At her Rationally Speaking podcast, Julia Galef talked to me about signaling as a broad theory of human behavior. Julia is smart and thoughtful, and fully engaged the idea. Even so, I’m not sure I convinced her. I might have had a better chance if we’d dived quickly into a detailed summaries of related datums. Instead we more talked more abstractly about her concern that signaling seems a complex theory, and shouldn’t we look to simpler theories first. For example, on the
On July 4, 1940 (11 days before his death), during a professional appearance at the Manistee National Forest Festival, a faulty brace irritated his ankle, causing a blister and subsequent infection. Doctors treated him with a blood transfusion and emergency surgery, but his condition worsened due to an autoimmune disorder, and on July 15, 1940, he died in his sleep at the age of 22.https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...
Came here through the podcast, was wondering about your picture there, but the carefully crafted title of your blog explains it ;-)I bet your new ideas worry a lot of people who are going to have a risky medical intervention soon. Because yes, the whole enterprise developed from people trying to give comfort in desperate situations. Nurses are very annoying in that respect. Guess I am an intellectual of the scientific era. Just increase my chances of survival please, and tell the doctor...
The null hypothesis is always false. Yet, 2-tailed tests aren't completely uninformative.
Robin, Julia,Isn't it true that the priors Robin describes as predicting "either too much or too [little] of something", actually predict *any value* of that something, i.e. they *really* predict nothing at all? If so, the "existing priors vs signaling" comparison appears to be informationally a comparison of "0 bits vs 1 bit", not "n bits vs n+1 bits".
On the point about psychological egoism: no one who appeals to the theory of evolution (as Robin does) can be a psychological egoist, for he is presupposing the drive to reproduce and to protect one's offspring (and perhaps collateral relatives)--different objectives from one's own well-being.
Here's where I think you miscued the interviewer.
J.: Before we delve into how thoroughly the signaling hypothesis explains these choices, maybe we can just spend a little more time on why you think the standard stories fail.
She was calling for more on this! To which, you replied
R: The first data point is to say school can't really be about learning. Medicine can't really be about health. Investment can't really be about returns. Because we have all these pieces of data related to them that say, the way people seem to be trying to achieve these goals are just so inefficient and ineffective, that it's just hard to believe that this is what they're really doing.
That's not the fundamental data point! (Social coordination, after all, is hard; and individual irrationality is widespread.)
If there's a fundamental data point that would be convincing, it has to do, not with the absolute inefficiency of medicine but it's relative inefficiency (compared to other coordination efforts of equal cognitive difficulty). [You mention this comparison later, but the miscue had already done its devious work.]
Perhaps you intended that comparison with "these goals." But "these" receives no serious emphasis in the sentence—because the middle of a sentence is low emphasis—and emphasis is of the essence in intellectual writing. See "Constructing sentences for precise emphasis: The fundamental principle of advanced writing" — http://disputedissues.blogs... )
In the Red Corner we have Julia, who comes with all the right, hip fashion statements from the wonderful world of internet empiri. In the Blue Corner we have the maverick Robin, who is just trying to make up his own mind about things.
If you had a problem - who do you go to to get help?
there must be some method for picking which unfalsifiable theory isbest, a way to make the case for why your favorite deserves to be in thelead. I'm having trouble formulating such a method.
The mainstream story these days is that we use the rule of Bayes.
Perhaps the problem is that when our priors predict either too much or too much of something, they seem to "nearly" explain that the actual amount of that something. After all, they need only roughly one more bit of predictive power to get it right. And what's one bit between friends? But the more different things we want to predict, the more those bits add up to a big explanation deficit.
Robin's first full paragraph is right on: to resolve the disagreement, you've got to go into the data.
Julia thinks that the assorted known biases could predict all of Robin's data in advance. Robin thinks they couldn't, that is, that they could just as easily predict opposite outcomes. That's the root of the disagreement.
(As a bonus, lump1 says Robin's signalling theory can't explain all of the data in advance)
Oh, indeed (I was using shorthand -- perhaps too much so).
