From: Mark Waser (MWaser@cox.net)
Date: Mon Aug 28 2006 - 09:10:14 MDT
First off, thank you for the well-reasoned and logical reply.
Let me try to start by quickly paraphrasing where I understand us to be . . . .
A. Regarding H&B and Bayesianism
1.. You are very vehement that no reputable expert in the field of H&B believes that human thought is Bayesian.
2.. Apparently, some people didn't get the message since the first reference paper that I googled seemed to believe that it was still necessary to argue the fact.
3.. Apparently, Richard didn't get the message because he seemed to believe that it was still necessary to argue the fact
4.. But wait, you attributed to Chase the motive that he "just described a different way so as to render it applicable to an ongoing dispute in the related field of mental models."
QUESTION: Why aren't you willing to attribute the same motive to Richard? That's all he really wants. *You* are the one who brought up all of the distractions of the field of H&B.
B. Regarding Richard's beliefs
1.. First you say "Richard keeps seeming to think modeling is part of the heuristics-and-biases subfield, which it isn't."
2.. When challenged to provide an example, you say "Actually, Richard's error is much worse; he thinks heuristics-and-biases is a subfield of mental models."
Actually, I believe that the second statement *is* closer to Richard's beliefs but I believe that it would be more even more accurate phrased as "Richard believes that any correct mental model of human thought must explain the experimental results obtained by the heuristics-and-biases folks/field".
QUESTION: Would you argue against the statement "Any correct mental model of human thought must explain the experimental results obtained by the heuristics-and-biases folks/field".
Assuming that your answer is no -- Since that pretty much says that any human mental modeler must understand heuristics-and-biases, I think that you're protesting *way* too much. Yes, from the viewpoint of the h&b *FIELD*, it is *not* a subfield because they aren't always doing models -- or wait, maybe they pretty much are but they *certainly* aren't part of the same community -- so your statement is certainly correct -- but only from an evolution of human research *FIELDS* standpoint, not from a strict observation of what *AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE* are required for what other *AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE*. I think that this interpretation of your point is made quite clear by "My unreliable impression is that there are at least an order of magnitude more researchers working on heuristics and biases. H&B is a large experimental field, while "mental models" is a comparatively small, comparatively more theoretical field."
QUESTION: Again, assuming that you wouldn't argue against the above statement, why are you attributing the absolute worst of meanings to Richard since, again, he didn't even start with the H&B *FIELD* stuff and, as he says repeatedly, IT ISN'T RELEVANT TO HIS ARGUMENT.
C. Regarding my beliefs
1.. OK. I phrased things very poorly when I said "he believes that heuristics and biases (at least as performed by Bayesians) are not relevant since they are not the
mental model which is actually employed by the sole example of General Intelligence - i.e. humans" but I think *in context* that my intent was clear.
2.. You jumped in with the extremely pedantic ""Bayesians" wouldn't use heuristics, they would use the inference rules of probability theory. The notion of a Bayesian "performing" a heuristic, or a bias, is nonsense."
3.. So I'll return with the following: First off, the inference rules of probability theory *are* heuristics and are one set among many possible. Your statement, therefore, that "The notion of a Bayesian "performing" a heuristic ... is nonsense." is indefensible.
QUESTION: Why are you attributing the absolute worst of meanings to me?
QUESTION 2: Would you like to defend the statement that "The notion of a Bayesian "performing" a heuristic is nonsense."
QUESTION 3: Do you believe that the inference rules of probability theory as most commonly *implemented* by Bayesians DON'T have bias?
D. Regarding your interpretations, forward-chaining logic and actions
1.. You said "The above sentence demonstrates (1) a severely erroneous picture of what H&B is all about, which seems to have been (2) virally transmitted by Loosemore to Waser, which is (3) why I'm considering banning Loosemore from the list.
2.. I reply regarding the first clause that my sentence wasn't even about the *field* H&B.
3.. I note that you're using an apparently groundless "seems to be" in the second clause. What basis do you have for that belief? Isn't it relatively equally probable that I already held those beliefs and am merely taking the opportunity provided by Richard to express them? Actually, in several cases where you're now slamming Richard, I'm not even sure that he holds the views that you are slamming and that I've been "virally" infected with.
4.. I could see banning someone from the list if they persist in errors after scientific debate but as Richard (and numerous others) point out, there hasn't really been *any* sort of reasonable conversation. All Richard was *trying* to get to was an agreement that humans didn't use Bayesian methods. You are currently vehemently in agreement with that point. Richard made the same mistake that Chart did, he assumed that he needed to get agreement.
