Re: Bad Bayesian - no biscuit! (was A New Year's gift for Bayesians)

From: Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed Jan 19 2005 - 16:03:09 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> Eli wrote:
>> Occasionally I tread on the futile task of trying to persuade people
>> not to buy lottery tickets, and they say something along the line of
>> "Someone has to win!" or "You can't win if you don't play!"
> When I have this conversation with intelligent lottery players, the
> usual answer is "Yes, but it's fun to try."

I know I've raised this point before, but I think we have different
standards for whom we call "intelligent".

> Most lottery players know the expected value of a lottery ticket is less
> than the price they pay for the ticket, but they play anyway because
> they like the psychological drama of it.

They play because they are not strong enough in the Way to feel emotionally
the true meaning of the words, "Odds of a hundred million to one". They
have not learned to translate mere dry statistics into a feeling of
absolute and utter certainty, far exceeding any proposition of science or
everyday life, that they SHALL NOT win the lottery. If you understand
that, there is no psychological drama.

> In this case, you are underestimating both the intelligence and the
> psychological perversity of the average human, it would seem...

I am not underestimating it. You must distinguish between my disliking
something and my thinking that it is improbable, or even unusual. I
understand the thriving lottery industry as the present state of affairs,
and I ask "How can we train people not to buy lottery tickets?" The
parable of the blue tentacle is a means to that end - to convey the
principle that we should devalue the affective weight of our thought
experiments according to their statistical improbability or physical

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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