44. – 52. Post


44. The Third Alternative

Der Post beschreibt das Phänomen des falschen Dilemmas. Dies passiert wenn nur 2 Optionen bedacht werden,  obwohl es eigentlich eine dritte, bessere Option gibt. Oft wird das falsche Dilemma als rhetorisches Mittel angewandt um Leute zu überreden.


45.Third Alternatives for Afterlife-ism

In diesem Post beschreibt ein konkretes Beispiel eines falschen Dilemmas.

 One of the most commonly proposed Noble Lies is belief in an afterlife.  Surely, goes the argument, the crushing certainty of absolute annihilation in a few decades is too much for any human being to bear.  People need hope – if they don’t believe in an afterlife, they won’t be able to live. 

Surely this must be the strongest of all arguments for Noble Lies.  You can find Third Alternatives to many dilemmas, but can you find one to Death?

Well, did you close your eyes and think creatively about the problem for five minutes?  No excuses, please; just answer “Yes” or “No”.  Did you, or did you not, brainstorm the problem for five minutes by the clock before giving up?

The assumed task is to find a source of hope against looming death.  So at the very least I would cite medical nanotechnology, the argument from actuarial escape velocity, cryonics, or meddling with the forbidden ultimate technology.  But do you think that anyone who actually argued for afterlife as a Noble Lie would be glad to hear about these Third Alternatives?  No, because the point was not really to find the best strategy for supplying hope, but rather to excuse a fixed previous belief from criticism.

 46. Scope Insensitivity

Eine kognitive Verzerrung, bei der das Ausmaß von Ereignissen ignoriert wird. Yudkowsky beschreibt sie so:

 Once upon a time, three groups of subjects were asked how much they would pay to save 2000 / 20000 / 200000 migrating birds from drowning in uncovered oil ponds. The groups respectively answered $80, $78, and $88 [1]. This is scope insensitivity or scope neglect: the number of birds saved – the scope of the altruistic action – had little effect on willingness to pay.

People visualize “a single exhausted bird, its feathers soaked in black oil, unable to escape” [4]. This image, or prototype, calls forth some level of emotional arousal that is primarily responsible for willingness-to-pay – and the image is the same in all cases. As for scope, it gets tossed out the window – no human can visualize 2000 birds at once, let alone 200000. The usual finding is that exponential increases in scope create linear increases in willingness-to-pay – perhaps corresponding to the linear time for our eyes to glaze over the zeroes; this small amount of affect is added, not multiplied, with the prototype affect. This hypothesis is known as “valuation by prototype”.

An alternative hypothesis is “purchase of moral satisfaction”. People spend enough money to create a warm glow in themselves, a sense of having done their duty. The level of spending needed to purchase a warm glow depends on personality and financial situation, but it certainly has nothing to do with the number of birds.

47. One Life Against the World

Obwohl ein Menschenleben unglaublich viel wert ist, sollte man wenn es drauf ankommt, doch lieber 2 statt 1 Leben retten. Und lieber 10 statt 1. Und doch lieber die ganze Welt als nur einen Menschen.


Two deaf children are sleeping on the railroad tracks, the train speeding down; you see this, but you are too far away to save the child. I’m nearby, within reach, so I leap forward and drag one child off the railroad tracks – and then stop, calmly sipping a Diet Pepsi as the train bears down on the second child. “Quick!” you scream to me. “Do something!” But (I call back) I already saved one child from the train tracks, and thus I am “unimaginably” far ahead on points. Whether I save the second child, or not, I will still be credited with an “unimaginably” good deed. Thus, I have no further motive to act. Doesn’t sound right, does it?


 48.Risk-Free Bonds Aren’t

Es gibt keine risikofreien Investments. Selbst US-Anleihen nicht. Denn was würde wohl passieren, wenn ein Asteroid die gesamte USA in Schutt und Asche verwandelt?

Aber man muss ja gar nicht so science-fictionesk denken. Die USA könnte auch einfach bankrott gehen, ist den meisten Nationen passiert.

 49.Correspondence Bias

Auch fundamentaler Attributionsfehler genannt. Die meisten Menschen erklären das Verhalten einer Person durch Charaktereigenschaften, während in Wirklichkeit situationale Faktoren viel wichtiger sind.

50.Are Your Enemies Innately Evil?

Der fundamentale Attributionsfehler ist noch stärker wenn wir es mit Personen zu tun haben, deren Verhalten wir missbilligen.

 When someone actually offends us – commits an action of which we (rightly or wrongly) disapprove – then, I observe, the correspondence bias redoubles.  There seems to be a very strong tendency to blame evil deeds on the Enemy’s mutant, evil disposition.

 51. Open Thread

Nothing surprising there.

52.Two More Things to Unlearn from School

Jeder weiß, dass das Bildungssystem schlecht ist. Yudkowsky wird konkret:

 I suspect the most dangerous habit of thought taught in schools is that even if you don’t really understand something, you should parrot it back anyway. One of the most fundamental life skills is realizing when you are confused, and school actively destroys this ability – teaches students that they “understand” when they can successfully answer questions on an exam, which is very very very far from absorbing the knowledge and making it a part of you.

Many students who have gone through this process no longer even realize when something confuses them, or notice gaps in their understanding. They have been trained out of pausing to think.






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