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

From: Jeff Medina (
Date: Sun Aug 27 2006 - 13:08:24 MDT

On 8/27/06, Mark Waser <> wrote:
> you [Eliezer] seem to need to be
> constantly trying to steer the conversation from the field that Richard
> initially brought up (mental modeling) to one that you are more comfortable
> with (heuristics and biases) -- despite the fact that the relevance of this
> change is obviously disputable.

You've missed something, Mark -- the example that started this
subthread of the argument (the feminist bank teller question and the
typical responses it gets) *is a canonical heuristics-and-biases
example*. That's where this aspect of the debate began; Eliezer is
not trying to steer away from modeling, except insofar as Richard
keeps seeming to think modeling is part of the heuristics-and-biases
subfield, which it isn't.

Richard posed what he thinks is a more plausible alternative
explanation the feminist bank teller experimental results. That
alternative was one of the first, most obvious alternatives proffered
by psych folks, and it has been experimentally tested and *does not*
explain people's responses to the feminist bank teller problem.

That Richard thought his alternative explanation was something novel
for us to think about demonstrates pretty clearly a lack of knowledge
of one of the most basic series of experiments in the subfield of
heuristics and biases. This was Eliezer's point. (The further point,
that mental models *isnt* heuristics and biases, is also sound, and
further demonstrates Richard's lack of knowledge of h&b, but is
redundant given the first point, which is elementary and

As someone else who has read a good bit of h&b literature, it really
is ridiculous how Richard, and now you, are reacting. Richard's
alternative proposal demonstrates ignorance of *basics* in a field
he's claiming competency in. The only thing further that Eliezer
might do in support of his point is provide direct references to
feminist bank teller articles... but, knowing that he's right on this
matter, I wouldn't really fault him for not going out of his way to do
Richard's research for him. But it would potentially clear up the
(very odd, because so basic, IMO) dispute regarding the feminist bank
teller and h&b.

Jeff Medina
Sr. Systems Engineer, Lockheed Martin
Sr. Programmer, Elemental Solutions
Fellow, Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies
"Do you want to live forever?"
"Dunno. Ask me again in five hundred years."
(_Guards! Guards!_, Terry Pratchett)

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