QUESTION: Why are you so vehement about attacking Richard? His response to all of your H&B stuff has been to try to avoid it since *IT TRULY ISN'T RELEVANT*. I probably haven't helped his point by being silly enough to argue it (in enough volume and with enough speed that careless word/phrasing choices has given you several opportunities to misconstrue my meaning and further sidetrack al of this).
QUESTION: Why haven't you addressed his main points? Does the emperor have no clothes?
P.S. Regarding reading the literature -- I will admit that it's been the better part of ten years since I've read the core literature of H&B (starting with Uncertain Reasoning and moving on). I have been keeping up with new developments but I am susceptible to not realizing that the field recognizes how far out of the mainstream some crackpots are (think global warming). I know that they are crackpots, but I don't know that the field as a whole knows the same thing. For the purposes of discussing the subject itself, I have read the literature. For the meta-subject of discussion the field itself, I am more than willing to concede ignorance. In a similar vein, however, I believe that you need to concede the same ignorance of the modeling field which *WAS* the field that this whole debate originated in (which once again re-iterates how silly it is for you to be hammering on h&b when it isn't even really on-topic) since you clearly didn't recognize (and jumped on Richard) for something that is *standard* for that field.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, August 28, 2006 12:54 AM
Subject: Re: The Conjunction Fallacy Fallacy [WAS Re: Anti-singularity spam.]
> Mark Waser wrote:
>> Hi Jeff,
>> Thanks for the rational reply. :-) <Please do me a favor and
>> re-read my last paragraph way down below after skimming this>
>>> 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*.
>> No, I got that. Richard's point (and my reply to your point) is that
>> that exact same example is *also* specifically used by the mental
>> modeling folk to show that the experts in that field don't agree with
>> the experts in the Bayesian field -- at least, as far as saying that
>> human reasoning can be explained by or is even consistent with
> Mark, are you familiar with heuristics and biases *specifically*? That
> is, have you read _Judgment Under Uncertainty_ or some other work that
> contains the literal substring "heuristics and biases" on the front or
> back cover?
> Because I can't think of *anyone* in H&B who has ever claimed that human
> thought is Bayesian. (No memory is available to my recall attempt, so I
> infer that the frequency is low or zero.) Bayes is prescriptive, not
> descriptive. I'm too young to remember a time from the distant past
> when anyone thought that human thought actually followed
> probability-theoretic inference rules. Today, "everyone knows" that
> human thought isn't Bayesian - it is an elementary point on which the
> whole field of heuristics and biases is based; if human thought operated
> using Bayesian procedures, rather than a toolbox of heuristics, there
> would be no systematic biases. Even allowing for the possibility of
> occasional error, the errors would center around a Bayesian mean.
>> Eliezer keeps saying "RTFM! (To name a specific M, "Judgment Under
>> Uncertainty" would do him some good.)". Richard keeps saying "I
>> understand that topic but IT IS NOT RELEVANT TO MY POINT".
>> Try googling "feminist bank teller". The first entry you come up
>> with is David Chart's "Inference to the Best Explanation,
>> Bayesianism, and Feminist Bank Tellers". He also seems to a)
>> understand Bayesianism, b) refer to and understand the experimental
>> results, and c) not believe that Bayes is relevant to the human
>> mental model.
> I read the referenced paper, which seems quite ordinary except for the
> implicit inference (from what the paper is arguing against) that someone
> in the field of mental models is still seriously putting forth Bayesian
> inference as a descriptive model of human reasoning. If so, they would
> seem to be rather ignorant of heuristics and biases. Which is why Chart
> is trying to remedy their ignorance, with an extremely basic example -
> or so it appears.
> Chart's paper is at:
> Sample quote from the paper:
> "Tversky and Kahneman give their own interpretation of the results. They
> suggest that we use a 'representativeness heuristic', and that a
> feminist bank teller seems more representative of Linda's background
> than merely being a bank teller. Their interpretation obviously has a
> close affinity to the interpretation I have provided, and on certain
> theories of explanation, particularly unification models, it may turn
> out to be the same interpretation.
> In conclusion, then, this result suggests that, if the choice is between
> Inference to the Best Explanation and Bayesianism, we use Inference to
> the Best Explanation. We make mistakes which are to be expected on an
> explanatory model of inference, but which are surprising and hard to
> explain on a Bayesian model. Thus, according to Inference to the Best
> Explanation, we should tentatively conclude that we use explanatory, not
> Bayesian, inference."
