Monday, August 29, 2011

Methodology of Thought-Disease Discovery; A Case Study in Sunk Cost

I have an opportunity to illustrate both how I am extracting the thought diseases, and to illustrate how they're diseases. Also, I'll find out how well my ideas hang together by explicitly writing them out. (For example, I found out that now I have an explicit model to compare, I end up more charitable and make finer distinctions between minor and severe infections.)

"Here’s a classic litmus test for the sunk cost fallacy:"
If it is indeed classic, then these diagnoses apply to many individuals. While I'm going to focus on dreeves (Daniel Reeves) here, because I can be certain of his symptoms, the analysis will likely apply widely. I'd prefer not to pick on an individual. I certainly hold dreeves no malice - to the contrary. However, this method catches easily-overlooked important details; while at first such details look like idiosyncratic symptoms, subsequent detailed diagnoses will show the important details are common in function, even if they differ in detail. Attempting to focus on probable commonalities will only cause me to make false assumptions about the details; which I should probably add to the symptoms of abstraction intoxication.
"Do you go anyway, so as not to have wasted the money on the ticket? Probably you shouldn’t."
Reeves should explain why, otherwise I have to assume a justification to be able to properly analyze the idea. Secondly, this case study will mainly involve me enumerating plausible assumptions that mean you should go anyway - the issue is nowhere near cut and dry enough to blithely dismiss these possibilities from discussion.

After hopefully demonstrating his factual errors, I will go on to show how the various afflictions caused the error, and then detail the process I went through to refine out the disease characterization.

"Going to the show lets you avoid some painful cognitive dissonance — though this one doesn’t really accord with my notion of rationality."
Goals are arational.
There is no rational justification for wanting to go to the theatre at all. There is neither a rational justification for not wanting to go.
Rather, the desire is justification.
The usual point of the theatre is to enjoy yourself - hence the 'feel like going' terminology. Desiring to avoid pain is also justification for doing so.

Of course, Reeves is correct heuristically. If your goal is to avoid pain, facing cognitive dissonance is usually more effective than conceding to it, and it won't often matter whether you had good reasons for facing down the dissonance or if you did it by habit or heuristic.

This is probably a minor case of ingroup suite disease. Rationalists are perceived as seeing emotions as in opposition to reason. Daniel thinks of himself as a rationalist, therefore believes this, therefore makes statements that amount to 'avoiding pain is irrational.'

I found this pattern because I made a habit of checking articles like these against my recent experiences, and I found that it made for bad strategy. When I analyzed the logic for errors, to try to distinguish between them being wrong and me making mistake or misunderstanding, I found that all the rationalists made the same error. (Mutatis mutandis for other groups.) As a bonus, reading the error felt the same, to the point where if I felt the feeling I could accurately pigeonhole the author on that evidence alone.

"3. You might not remember what all persuaded you to buy the ticket but the more you spent the better reasons you must have had. [...]
But mostly those are rationalizations and, rationally, you shouldn’t go."
Predictably missed the biggest one. You don't feel like going, but if you went, you'd get over it and enjoy yourself anyway. Feelings are weird sometimes. Predictable because of rationalist ingroup suite disease - they discount emotions, and so the nuances of emotional states escape them.

Appreciating your own consciousness is important so that you can tell the difference between what it feels like to not want to go, and what it feels like to not be able to enjoy the show. 'Going' and 'being at' are two different things, especially in terms of subjective associations. Here, Reeves is heuristically wrong - if you start coming up with these rationalization, it is a sign you should go and you'll enjoy yourself. If you're right to go, again it won't often matter if you make the decision for good reason or from rationalization.

Reeves could also be suffering from some abstraction intoxication, his dazzling ideas blinding him to the nuances of his own experience. He thinks in terms of science paper jargon, rationality, fallacies, prudence, and budgets. Sadly the human working memory is only so large, and these considerations can easily overflow by themselves - making them all that is perceivable, giving the impression that they're all that's there to be perceived.

Let me concretely realize the alternative conception. He should have mentioned something about being able to enjoy the show, but knowing you'd enjoy something else better. If you think about it in terms of what you'll actually experience, can the sunk cost fallacy even get a word in edgewise? Reeves finds himself strung up in a Gordian knot; for me, this concrete analysis cuts the knot.

The first step for conceptualizing the abstraction intoxication pattern was that I realized that if I couldn't think of a concrete instance of a thing, I didn't understand it. (I thought of doing this in the first place because I prefer to reason about instances and then generalize.) However, when I asked for or otherwise brought up instances, authors seemed indifferent, incapable, and occasionally even hostile to the practice. Over time I developed a counter-hostility to abstractions, which triggered the observation of how common are empty abstractions.

"The lesson here is: Don’t throw good money (or effort/energy) after bad."
The lesson here is, apparently, that thinking about sunk cost fallacies is strategically unsound. This is the essence of anti-bias bias disease. Are most individuals better off trying to out-think their sunk cost biases, or just going with the flow? The anti-bias bias sufferer never checks and doesn't care anyway.

As I note below, I don't think Reeves actually has this one; he doesn't have the full symptomology.

I found anti-bias bias by successfully getting into the habit of checking my assumptions. The exact purpose of countering biases isn't important, but it is important that you define that purpose. So: does countering biases actually serve that purpose for the layhuman, and secondly does having that purpose itself even serve the layhuman?

I try to counter my biases because I value truth above just about everything - if it were at all painful for me, it would be a waste of time. Countering biases is often inefficient.

Once I realized this, I set it as a test to anti-bias proponents, and the majority failed. They spend far, far more effort attempting to counter biases than they do reaping the rewards. No matter how virtuous honesty and correctness are, spending more stuff correcting biases than you get back can't possibly be virtuous.

"Everyone agrees on Scenario 2. Of course you do. No one’s on such a tight budget that an unexpected change in wealth of $10 changes their utility for theater.