What I meant to say was that the signaling explanation for X gains relative strength the more inexplicable X is under already-known, non-signaling explanations. If you assume people know electronic voting is less secure, then their preference for electronic voting is more mysterious and signaling gets more "points" for being able to explain that preference.Whereas if people don't know electronic voting is less secure, then their preference for it is less mysterious, and more likely to occur whether or not Signaling is happening.
But probably to resolve this, I'd just need to look at some non-cherry-picked cases, and see whether we can predict them significantly better with Signaling than without.
It is not otiose, it is an opportunity to advance our knowledge.Einstein's work was not otiose, even if it needed more work than Newton's work demanded to give a very similar answer, it still had a greater domain, so helped us advance and construct better things and manage our erros better.
We have 2 theories or more that are both supported by the actual set of evidences? So:We can now formulate some type of experiment that would oblige one of the theories to fail, showing to us what of the theories is applicable to that increase-of-domain/set-of-evidences.
That is how we advance science. Creating new hypotheses that are still supported by the actual set of evidences and experimenting to colect new evidences and see what theory endure the test of the real world, and not using biases like old/established things are better than new ones (or the inverse). Both theories must be considered neutraly. The time that they were made is irrelevant.
You're of course correct that, if we already have well-established theories that adequately explain something, an additional theory is otiose. Does Signaling of care explain data that resist other explanations? This is ultimately an empirical question that you may be trying to settle on a purely conceptual plane.
But even if all social science theories are ultimately unfalsifiable, there must be some method for picking which unfalsifiable theory is best, a way to make the case for why your favorite deserves to be in the lead. I'm having trouble formulating such a method.
For my part, I think that even noisy theories can be falsified, because they predict and rule out certain signals in the noise. I prefer to think that the leading social science theories are actually falsified, just not too badly falsified in comparison to their predictive power.
We humans are suffering mutations all the time. We are not a system with stable characteristics, we are always evolving, different than inorganic systems, that tend to be a lot more stable, so it is natural that the social and psychological theories have a tendency to lose accuracy with the passage of time and can't have universal domain (applicability to all the humans), because the greater the number of humans the greater the number of mutations in every level if the human system (and other organic systems).
In nature, we have random mutations, so it is natural that we have probably random thoughts and acts, but by the same way we are evolving by millions of years, so it is probable that we have a set of behaviours that maximize our survival. So some interesting questions are:
Signaling in some situations that we are loyal help us survive? Signaling in some situations that we are important and so it is useful for others to be our allies help us survive?Signaling in some situations that we have good genes and many resources help us survive?Signaling something in some situations help us survive?
If yes, then a tendency is that the signaling behaviours get more and more ingrained in the species with the passage of time. We can even predict that probably the same thing happens with alien species.
If you want to be more objective, then first you need to see that we are all biased in the choice of the "right" theory, then you can see many ways that a theory can be prefered, like for example what one authority or one group of authorities prefer or what is the oldest hypothesis or the last-and-more-understood hypothesis.
2 More Examples:
1 ) If someone wants to use the occam's razor, they will choose the theory that have the last number of assumptions (the simplest) because of probability theory (each assumption have a probability that is probably lesser than 100%, so when we add an assumption, we lower the probability of the entire theory).
2 ) If someone have a theory that explain/predict more possibilities than 2-3 other theories and in a more precise way, so we have a superior theory, and that superior theory can be more or less complex than the other 2-3 theories. If that theory is more complex than the other 2-3, then the other 2-3 still have some uses for them because in some situations they are practical (their errors are irrelevant). An example is the theory of relativity (thathave a greater domain and is more precise) is superior to the theory of universal gravity but that older and simpler theory still have its uses.
We all need models to understand the world, and an easier and faster way to construct the models is by simplifying, so we probably always are desconsidering many factors, but if that factors have a small influence, we don't need to worry much and we can construct a simpler model that is fairly accurate. It is better than have a model with all the factors that we can consider but have to make massive calculations to have any output.
The signaling theory is both simple and have great "domain" (space of situations that it is applicable), so it is very appealing, but could be wrong in many situations, as could any theory. One example is in the situation where someone suffered a brain damage and is making strange things. One good explanation in this case is made probably by the addiction of the output of the different parts of the brain that are still online and by the way that the person is coping with the damage (traumatized? depressed? etc.).