We spent the hour trying to answer a question posed to Eneasz regarding his work with the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality Podcast. Here is the query (with pleasantries removed):
Is there evidence that a rational approach to decision making, either on the personal or institutional level, will be more likely to achieve desired outcomes? For example, HPMOR implies that a perfectly rational decision maker will do a better job than a very smart and informed adhoc decision maker, but I don’t understand why this should be the case. After all, the Bayesian priors for any real life problem aren’t available and if you’re estimating how are you doing better than someone using their knowledge and intuition. I don’t include empirical decision making as inherently rational here, so for example, if GiveDirectly were the best charity I see that as more of a data driven outcome than a rational one. Obviously, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, so I could be missing something.
We thought that maybe this was a case of the question writer using a different definition of “rational” than we do, but we dove in, trying to pick the question apart and introduce some rationality concepts at the same time.
Concepts and Linkz:
- Difference between epistemic and instrumental rationality
- Instrumental rationality is concerned with achieving goals. More specifically, instrumental rationality is the art of choosing and implementing actions that steer the future toward outcomes ranked higher in one’s preferences. Said preferences are not limited to ‘selfish’ preferences or non-shared values; they include anything one cares about.
- Epistemic rationality is that part of rationality which involves achieving accurate beliefs about the world. It involves updating on receiving new evidence, mitigating cognitive biases, and examining why you believe what you believe. It can be seen as a form of instrumental rationality in which knowledge and truth are goals in themselves, whereas in other forms of instrumental rationality, knowledge and truth are only potential aids to achieving goals. Someone practicing instrumental rationality might even find falsehood useful.
- Affect heuristic: When subjective emotions about something act as a mental shortcut.
- Halo/horns effect (is an example of the affect heuristic)
- Principle of charity: A technique in which you evaluate your opponent’s position as if it made the most amount of sense possible given the wording of the argument.
- Steelmanning (rationality tool)
- A straw man is a misrepresentation of someone’s position or argument that is easy to defeat: a “steel man” is an improvement of someone’s position or argument that is harder to defeat than their originally stated position or argument.
- The strongest form of an argument that you disagree with.
This time, Katrina copied or at least drew language from Less Wrong and associated wiki.
Mentioned in this episode: Women experience heart attacks differently from men.
Intro and outro music ‘Thrashing Around” by Chris Martyn/Geoff Harvey – Purple Planet Royalty Free Music.