But many people refuse (I’ve checked) to see that Scenario 1 is fully equivalent."
That's because they're not equivalent. People may not be able to articulate why, but I was curious so I also went and checked. (Luckily, I'm a people too.)

Again, abstraction intoxication dazzles Reeves. The abstract economic equivalence it sufficient for him, blinding to factors of human psychology, among others.

First, let me assume that if you lose ten bucks, the displeasure you feel motivates you to correct your error so you don't do it again, regardless of whether you lose it in the form of a ticket or bank notes.

However, after losing ticket-form wealth, buying a ticket sends yourself a message, "It's fine to lose cheap tickets, I'll just buy another." It reinforces losing tickets as a habit. Do it enough times and it will become standard; you'll habitually buy an early ticket, forget it, and then buy another on the spot.

Buying another ticket when you lose a bank note doesn't form this habit. Your brain keeps the issues separate, it doesn't associate them. Is this rational? It doesn't matter, because it happens regardless; what's irrational is not taking it into account.

Evolution is smarter than you. It is dangerous to assume your urges are dumb and animalistic unless you understand their mechanics. Out-thinking your own subconscious is very tricky.

Moreover, the pain of overcoming that reluctance to repurchase can ruin the show. Similarly, do you find that once you know the relevant psychology, you can weigh the risk of forming a habit against the joy of seeing the show that day? Taking the event out of the abstract 'sunk cost fallacy' bucket and putting it into concrete alternatives helps immensely, for me at least.

There some other non-equivalences as well. Most everyone has pseudo-lost something. I've lost my glasses on my head and as a kid I once lost something I was actually holding in my hand. (I had gotten used to the feeling and my fingers were blocking sight.) Losing keys in the coat you're wearing. Buying another ticket destroys the chance you'll re-discover your old one. Buying a ticket does not reduce the chance you'll re-discover your tenner - in fact it increases it, as you may discover it while hunting for your wallet.
Forming a habit of buying tickets on the spot is risky, as tickets aren't always immediately available or cheap. (I do it anyway; I find the costs of buying early, such as the risk of not feeling like going or losing the ticket, aren't worth it.)

Contra Reeves, situations that feel different usually are, even if you can't immediately verbalize how.

To truly support the idea that these are diseases, I have to reject the hypothesis that they're accidents. In this case, I find the patterns and predictive power to be contradictory to the idea they're random. Brains glitch now and then - if you do fifty simple addition problems, some of them will be wrong, even though you are perfectly capable of addition - you have to check your work. But nobody can predict which ones you'll get wrong. However, someone who has ignored emotional considerations, or privileged abstractions over their details, or opposed a bias for its own sake, is very likely to get something else wrong for the exact same reason.

I similarly don't like the missing information explanation, because it would mean I have privileged access to some kind of information. That would be fun, but I'm mostly just some guy with an internet connection, so it doesn't seem likely.

"3. “I’m willing to blow off the flight if it was cheap enough.”"
First note that if you've heard of sunk cost before, the intended answers to these puzzles are probably obvious to you. (On a real test I might have got #4 wrong because I wasn't feeling the wording, and Reeves admits it wasn't good.)

Getting into the habit of blowing off expensive flights is a bad idea. If you know ahead of time you'll take the flight even if you don't want to, if it is expensive, it will motivate you to do your due diligence - and possibly realize ahead of time you shouldn't buy the ticket. If instead you know, "I might ditch this ticket due to appreciation of the sunk cost fallacy," you may buy it 'just in case.' One can't be rational at every moment - and human biases are already balanced against each other. Mess with the system and the outcome is hardly guaranteed to be better overall.

It seems Reeves doesn't have an actual case of anti-bias bias disease, because I don't think he'd become irate if confronted on it. Rather, I would guess he was simply surrounded by the infected, making up the bulk of his information sources. His case of abstraction intoxication made him vulnerable to the skew, minor though it is. Similarly his rationalist in-grouping is pretty minor - I found a good example and a nearly good example of emotional appreciation. These minimal infections are consistent with my finding that his reasoning is generally pretty good. Severe cases promote secondary infections.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Cutting of the Traveler's and Prisoner's Gordian Knot

I've observed a widespread impression that the traveler's dilemma is not solved as rationally as the arguments make it seem. Similarly, the prisoner's dilemma. (Inspiration.)

I've worked out that this intuition is correct. The solution really is to cooperate. The reason nobody thinks of that is that we can imagine a real-world situation, where the solution is deviate, and we can imagine a pure rationality situation only imperfectly...most of the time.

From the inspiration: "Assume all the usual ridiculous things: common knowledge of rationality, risk neutrality, pure selfishness, etc."

Common knowledge of rationality is the key. You're both familiar with the Nash argument to deviate, but this is a failure of meta-strategy. If you want to maximize your own payoff, you need to pick the strategy with the highest Nash equilibrium. If you're both rational and know the other's rational, you'll both pick the same strategy.

The strategy with the highest payoff Nash equilibrium is to cooperate. (Further, this strategy is fairly robust against failures of rationality.)

In essence, the classical solution assumes deviation when it says that choosing $99 'dominates' $100. Actually, choosing the deviation strategy equilibrates at $2, and choosing cooperate equilibrates at $100, and so choosing $99 implies a strategy that is worse than the strategy that chooses $100. Going further, the problem was that they stopped when they found a solution. Ratiocination requires you to keep going, to work out further consequences, mainly to check for contradictions. Lo and behold, an answer is not the answer.

I idly wonder if this is related to the axiom of choice in set theory, or if that axiom is ludicrously badly named.

