Re: The Conjunction Fallacy Fallacy [WAS Re: Anti-singularity spam.]

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed May 03 2006 - 15:22:51 MDT

Damien Broderick wrote:
> Odd how often we see an imputation of the deficiency of an opponent's
> background research. This gets very old, old and tired. I would argue
> that Richard's case is more persuasive than Eliezer's, basing my
> assessment on the old, old but evergreen hypothesis of Eleanor Rosch,
> together with its empirical support, that the human mind functions by
> observing/creating prototypical exemplars of categories. See for
> example, from old, old, old 2001:
> If Tversky and Kahneman take significant issue with the Roschian case, I
> haven't seen it--but then my damned library is thousands of klicks away.

I'm previously familiar with Rosch and accept her theory as both
standard and probably correct (check LOGI, you'll find a citation of
her). I skimmed the above paper and I don't see anything about the
conjunction fallacy. Nor have I ever heard that Rosch disputes it. Nor
have I ever heard that T&K dispute Rosch. As far as I know, they are
happily coexisting parts of the modern synthesis.

The main people who would dispute the standard interpretation of the
conjunction fallacy are the fast-and-frugal crowd, and they don't deny
that the psychological phenomenon happens as commonly described; they
rather say that, in the ancestral environment, humans would have done
better. In other words, standard descriptions of some heuristics and
biases don't mention that these heuristics work better against lions and
tigers than they do in the modern world.

 From my own perspective, so what? I don't care how well humans did
against lions and tigers if we screw up judgment of existential risks.
We'd still suffer the consequences, regardless of why. If existential
risks are presented on paper, and people make their decisions based on
what they see on paper, and it is the wrong decision... exeunt omnes.

Kurzweil's TSIN is not a tiger. It is a book. Flaws that hit people
who read books are relevant - regardless of whether the biases arise
from heuristics shaped more by regularities of the ancestral environment
than by cognitive limitations.

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:56 MDT