> In other words, Chart is proposing something compatible with the
> standard explanation in heuristics and biases ("it may turn out to be
> the same interpretation"). This is also my impression on reading
> Chart's paper; what Chart is describing is very close to the standard
> model in H&B, possibly identical with it (as Chart says), just described
> a different way so as to render it applicable to an ongoing dispute in
> the related field of mental models.
>>> except insofar as Richard keeps seeming to think modeling is part
>>> of the heuristics-and-biases subfield, which it isn't.
>> Could you give an example of where Richard does this?
> Actually, Richard's error is much worse; he thinks heuristics-and-biases
> is a subfield of mental models.
> E.g. Loosemore: 'These people (Chater and Oaksford, at least) know
> everything there is to know about the entire field of human reasoning,
> including the subfield that Yudkowsky refers to as "heuristics and biases".'
> My unreliable impression is that there are at least an order of
> magnitude more researchers working on heuristics and biases. H&B is a
> large experimental field, while "mental models" is a comparatively
> small, comparatively more theoretical field.
> > I think that
> > he's pretty clear that his point is that he believes that heuristics
> > and biases (at least as performed by Bayesians)
> "Bayesians" wouldn't use heuristics, they would use the inference rules
> of probability theory. The notion of a Bayesian "performing" a
> heuristic, or a bias, is nonsense.
> The above sentence demonstrates (1) a severely erroneous picture of what
> H&B is all about, which seems to have been (2) virally transmitted by
> Loosemore to Waser, which is (3) why I'm considering banning Loosemore
> from the list.
>> I think that
>> he's pretty clear that his point is that he believes that heuristics
>> and biases (at least as performed by Bayesians) are not relevant
>> since they are not the mental model which is actually employed by the
>> sole example of General Intelligence - i.e. humans (in fact, that's
>> pretty much a rephrasing of his point).
> The whole above paragraph is wildly ignorant of what the H&B folks do:
> use experiments to pin down a descriptive model of human reasoning which
> EVERYONE IN THE FIELD KNOWS AND ACCEPTS IS NOT BAYESIAN. This was the
> very first point made in the field - "Wow! Human reasoning is not
> Bayesian!" - by Ward Edwards in the 1960s, if I recall correctly.
> I therefore doubt your assertion that:
> > I *think* that I've read the majority of the relevant stuff.
> This also seems rather unlikely given:
> > I understand that you got mired in the back-water and opinions of the
> > H&B folk.
> H&B a backwater? Kahneman, one of the founders of the field, recently
> won a Nobel Prize in Economics - for that particular work, mind you.
> I've yet to see a paper on mental models mentioned in the mainstream
> press, while you can find plenty of press articles about various
> particular results in heuristics and biases. Not that I have anything
> against the real researchers in the field of mental models; H&B is a
> much larger field than AGI research, too. But Loosemore's concept that
> the large experimental field of H&B is a subfield of the small and
> relatively theoretical field of MM, is another example of his severe
> ignorance. Your above comment seems to imply that you have been misled
> by the implicit assumptions you picked up from Loosemore. Which is very
> much the sort of thing I'm worried about.
>> The h&b field claim to understand something. The mental modeling
>> people contest that understanding.
> Not in Chart's paper. Please provide references - though, mind you, my
> working assumption at this point is that you are wholly ignorant of the
> large field of heuristics and biases, working with mistaken assumptions
> picked up from Loosemore, and therefore not capable of assessing what
> would constitute a conflict between the two fields, as evidenced by your
> misassessment of Chart's paper.
>> Well now, I provided a direct reference to an article that clearly
>> supports Richard (with all of the feminist bank teller experiments as
>> it's experimental basis).
> The referenced paper by Chart does not support Richard's explicit
> assertion that the conjunction fallacy arose from a particular
> misunderstanding by the research subjects (a possibility that was long
> since refuted a million ways from Sunday, see the paper referenced in my
> reply to Medina), nor Richard's rather huge implicit mistake in thinking
> that heuristics-and-biases is a subset of the field of mental models, or
> Richard's misconception that H&B holds that humans are using Bayesian
> inference procedures subject to noise. In fact, if you read the paper
> by Chart carefully, it contradicts-in-passing the later point.
>> Eliezer *really* needs to do so. This is *not* an odd dispute. It
>> is an ongoing, inter-field debate.
> I am not aware of this being an ongoing inter-field dispute. References
> please. (Bearing in mind that I strongly suggest you read up
> *specifically on heuristics and biases* before you attempt to determine,
> from your own knowledge, what is or is not an inter-field dispute.)
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://singinst.org/
> Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
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