Update: "What’s funny is that that’s so hyperrational that it’s insanely and literally idiotic. An actual person could never possibly do that." An actual hyper-rationality wouldn't do it either. This is probably a case of intuition sneaking in the back door. Update: apparently he agrees with the $100 strategy but doesn't fully understand why it's optimal.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Modal Reality: Yet God Isn't in Any of Them

Modal Realism's proponents must be greatly confused. Normally, the theory would call forth an in-depth post to attest to its intricate design. However the theory suffers from being forthright, so only warrants a couple paragraphs.
"Possible worlds are causally isolated from each other."
We can't ever interact with another world, by definition. By definition, modal realism is immune to experiment. It is metaphysics. QED.

I suspect delusions of this type get privileged over the competition because they erode the citizen's confidence in their own perceptions and judgments. If a physicist says it is true, who are we to question? Makes it easier when it comes time to sell quantitative easing. In reality, if one can't understand it is normally the fault of the explanation, not the skeptic.

Many-Worlds suffers from exactly the same flaw, mitigated somewhat by offering an opportunity to make fun of Rationality Czar Yudkowsky.

"The debate should already be over. It should have been over fifty years ago. The state of evidence is too lopsided to justify further argument. There is no balance in this issue. There is no rational controversy to teach. The laws of probability theory are laws, not suggestions; there is no flexibility in the best guess given this evidence. Our children will look back at the fact that we were STILL ARGUING about this in the early 21st-century, and correctly deduce that we were nuts."


The laws of experimentation are laws, not suggestions. The evidence says that particles have spooky comm systems, that wave functions collapse, that the past is different from the future, and that only one thing happens. No experiment has ever shown otherwise. DEAL WITH THE EVIDENCE.

It turns out that seeing no argument and there existing no argument are two different things. It is much easier to correctly describe the experimental results than to correctly explain them. The many-worlds explanation appears to assume the description is wrong, and contradicts key properties of the description. If I'm trying to exploit quantum mechanics in a new kind of car engine, the key property for me is that wave functions collapse, not whether "the same laws govern at all levels". If I get it right, the car will go from point A to point B regardless of whether I have quantum clones.

Arrogance is an occupational hazard of all scholarly professions, especially philosophy. It is imperative I keep this hazard in mind; but either the worlds are causally isolated and nobody ever need consider them; or we're both wrong, they're not causally isolated, and someone could show me an experiment reflecting the interaction. Someone can build a quantum device that does require its clones to function properly. But even without considering evidence, I can know that the fancy explanation is far, far more likely to be wrong than the simple description.

Until then, those who forget philosophy (denigrate it, in this case) are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nosology of Human Thought

If a statement follows logically from all relevant empirical facts, it must be true, which is why anyone bothers with logic and experiment in the first place, and so I would say strictly speaking every untrue philosophical statement must stem from a mistake empirical or logical. I also think David Stove was right. As one of those empirical matters, reasoning depends heavily on the subconscious. While it is possible to consciously apprehend and appreciate every assumption, it is painstaking work; plausible but disastrous statements are far too cheap and abundant to counteract so inefficiently. (Though I recommend a bracing dose of serious logical archaeology from time to time.)

While happily the list of conscious logical fallacies seems comprehensive, and indeed we similarly have a relatively accurate about biases, for the most part the fallacies of subconscious reasoning remain unexplored.

"We will know what is wrong with our thoughts when, and only when, we have identified (for example) all the five different things (or however many there are) which go wrong in a paragraph of Berkeley intended to prove that physical things cannot exist 'without the mind'."

Alrighty then, Stove. Let's stop screwing around and start this thing up.

As the work of a sole individual, I don't expect it to be particularly accurate for some time. The main purpose at this point is to collect hypotheses to refine.

First, a general hypothesis: the laws of logic, being an immutable fact of the universe, are easily accessible to evolution and so it isn't surprising that even the smallest children can appreciate and use them. However, humans are also masters of hypocrisy and falsehood, which over time can generate corrupt heuristics which replace previously logical habits.

This means there should be patterns to ill-logic; if I correctly diagnose an illness, it should predict how a sufferer will incorrectly reason in other situations. (This in turn means it may eventually be possible to use a list such as this to generate a diagnostic set of logical problems.)


Machine-Brain Disease

Overview: Privileges institutions, algorithms, or recipes over their own reasoning.
Reality: Institutions and processes must necessarily be designed by humans, using judgment. Results of these processes can only be evaluated by human judgment.
Symptoms: Heavy reliance on simple statistics to explain complex phenomena. Worship of trusted authorities, such as inability to question science journalism. Becomes irate if presented with doubters. In severe cases, inability to generate own ideas, entirely dependent on logical authorities.
Source: Naive conclusion from observing abuse of authority.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Sacrificial Materialism Disease
Overview: Materialism contaminated with religious crusade propaganda, privileges ideals over the individuals that created those ideals.
Reality: Materialism cannot justify human-external values. If a materialist doesn't satisfy a human need or desire, then nobody is being satisfied and the effort is wasted.
Symptoms: Sacrifices material well-being for abstract ideals. Struggles with inner conflict between desires and ideal. Attempts to proselytize ideal in an attempt to assuage guilt. Becomes irate if ideal is questioned; has difficulty even considering a compromise truth. In severe cases, sufferers become bitter and lash out against non-believers for being happy.
Source: Enlightenment philosophy.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: The moral against guns and shooting found in TV and movies is a good example - shooting is opposed even when it saves innocent lives.

Abstraction Intoxication Disease
Overview: Privileges abstract logic and discussion over concrete details.
Reality: All abstractions either apply to concrete reality or are pointless. Often caused by exposure to socially-respected abstraction-intoxicated individuals.
Symptoms: Inability to or disinterest in relating thoughts or writings to actual experiences. When pressed, evades and deprecates the necessity. Inspires audience to name them sophomoric. Often absorbed with extreme idealistic discussions with little or no bearing on their actual behaviour. Becomes confused and uncertain when asked for clarification or details. For severe cases, consult an academic paper; look for extreme intricacy and an inability to write clearly, applied to describing little or nothing.
Source: Working memory limitations, see note.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown, though prevention is likely easy.

