Belief Systems was Re: Amusing anti-cloning arguments

Bernard Hughes (
Tue, 27 Oct 1998 20:13:14 -0330

Robin Hanson wrote:

> Bernard J Hughes writes:
> >> Something about this sort of topic seems to trigger cognitive
> >> reactions which bypass mental modules capable of more abstract critical
> >> analysis. I think it is very important for us to understand this
> >> cognitive process in more detail.
> >
> >Perhaps its some sort of antibody reaction to foreign memes. Societies that
> >accepted new ideas too easily were destroyed by random passing memes.
> We've seen dozens of suggestions at this level of detail - what we need is
> for people to dig deeper into such suggestions to get more detailed
> predictions from each, and to confront those predictions with more detailed
> data.

To get a good model of how beliefs change, we first need a good model of how beliefs are held. My current area of research is people's beliefs about web sites. In particular, what makes for a fast web site. There is much that is measurable about this situation, but no accepted solution short of "lots of fast hardware". Some commonly held beliefs about the Web are measurably false.

My theory is that people are lazy. A meme that would be a lot of work to accomodate, or invalidate a lot of work already invested, is usually rejected. People who have invested a lot raising children from a genetic lottery may be resistant to others "cheating" and having geneticaly certain offspring. If that is so, the theory predicts parents of children would be more likely anti-cloning than single people. And parents of genetically handicapped children would be more resistant than parents of normal children. I wonder if there are already any surveys out there that could validate this?

On the web server project, I would predict that beliefs that minimize the effort for web masters are the most likely to be taken up. The "more hardware" belief is a cheap one for most webmasters, as it passes the effort up to the executive level that decides budget. Another cheap belief is that delivery delays are due to net backbone congestion. This doesn't stand up to measurement, but does take the pressure off the local webmaster.


Bernard J Hughes
Timedancer Systems
 -- Creative Laziness at its best --