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

From: Jeff Medina (
Date: Tue Aug 29 2006 - 14:57:51 MDT

On 8/28/06, Richard Loosemore <> wrote:
> Jeff: one of your biggest concerns is with the irresponsibility of
> people who spout their opinions without bothering to read the relevant
> evidence, so how could you have missed the fact that I so explicitly
> rejected this claim you impute to me, back there in the original post.
> Did *you* read it thoroughly? And what did you make of it?

I noted that you never disavowed the alternative interpretation of the
feminist bank teller results, and that Eliezer *stayed focused on
replying to that claim of yours, rather than your main point*, and so
quite independent of whether your main point is right or wrong, the
issue of your interpretation of the feminist bank teller results
stayed open and your protestation meant roughly nothing.

To summarize my view of this whole mess, before going back to
non-participant mode:

You (Richard) said, (cf.
"in common-or-garden nontechnical discourse, the question:

    Which of the following is more probable:
    1) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.
    2) Linda is a bank teller.

Would quite likely be interpreted as

    Which of the following is more probable:
    1) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.
    2) Linda is a bank teller and NOT active in the feminist movement."

This is a pretty straightforward claim.

It has been disconfirmed in the h&b lit.

This is what Eliezer commented on in his reply here:

It's not your main claim. That's great. It doesn't matter, because
it's what Eliezer actually commented on. He, like everyone, gets to
pick which subclaims he wishes to focus on, right? Right.

>From your later comment in the above referenced post…
"> [Eliezer said:] In each of these experiments, human psychology
fails to follow the rules
> of probability theory.

[to which Richard replied:] Correct: because in normal discourse,
human psychology is required to
carry out far more complex, broad-spectrum cognitive processing than the
mere calculation of probabilities."

… it appears you thought Eliezer thinks the human brain does or should
merely calculate probabilities, rather than function in the complex,
specialized, modular fashion that it does.

He doesn't.

It's pretty obvious that he doesn't, given how big on evolutionary
psychology he is, and seeing as the EP folks heavily emphasize the
specialization of different components in the brain for particular
tasks in particular contexts. If you'd ever taken a look at his
"Levels of Organization in General Intelligence" paper, you'd know

And we all already know you disagree with Eli's
non-human-psychology-based, decision-theoretic approach to building a
thinking thing. So, on that point (re how to build an AGI), you've
shared nothing new, and one wonders why you spoke up in the
Conjunction Fallacy thread at all.

Paring away the ad hominem that came later, and the admittedly unusual
fact that Eliezer had to look up Johnson-Laird (though there's a
difference between having to look him up because he didn't know who he
was or what he did generally, and having to look up his large
bibliography of work to verify whether or not J-L did any work on
H&B), you two have just been talking past one another.

You, Richard, took Eli's reply to be a criticism of your main point,
when he hadn't responded to your main point at all. Since Eli's
comment was so very clearly directed as applying to the
"interpretation" subclaim I quoted above (and which *he* quoted in his
reply, so as to be clear what he was replying to), your repeated
protestations that Eli wasn't addressing your claim fell (and continue
to fall) on deaf ears – he wasn't *trying* to reply to your main
claim, so why are you complaining that he's doing something wrong or
unfair? You did a poor job of reading his email, viz. as if it, by
itself, were proffered as a wide-swath rejection of your overall claim
about how to build a (human-like) AGI, and responded in accordance
with that misreading, causing all this hullaballoo.

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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