Note: When the abstractions alone overflow the working memory it can give the impression one has appreciated all there is to appreciate about an issue, by contrast to day-to-day tasks, which fit entirely in working memory by dint of practice even if not by dint of simplicity. (E.g, driving is complex but well-practiced and the problem of getting from A to B fits easily in human memory.)

Connotive Logic Disease
Overview: Privileges the connotations or associations, such as emotions or group identity, over the logical denotations of words.
Reality: While symbolism is nifty and sometimes important, symbolic meaning depends on concrete manifestation, but not vice versa. Causes extreme communication difficulties for anyone who does not share their specific associations. Often co-morbid with abstraction intoxication.
Symptoms: When confronted with logical denotations, sufferer will agree, but will not admit to using them incorrectly. Sufferer will usually be able to reason forward correctly from explicitly presented logical denotations, but revert to a contradictory stance once strongly-associated word is substituted back in. Becomes irate if confronted with with the contradiction. Sufferers can often deliver inspiring speeches, spreading or worsening the infection. Severe cases often cause a complete disconnect between words and actions.
Source: Implication of properties of human genome; error in affective balance.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Liquid-Phase Belief Disease
Overview: Sufferer's beliefs are insensitive to new evidence they explicitly agree with.
Reality: One of several learning-disabling diseases. This is an extremely common disease.
Symptoms: Sufferer will agree with provider of new information, sometimes even able to entertain light discussion of new idea. After a period of ten to thirty minutes, sufferer will revert to previous misconceptions, like a liquid flowing back to the shape of its container. Appears oblivious if confronted with the difference - either declares there's no difference, or insists the provider asserted their current belief. Becomes outraged about wrong test answers. Becomes scared if pressed by concrete evidence of the discrepancy. Luckily, even severe cases cannot affect acquisition of all information.
Source: Uncertain.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Possibly incurable. Best case scenario, caused by public schooling.

Right, that should do for a start.
Update: Naturally, I immediately thought of two more.

Anti-Bias Bias Disease
Overview: Privileges conscious logical deduction over everyday reasoning strategies.
Reality: Every single bias exists for a reason; you had potential ancestors without them, but they all died.
Symptoms: Attempts to consciously reason through problems far beyond their conscious reasoning skill, resulting in pain for themselves or others. Frequent inconsistencies between actions and logic due to keeping previously working solutions, no matter how biased. Declarations of superiority by reason of being reasonable. Becomes irate if the perceive a proposed solution is biased, especially if it works, in which case they issue comically dire warnings of future trouble.
Source: Enlightenment philosophy.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Pyrrhic Bias Cure Syndrome
Overview: A catch-all for poor decisions and false assertions that could have been avoided by being biased, instead of curing the bias.
Reality: Similarly, biases are not independent, but rather each bias takes for granted all biases formed before it, which means that curing one bias alone tends to cause more problems than it solves.
Symptoms: Rejecting common solutions and habits in exchange for even worse solutions and habits. Feeling all superior about the intention despite the inferior results.
Source: Enlightenment philosophy.
Treatment: Biases don't go away. Release it from its cage, and experiment with side-by-side comparisons between 'rational' solutions and the reflex solution; adopt the more effective one.
Cure: The cure will involve identifying which realms and goals each specific bias in fact impedes, so that curing biases can be undertaken strategically instead of idealistically.

Note: Often co-morbid with materialistic crusade disease - the sufferer believes being unbiased is an end unto itself, instead of a means.

As you can doubtlessly imagine, this list is going to get very, very long. Where a cure is even possible, it is not well known or anywhere explicitly written down. It is of utmost importance to not contract them in the first place, which means identifying and practising intellectual hygiene.

Ingroup Suite Disease
Overview: Beliefs adopted due to identifying with a group.
Reality: Human beings instinctively try to identify themselves by comparison with other individuals and groups, and additionally seek respect from groups. Humans uncritically mimic anything they identify with, and even if that fails, will often intentionally conform to perceived group norms to attain perceived respect.
Symptoms: Beliefs arranged in suites; each suites is easily identifiable as belonging to a group. Presence of one suite member predicts the presence of all members. Criticism of one suite member is seen as criticism and skepticism of all members; if cornered, no choice is seen but to reject suite wholesale. Use of counter-arguments of the form "That's not very X," where X can be Christian, rational, progressive, patriotic, et cetera. In severe cases, all beliefs will be predictable from a single question.
Source: Implied by properties of human genome.
Treatment: Isolation from or effective smear campaign against identified group. In rare cases, debunking the logical links between suite members can be effective.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: The simplest suite has two members, "I am part of a group, G" and "Everyone who's a G believes B." Showing evidence against B, causing doubt, also causes sufferer to believe they're not really in G. If sufferer depends on G-ist identity for perceived respect, effective criticism on B will be seen as an attack on the sufferer, e.g. "You're just trying to make me doubt my faith!"

Intuition Validation Disease
Source Via
Overview: Privileges feeling a certain way over accurate beliefs.
Reality: It is always possible to have accurate beliefs AND validate the intuition - usually the problem is misinterpreting the intuition. In the rare case that, for example, economic optimism is entirely unwarranted, denigrating the evidence also denigrates high-level values: do you prefer feeling optimistic, or do you prefer appreciating reality so you can do something about it?
Symptoms: Intuitive conclusions that are taken as given; the world must be shaped to reflect them. Evidence that feels contrary is rejected through argument, denunciation, or outright wilful ignorance. Rebuttals are often simple and monotone. Once inflamed, monotone rebuttals can often spread to logically unrelated discussion; feelings subside slowly, which means the feeling of being under attack hasn't gone away, which causes continuation of the counter-assault. In severe cases, criticism of intuitive idea is seen as personal insults.
Source: Uncertain.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Ironically, in severe cases, measured criticism is a personal insult: the sufferer recognizes the reasonableness of their critic at some level; rejecting reasons for emotional satisfaction is something the sufferer themselves holds in contempt.
It is sometimes strategically sound to feel a certain way rather than to think certain well-supported thoughts. For example, unwarranted confidence can sometimes cause success where measured doubt causes failure; it is a quirk of the neuronal belief system's interaction with the behaviour bits.
Strongly related to cognitive dissonance. 

