Re: How You Do Not Tell the Truth

Date: Fri May 04 2001 - 10:53:28 MDT

Eliezer writes:
> Actually, I have this wacky idea that says it's ethically prohibited to
> apply Bayesian priors to people. In other words, you should judge a
> person's properties - intelligence levels, for example - only by
> information that is directly revealing of those properties, and not
> through other properties that happen to be weakly or strongly associated,
> especially if those properties happen to be outside the person's direct
> manipulative control.

That's a generous position, to judge each person only by their actions
rather than other attributes. No doubt in your own case since you are
a highly unusual person, you would be frequently misjudged when other
characteristics are used.

Of course, most people are not unusual on most traits, and the reason
why people use correlations is because they usually work. You are
discarding usually-useful information if you choose to ignore this,
but in some cases you can probably afford to do so.

> For example, if a nine-year-old were to walk up to
> me and ask a question that I would take seriously if an adult had asked
> it, I am obliged to answer as I would an adult, and am not permitted to
> take any action predicated on my knowledge of chronological age until the
> person in question makes some statement that is actually revealing of
> nine-year-old characteristics. (Not in the sense of "being interpretable
> as being revealing of youth", but in the sense of being a statement that
> would *only* have been generated by a youth and not by an adult, or a very
> high-probability equivalent of same.)

I suspect that you're going to end up talking over the heads of a lot of
nine year olds with this policy. A more practical approach would be to
ask a few clarifying questions to get an idea of the child's knowledge
and maturity before attempting to answer. Maybe the kid really is bright
and knowledgeable and would appreciate a detailed response, but maybe he
just accidentally asked a deep question (three year olds are especially
good at this).

> So if someone says "I'm smarter than you, Eliezer!" I would certainly feel
> obliged to assume (or rather, act under the assumption) that the person in
> question is as likely to be smarter than me as I am to be smarter than
> them, at least until the person makes some other statement revealing of
> actual intelligence levels, which generally doesn't take too long.

...assuming that you judge such a claim to be indicative of smartness,
which would presumably depend on the context.


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