­ing to my in­ter­nal defi­ni­tion” and “this state­ment is true ac­cord­ing to com­monly ac­cepted defi­ni­tions”, but if you’re 99.99% sure your defi­ni­tion is cer­tain, it’s easy NOT to spec­ify (eg. in the first sen­tence of the post)

• Yeah, that’s in­ter­est­ing.

I agree with Eliezer’s post, but I think that’s a good nit­pick. Even if I can’t be that cer­tain about 10,000 state­ments con­sec­u­tively be­cause I get tired, I think it’s plau­si­ble that there’s 10,000 state­ments sim­ple ar­ith­metic state­ments which if I un­der­stand, check of my own knowl­edge, and re­mem­ber see­ing in a list on wikipe­dia, (which is what I did for 53), that, I’ve only ever been wrong once on. I find it hard to judge the ex­act amount, but I definitely re­mem­ber think­ing “I thought that was prime but I didn’t re­ally check and I was wrong” but I don’t re­mem­ber think­ing “I checked that state­ment and then it turned out I was still wrong” for some­thing that sim­ple.

Of course, it’s hard to be much more cer­tain. I don’t know what the chance is that (eg) math­e­mat­i­ci­ans change the defi­ni­tion of prime—that’s pretty un­likely, but similar things have hap­pened be­fore that I thought I was cer­tain of. But rarely.

• 7 Oct 2013 19:24 UTC
−1 points

I think the prob­lem may be what counts as cor­re­lated. If I toss two coins and both get heads, that’s prob­a­bly co­in­ci­dence. If I toss two coins N times and get HH TT HH HH HH TT HH HH HH HH TT HH HH HH HH HH TT HH TT TT HH then there’s prob­a­bly a com­mon cause of some sort.

But real life is lit­tered with things that look sort of cor­re­lated, like price of X and price of Y both (a) go up over time and (b) shoot up tem­porar­ily when the roads are closed, but are not oth­er­wise cor­re­lated, and it’s not clear when this should ap­ply (even though I agree it’s a good prin­ci­ple).

• Note: this isn’t always right. Any­one giv­ing ad­vice is go­ing to SAY it’s true and non-ob­vi­ous even if it isn’t. “Don’t fall into temp­ta­tion” etc etc. But that es­say was talk­ing about mis­takes which he’d per­son­ally of­ten em­piri­cally ob­served and pro­posed counter-ac­tions to, and he ob­vi­ously could de­scribe it in much more de­tail if nec­es­sary.

• That’s an in­ter­est­ing thought, but it makes me rather un­com­fortable.

I think partly, I find it hard to be­lieve the num­bers (if I have time I will read the method­ol­ogy in more de­tail and pos­si­bly be con­vinced).

And partly, I think there’s a differ­ence be­tween offset­ting good things, and offset­ting bad things. I think it’s plau­si­ble to say “I give this much to char­ity, or maybe this other char­ity, or maybe donate more time, or...”. But even though it sort of makes sense from a util­i­tar­ian per­spec­tive, I think it’s wrong (and most peo­ple would agree it’s wrong) to say “I’ll kick this puppy to death be­cause I’m a sadist/​a mod­ern artist/​what­ever, but I’ll give more money to char­ity af­ter­wards.” Pay­ing some­one else to be veg­e­tar­ian sounds at least as much like the lat­ter as the former to me.

• Hm. My an­swers were:

Anti-pro­cras­ti­na­tion: “This fit with things I’d tried to do be­fore in a small way, but went a lot farther, and I’ve re­peat­edly come back to it and feel I’ve made in­ter­mit­tent im­prove­ments by ap­ply­ing one or an­other part of it, but not re­ally in a sys­tem­atic way, so can’t be sure that that’s due to the tech­nique rather than just as­cribing any good re­sults I hap­pen to get to this be­cause it sounded good.”

Po­modoro: “I’ve tried some­thing similar be­fore with in­ter­mit­tently good re­sults and would like to do so more than I do. I don’t know whether the trap­pings of po­modoro sig­nifi­cantly im­prove on that.”

Ex­er­cise: “I feel good on the oc­ca­sions when I ex­er­cise, but it doesn’t seem to pro­duce a mea­surable perfor­mance in­crease—it may halt a perfor­mance de­crease.”

I de­cided to fit those into the boxes as best I could rather than write in, but I wasn’t sure.

• I agree that the an­swers to these ques­tions de­pend on definitions

I think he meant that those ques­tions de­pend ONLY on defi­ni­tions.

As in, there’s a lot of in­ter­est­ing real world knowl­edge that goes in get­ting a sub­marine to pro­pel it­self, but that now we know that, have, peo­ple ask­ing “can a sub­marine swim” is only in­ter­est­ing in de­cid­ing “should the English word ‘swim’ ap­ply to the mo­tion of a sub­marine, which is some­what like the mo­tion of swim­ming, but not en­tirely”. That ex­am­ple sounds stupid, but peo­ple waste a lot of time on the similar case of “think” in­stead of “swim”.

• Anna Sala­mon and I usu­ally ap­ply the Tarski Method by vi­su­al­iz­ing a world that is not-how-we’d-like or not-how-we-pre­vi­ously-be­lieved, and our­selves as be­liev­ing the con­trary, and the dis­aster that would then fol­low.

I find just that de­scrip­tion re­ally, re­ally use­ful. I knew about the Li­tany of Tarski (or Diax’s Rake, or be­liev­ing some­thing just be­cause you wanted it to be true) and have the habit of try­ing to pre­emp­tively pre­vent it. But that de­scrip­tion makes it a lot eas­ier to grok it at a gut level.