Novelty Aversion Disease
Overview: Privileges evidence for existing beliefs over evidence for new beliefs.
Reality: One of several learning-disabling diseases, possibly related to the necessity of repetition for growing axons and dendrites.
Symptoms: Imbalanced criticism of new ideas, and scoffing at evidence against old ideas, characterized by attempts to whitewash the rejection as reasonable. Age is a risk factor. Shows placid confidence in the face of overwhelming evidence, if the evidence is new. I've never observed a severe case.
Source: I hesitantly guess that it is due to being repeatedly hurt by novelty, hence 'aversion.'
Treatment: Repeated exposure both erodes the novelty and gives the idea an air of social acceptability and relevance.
Cure: Possibly incurable.

Note: It is often strategically sound both to doubt new evidence and to hold onto time-tested beliefs. However, if the novel proponent knew how to find their measurement or logic error, they wouldn't have committed it in the first place, which means both accurate and wrong proponents will find no errors in themselves. The onus to find the error and tell the difference falls on the skeptic, because nobody else is capable.

Criticism-Supremacy Disease
Overview: Privileges plausible criticism over plausible confirmations.
Reality: Charitable interpretations are almost always more useful for the reader. New ideas or ways of doing things can be extracted from even the most heavily diseased/biased/fallacious subjects, and it appears that everyone can recount usefully unique experiences.
Symptoms: Confuses criticism with refutation. Especially, confuses criticism of side-points with a refutation of the main thrust, due to associating the feeling of valid criticism with refutation. Will contradict previous refutations to pursue new criticisms. Routinely misunderstands complex ideas as simpler-to-refute ideas. Usually unable to apply critical methods reflexively to criticism: severe cases are post-modernism and nihilism; criticism targeted at own ideas results in no conscious beliefs in anything.
Source: See note; implications thereof.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown

Note: A subtype of intellectual dominance syndrome. The overarching goal is social dominance along the scholar hierarchy, at the expense of accurate beliefs - or at least accurate assertions. 

Oh hey, I found an ur-disease. I should probably record intellectual dominance as well.

Sinthought Syndrome
Overview: The idea that some ideas are morally wrong. A disease group covering many varieties of specific sinthoughts and interactions with other diseases.
Reality: You can't know a priori which ideas are morally wrong; they must be evaluated. You need a concrete realization of the idea to evaluate. If some ideas are wrong, it is wrong to (find out)/(know if) they're wrong.
Symptoms: Reliably responds to certain ideas with moral outrage or crimestop. Often refuses to believe allies think the thought or refuses to believe enemies don't. Use of, "But that implies [sinthought]!" as a refutation.
Source: Standard human genome; sinthoughts are defined by the culture you're raised in.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Intellectual Dominance Syndrome
Overview: Discounting the ideas of perceived social inferiors in an attempt to realize social superiority. A disease group covering many varieties of specific tactics.
Reality: The scholar dominance hierarchy is determined by who submits to whose arguments. Scholars often attempt to hack the process by rejecting sound arguments.
Symptoms: Various. Can be seen as a specific kind of ad authoritam fallacy, as the sufferer will often asymmetrically accept arguments from indisputably higher-status scholars.
Source: Human desire for status combined with scholar values.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Philosopher's Arrogance Disease
Overview: Radically overestimating how often you're right, due to thinking you're good at logic.
Reality: Logic does make you better at being right. However, first learn how surprisingly high is the baseline rate of being wrong.
Symptoms: Lack of curiosity and experimentation. Lack of fact-checking. Frequent inconsistencies with objective sources combined with resistance to any presentation of those sources. Severe cases are self-contradictory, resulting in behaving as if formally using logic isn't necessary to reach good conclusions. Such severe cases can cause total epistemic shutdown.
Source: Primarily caused by wanting to be seen as good at logic. Can also be caused by actually being good at logic, then concluding too much.
Treatment: Falsify the Ignorance Hypothesis. Assume you don't know until the evidence forces you to change your mind.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Could also call it Rationalists' Disease. However, it would be solely because all the instances of the disease I've seen have been due to rationalism.

Affect Blindness Disease
Overview: The belief that one's subjective states, such as emotions, don't strongly affect one's behaviour.
Reality: The limbic system and insula are permanently wired into the rational parts of the brain.
Symptoms: Specific denials of biased judgment, often unprompted. Alternatively, passionate denials of feeling passionate. Stubbornly sticking by declarations no longer agreed with.
Source: Also caused by wanting to be seen as good at logic.
Treatment: Uncertain. Sleeping on it can be a patch job.
Cure: Unknown

Note: Reference.

Uncertainty Acceptance Disease
Overview: Excessive doubt in one's own judgments and perceptions.
Reality: In fact, most get through life fine, without any epistemic training (or equivalent) at all. Their first instincts must be good enough, no matter how objectively bad they are overall.
Symptoms: Repeatedly concluding against obvious and true conclusions. Occasional inability to even think of the obvious; insensitivity to certain nuances; they cannot ever be verified and so they're not even noticed. Inability to have confidence without corroborating evidence, even if such evidence is impossible to obtain. Hesitation in the face of unimportant decisions. In severe cases...I don't know, because: see implications of note.
Source: A result of noting the errors in the judgments and perceptions of others, and reflecting on one's self.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: This is one I've got a full-blown case of, so I can describe the symptoms in uncomfortable detail. This disease makes thoughts feel softer, the opposite of hard-and-fast. It's relaxing until there's a need to rely on that thought. It's somewhat terrifying when everyone around me believes a thing and just moves forward assuming it, and I cannot. Especially when it should be obvious.

