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

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Thu Jan 20 2005 - 06:17:56 MST


> > Well, when I was a math prof at UNLV, a number of my fellow math
> > professors liked to gamble on a regular basis.
> >
> > These folks had high IQ's, decently long lists of pure-math
> > publications, and generally a lot of common sense and rationality in
> > everyday life situations.
> >
> > I was a bit perplexed at the time that these highly clever and
> > reasonable mathematicians were at all interested in gambling, but that
> > was before I grasped the deep perversity of human nature as fully as I
> > do now ;-)
> You're admiring the wrong people! Let them stop buying lottery tickets,
> then admire them. It only defeats your own potential if you think that
> intelligence has no better use than that.

Well, my friend, I'm able to admire some aspects of a person while not
admiring others...

Gambling is a form of entertainment. We all entertain ourselves sometimes,
it's part of our human nature. Are you sure gambling is *that* much less
rational than seeking entertainment via sending frivolous posts about
gambling to the SL4 list? The latter takes time, and time is money as we
all know ;-)

> People pray because they want their child to not die of cancer. Teaching
> them not to pray means (a) teaching them not to want their child
> to survive
> (b) associating different outcomes with the effort of prayer.

People are screwier than this. My 7-year-old daughter prays at night, and
she says she doesn't believe it works because she doesn't believe in God,
but she prays because she enjoys the ritual of it and it makes her feel

Of course, she's young and confused and I suspect that when she gets older
she'll either give up praying, or have some kind of religious "leap of
faith." But some people are old and confused too....

So, IMO, teaching people not to pray mainly requires teaching them other
ways to derive the emotional & spiritual gratification they derive via

For instance, in my daughter's case, encouraging her to convert her prayer
ritual into a similarly soothing personal ritual without any fictive deity

> too with
> the lottery. Even if they claim to pursue the allure of the allure of
> unimaginable wealth rather than the allure of unimaginable wealth per se,
> both allures depend on a false belief - a subtle false belief, because
> while their verbally reported probabilities may be correct, their feeling
> of probability doesn't correspond to the verbal report. If people knew
> more and thought faster, they wouldn't play the lottery.

I really don't think that's true. IMO, if they knew more and thought faster
but had the same emotional structure, they'd still play.

> I strongly suspect
> that "I understand the probabilities, but I pursue the drama" is a post
> facto excuse so that they can retain their self-respect as rationalists
> without modifying a behavior they know to be irrational. If they
> understood the probabilities, there would not be drama.

It's just not true. Nearly all mathematicians who gamble understand the
probabilities at least as well as you do.

> > I.e. it involves changing their motivational structure rather than their
> > reasoning methods, it seems to me.
> Change the reasoning method, and the motivational structure will follow.

Ok, you keep making this repeated statement, and I don't agree with it.

Do you have any rational argument for this statement, or any empirical

It doesn't really match with what I know about the human psyche.

> If I am an AGI wannabe and I have made any sort of significant
> progress, I ought to be able to solve problems in human
> rationality with my
> eyes closed standing on my head in a cold shower with my left cerebral
> hemisphere removed.

I don't recommend you test this conjecture empirically...

-- Ben G

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:50 MDT