I would say it's worthwhile overall, because concluding wrong is usually far more harmful than concluding right is helpful.

Epistemic Hypocrisy Disease
Overview: Makes false claims about how they have learned certain conclusions.
Reality: Actions are predictable based on beliefs not claimed relevant.
Symptoms: The sufferer is unable to decouple beliefs they believe should be decoupled. Inability to disavow parent belief. Inability to accept evidence about child belief due to immovable parent belief.
Source: Usu. tribal affiliation. Tribe requires parent belief; sufferer wishes to remain in tribe.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Possibly always a symptom of another disease; not independent.

Ontological Hypocrisy Disease
Overview: Makes false claims about what they believe.
Reality: Actions are found to be inconsistent with claims.
Symptoms: Inability to see logical connection between hypocritical belief and personally relevant actions. Forms a rift between logical realms - logic and argument style will differ between realm near belief and all other realms.
Source: Advanced form of epistemic hypocrisy.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Usu. unaware belief is not really believed.


Convenience Template Disease


Monday, August 15, 2011

Lottery Paradox vs. Carbonic Warming

I just heard about the lottery paradox, and at first I was a little dumbfounded that anyone could take it seriously. However, it offers an exceptionally clear demonstration of why climate modelling is generally a waste of time.

This vein of criticism turned out very rich, running into Cauchy distribution territory - measuring more weather doesn't make your models more accurate.

The solution to the 'paradox' is simple; it is a violation of mathematics. Logic demands that probabilities sum to one, and if you approximate 0.1% as 0%, they don't. Put another way, the rounding error is 100% of the measurement. Why is anyone surprised that when you sum over 100% measurement errors, you get total nonsense?

In physical measurements, the rounding error often cancels out, because the normal rounding rule (0-4 down, 5-9 up) is well chosen for randomly distributed numerals. However, in chaotic systems, a small error (2%, say) in measurement usually has a large error in prediction, even in excess of 100% after enough computation. The measurement errors amplify each other, instead of cancelling out, essentially the output state is the sum over all previous, increasingly-erroneous input states.

Say you have a 2% error in your prediction of the weather next Wednesday. Taking these measurements, this gives you a 100% error of Wednesday three years from now. To predict Wednesday six years from now, you have no choice but to use your 100% wrong Wednesday from three years from now. And so on.

Apologists would point out that weather and climate are not the same. It's actually kind of difficult to get three years from now that badly wrong because the range of weather August can produce is constrained. No snow, for example. If your prediction at three years is as wrong as possible, the six year prediction can't get any more wrong. Unfortunately, this only holds in constant climate; the whole point of studying climate is to track how the constraints move. To find out what the constraints are themselves constrained by.

Moreover, weather follows the Cauchy-Lorentz distribution, which has this property: "the sample mean will become increasingly variable as more samples are taken, because of the increased likelihood of encountering sample points with a large absolute value." In human English, the longer you look at thermometers, the more likely you'll see eye-popping temperatures, in fact so likely that they will cancel out any settling toward an average you saw before. (For example, say you have nine December records of about zero Celsius, and then suddenly you see a new record of -20C. The average is now -2.) The distribution, compared to a usual Gaussian, slices bits away from the middle and layers them on the tails. This in turn means that as temperature records continue, we'll see an endless chain of high-temperature records...and a similar parade of low-temperature records, though you normally won't hear about those. Not convinced? They proudly boast of 150 years of predictions, yet almost all the extreme records were in the last forty years, looking exactly as a Cauchy distribution should look.

(Climate almost certainly also follows a Cauchy distribution. One technical point is that it will have a median and a mode, but because we're supposedly measuring its change, the mode will be hidden and the median will have an error proportional to how fast it is changing. A more positive technicality is that a true Cauchy distribution is infinite, and temperature cannot be - one thousand below is physically impossible and getting to one thousand above would require vaporizing the oceans.)

So. We could predict climate in a general sense, though never specifically, if we already knew its meta-climactic constraints. Even then, the odds of extreme climate rise quickly the longer climate is measured - even if the meta-climate isn't itself changing.
It is almost impossible to measure climate or meta-climate, because it is a Cauchy distribution. More and better ice cores and trees rings don't help - you're exactly as likely to find a random spike as to get a reliable baseline.
Any mathematical modelling will only amplify these fundamental errors.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Truth is not Beauty's Enemy

Progressive philosophy is thoroughly twisted. As a philosophy of those in power, it serves power-grabs, not truth. In this example, it convinces the plebes to give up their own desires in favour of 'reason,' as officially defined. Since the philosophy so consistently trumpets the opposite of the truth, you can be sure that progressive power is the opposite of legitimate.

"The careful analytical thoughts I had hours before now seem, no matter what their care or basis, trivial and small by comparison."
It was hubris all along to think that these ridiculous abstractions were more than a hobby, to pass the time. The whole point of any healthy system is to put more beauty in the world. Most abstract analyses can add at most marginally, and even then only with meticulous attention to detail.
"This all horrifies the part of me that wants to believe what is true, based on some coherent and fair use of reasons and analysis."
"It horrifies me that I might like likeable things."

Progressive philosophy is specifically about having scholars in power. Naturally anything that conflicts with scholar status hierarchies must be 'horrifying,' while complicated abstract thought is disturbingly lionized.
"If I needed to believe beauty was stronger or more moral or better for the world, reasons would be found"
Uhhh...if your morality isn't beautiful, you're doing it wrong. If your strength isn't beautiful, you're doing it wrong. Imagine the counterfactual; the ugly, dirty, parochial baseness of Soviet daily life was in fact the pinnacle of morality. Imagine that the pride the Victorian Englishman had in a clean, well-maintained house, however modest, was misplaced pride. In this world, morality would be purposeless or even counter-productive. The point of morality is to improve subjective well-being, to remove ugliness and allow the true beauty of the world to shine through; if that counter-factual were true, we'd have to invent something new to replace our defective morality.

The only time to choose ugliness over beauty is in a local sense. Sometimes, it is impossible to beautify one thing except by uglifying much else. In these cases, allow instead that local ugliness to stand for all the beauty we're not destroying by allowing it to be.

Let's run the beauty bias through this purpose filter.

All these 'analytical thoughts,' such as this most disturbing conception of 'beauty bias,' are in fact barriers to realizing that the world is already quite beautiful. Aside from one caveat, a contented, rich life full of that beauty sensation is already possible for nearly everyone - without thinking one single 'analytical thought.'

You don't need to be exactly right, or even roughly right. Ignorance and happiness are far from incompatible. The only good reason for pursuing philosophy is because you like doing it. I submit as obvious that uglifying your own life by actively opposing beauty like that is not worth the minor increases in beauty others can expect from advances in abstract analytics.

Therefore, not only is being wary of beauty unnecessary, it is actually counter-productive.

The caveat being the endemic violent busybodies that will constantly shove their selfish desires down your throat, and their handmaiden sophistry, which causes most observers to take their side over yours if you object.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hypothetical Enlightenment History, Very Short Version

The Enlightenment was the full revivification of the great Athenian philosophical tradition. (Tradition previously of Miletus.) Unfortunately, the mighty epistemic tools were resurrected from a grave crawling with the corruption that laid low the sophists. Even more unfortunate, the grave contained the sophists' evil bedfellow, democracy.

Sophistry, unleashed upon a population unprepared and lacking resistance, quickly laid the foundations for popular government. Popular government, once established, convinced each citizen that they have a share of government power - that they're a politician. Therefore, all citizens sought expertise in the politician's primary tool, sophistry. Sophistry became normalized, even prized.

These centuries have seen innumerable self-serving political campaigns, waged and won using ever advancing sophistry. These politicians are seen as heroes by their duped victims, as they embody an ideal sophistication to aspire to, and each victorious manipulative lie is seen as a worthy ideal.

The truth is what it is, but a lie can be designed for marketability; to go down easy and smooth, to fit existing misconceptions. Each new avaricious politician sees a much easier path in expanding old lies rather than attempting to fight them.

The result is that by now, the average voter's head is stuffed to bursting with the fossils of past power grabs. Almost everything they say or do that has any political relevance whatsoever is the echo of some dead politician's clarion call to serve his interests over their own.

A second thread comes from the truth that the basest fool can ask a question that the wisest cannot answer. Sophistry has respected this truth by embracing skepticism over taking a stand, and nebulous abstractions over concrete details. In battles between sophists, clarity only provides a target for your opponent. Consistency only relieves them of thinking up new assaults.

Knowledge is quite a difficult capital to destroy. The truth itself is immortal, endlessly supporting its child. But as the sophistry pandemic rages unchecked, more and more knowledge is lost.

In physical terms, the solutions to many of 'society's problems' are simple, even easy. Tons of them used to be common sense. But the fossils stand guard. Popular sophistic skepticism is enough, even where the fossils lay thin. The truth isn't sophisticated enough to be fashionable.

The plague even attacks the core of every human, their consciousness. It is all but impossible for the richness of the real world to shine past the tangled masses of metastasized sophistry.

The only question is whether intellectual hygiene can be promulgated the way physical hygiene was, to let sophistry know the resounding defeat suffered by cholera.

The alternative is to consign the public to wandering their purgatory of confusion, forevermore unable to understand or even perceive the world around them, easy prey to any passing sophist who suffers from just a couple fewer lies than they do.

How am I doing so far? One problem is that I have no account, positive or negative, for the massive technological explosion. The whole material wealth problem has been unambiguously solved. Almost all I know about it is the popular history - which I unambiguously reject, for the reasons you might extrapolate from the above.

Having stated this, I'll be able to listen for reality objecting to any of it. Hopefully it is voluble and I won't have to wait long.

P.S. Reality is generously doing the opposite. From La Wik:
"The sophists' rhetorical techniques were extremely useful for any young nobleman looking for public office. ... The historical context provides evidence for their considerable influence, as Athens became more and more democratic during the period in which the Sophists were most active"

Also, "The sophists certainly were not directly responsible for Athenian democracy" which, translated from wikese, means "The evidence clearly shows that the Sophists were directly responsible for Athenian democracy." La Wik, unreliable? Hardly.

I expect this trend to continue. Neat.

Did you notice how pessimistic the model is? That is intentional. I'm optimistically biased. Almost all the writing I read is politeness biased. If the truth happens to be pessimistic and scathing, the only way to get there is to start there. Conversely, evidence can easily push me to be more optimistic, and I know anyone writing about this, even obliquely, will add any of the more charitable features I've missed.

It's working. Writing, and especially publishing is focusing my attention on anything relevant.
I've found at least one error, something I ding others for all the time. I'm writing analysis, not observations. What I'm seeing is accurate, but what I'm extrapolating isn't, necessarily. I can guarantee this sort of thing happens wherever rulership is in fact democratic, but democratic causation is rare and getting rarer. Secondly, the kind of non-intellectual person who is less susceptible to sophistry tends not to write or speak about it, so they appear only faintly to me.

Roll Call:
Dalrymple kicks ass, as usual.
"Since the end of World War II, the British have grown accustomed to the idea that the money in their pockets is what the government graciously consents to leave them after it has taken its share."
"They saw the reform not as an attempt to align education with the needs and capacities of the real economy—by making students question the value of education and by encouraging universities to offer something of real value—but as a means of restricting access to education to the rich"
"Considering the disastrous personal consequences of being illiterate in a modern society, this is a gargantuan scandal, amounting to large-scale theft by the educational authorities. No anarchist ever smashed a window because of this scandal, however; and so it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the demonstration was in defense of unearned salaries, not (as alleged) of actual services worth defending."
That last wants sharpening. Teachers no longer even pretend to teach, but it's taboo to say so. Indeed, your odds of ending up literate are probably higher if you avoid schooling of any type altogether, than if you end up imprisoned in a government school.
"The press usually defends the public sector, viewing it as an expression of the general will and a manifestation of a rationally planned society, manned by selfless workers."
"mass poverty would return" Market does right; government takes credit. Government does wrong; market takes blame. Nobody bats an eye.
"So it is not surprising that the Guardian, which one could almost call the public-sector workers’ mouthpiece, has reported that hospital emergency departments are already feeling the budgetary pressure and risk being overwhelmed, even before the cuts have been implemented in full. Meanwhile, one can still find plenty of bureaucratic jobs advertised in the Health Service Journal"
"during which, fearing unpopularity, it failed to explain the real fiscal situation to the electorate" Electorate now complicit in its own swindling.
"which means that the public will remain what it now is: the servant of its public servants."
"impossible political promises are believed only by the prepared mind. And our minds have been prepared for a long time, since the time of the Fabians at least."

In ancient Greece, it was reasonable to suppose beauty and truth were the same thing. They seem so closely related. Now, it seems reasonable to suppose they're enemies, that to commit to one is to compromise the other. I don't understand how making people miserable helps control them, but it really is unreasonable to assume misery doesn't.

"The lottery paradox has become a central topic within epistemology, and the enormous literature surrounding this puzzle threatens to obscure its original purpose."
Haha...whut? The rounding error is literally 100% of the measurement; why does it surprise anyone that a thousand 100% error probability measurements don't add up to one?

Weather records follow the Cauchy distribution. They must, because "in physics is the result of its being the solution to the differential equation describing forced resonance," and the weather is a forced resonance system. This means records will produce an endless parade of high-temperature records that can be used to convince voters that the globe is warming. The counter is simply to compare the parallel endless parade of low-temperature records.

Political correctness' first outbreak immediately followed an act that gave the franchise to more than 10% of adult males.

"But not only that: I discovered that, in large part, the left’s rhetorical world is everyone’s. Its pseudologisms and weasel words—its perniciously equivocal vocabulary and taxonomy—infect public life and the body politic."

Not precise, but pretty close. Elide the partisan spin, and you find bellagerens has clearly seen the truth. The comparison of the naked and interpreted versions ironically proves that sophistry is, indeed, everyone's problem.

"In the rhetorical world given us by [democracy], a thing is not a thing: every term has a second meaning, a connotation, an interpretation. Words bear more loads [...] than structural steel."

I agree this needs to be said out loud. That's bad. That's very bad. "You try to expect from each person what your understanding of them predicts it is realistic to expect." "If [your] expectations are very high, and require that the person has a large number of positive traits, then what is likely to happen is that your friends fail at least one of these expectations from time to time." How did 'high expectations lead to disappointment' get to be worthy headline news?

Three, (via.)
Emphasis mine:
"The truth is, it is not their fault. They are the victims of the tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.

What has happened morally in the West is what has happened financially as well. Good and otherwise sensible people were persuaded that you could spend more than you earn, incur debt at unprecedented levels and consume the world’s resources without thinking about who will pay the bill and when. It has been the culture of the free lunch in a world where there are no free lunches."

"If earth were invaded by man-eating aliens from another planet, and the media said they had come to bring democracy to earth, we'd be cheering for the aliens to take us over and eat us. We're sheep led by ideologues. [...] We're puppets pulled by slogans."

"There are people here with nothing," this rioter continued: nothing, that is, except an education that has cost $80,000, a roof over their head, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, food in their stomachs, a cellphone, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, an electric stove, heating and lighting, hot and cold running water, a guaranteed income, free medical care, and all of the same for any of the children that they might care to propagate."
So which is it; is that 'nothing' is an effective bit of sophistry, or is the rioter is a sophist's victim, and cannot tell the difference between their stuff and nothing?

"For the intellectuals, a tiny minority, to build a working majority with the tools of trans-democracy, they must discover and diligently exploit a vast pool of empty heads."
Having achieved power, they use it to empty more heads and get them more efficiently empty. Partly this is democracy but also it is the scholar's intellectual dominance hierarchy - asserting dominance over and through ideas.

The power of orators, via:
"in the opinion of the wisest man Athens ever produced, it was the orators who, in their adulation of the people for their own purposes, destroyed the Athenian commonwealth."

And it has been argued on many sides that political liberty, in this sense, has been a distinguishing mark of Western civilization, being implicit to our forms of government long before the Enlightenment spelled it out. Brian C. Anderson, writing in the October issue, follows Michael Novak who, in his book On Two Wings of 2002, rehearses the familiar thesis that Western civilization arose from two powerful spiritual forces, one originating in Athens, the other in Jerusalem, one expressed in Greek political philosophy, the other in "Jewish metaphysics."

Emphasis mine, (via)
"Al-Qaida was not founded by Osama bin Laden, as many wrongly believe, but in the mid-1980’s in Peshawar, Pakistan, by a revolutionary scholar, Sheik Abdullah Azzam."

Note dates of the splinter sects, e.g, " Its roots can be traced back to an extraordinarily influential late twelfth century Italian mystic, Joachim of Fiore (1145-1202) "