Ronald Bailey has a column in Reason where he describes the results of the paper Affect, Values, and Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions by Dan M. Kahan, Paul Slovic, Donald Braman, John Gastil, Geoffrey L. Cohen. The conclusion is that views on risks of nanotechnology are readily elicited even when people know that they do not know much about the subject and these views become strengthened along ideological lines by more facts. Facts do not matter as much as values: people appear to make a quick gut feeling decision (probably by looking at the word "technology"), which is then shaped by their ideological outlook. Individualists tend to see the risks as smaller than communitarians. There are similar studies showing the same thing about biotechnology, and in my experience the same thing happens when the public gets exposed to discussions about human enhancement.
The discussion here is too far away from the topic of the post. I'm sure there are plenty of other places to have these other debates.
Kevembuangga: "Because intellectual honesty is a prerequisite to avoid dead ends in iterated prisonners dilemma games.Iterated prisonners dilemma games are the rational way to establish trust between competing parties.A "dishonest" move cripple the game (thru decreased trust) for quite a while."
Establishing trust between competing parties is only valuable to the degree that it optimizes our mutual persistence odds, right?
Hopefully Anonymous : And I'm neither God nor your daddy
You try your best nevertheless it seems, it's getting boring and off topic.
Because intellectual honesty is only valuable to the degree that it optimizes our mutual persistence odds, right?
Because intellectual honesty is a prerequisite to avoid dead ends in iterated prisonners dilemma games.Iterated prisonners dilemma games are the rational way to establish trust between competing parties.A "dishonest" move cripple the game (thru decreased trust) for quite a while.
Stuart Armstrong : (the hierarchical ones will follow the scientific opinion).
Ahem...You mean just like about Global Warming or Evolution versus Creationism?
Anders Sandberg: nice entry! My compliments to you.I second that.
I don't find the argument "because it hasn't already evolved, it can't alreay exist" very compelling either.However, the argument "it can exist, hence we can build it" is very unconvincing too...
unless we can find ways of removing the cultural/ideological assumptions of participants,We need people to take more responsibility for their decisions, and not just behave as unaccountable ideological purists whose opinions won't change the debate anyway. Apart from betting markets, how about referendums? The swiss seem much for rational on their political issues that most...
If it is concluded that the risks of nanotech outweigh the benefits, what sop can we give the individualistic people? (the hierarchical ones will follow the scientific opinion). Some ideas:
1) Make the limitations on nanotech market-based in some way, in design and/or in enforcement2) Aggressively open up other areas of research where the risks are lower but irrational prejudice against them is high (maybe biotech for instance)3) Pay researchers or companies to stop work on nanotech. Get those opposed to nanotech to contribute, as individuals, to the fund that pays for this4) Clear up a lot of regulations in other domains - even some that is worthwhile and justifiable (but not vital)5) Incorporate elements that individualist would like - such as betting markets - into the risk assessment for nanotech. Incorporate them into future risk assessments for other technologies
If it is concluded that the benefits of nanotech outweigh the risks, what sop can we give the egalitarian and communitarian people? Some ideas:
1) Set up panels, boards of experts, and other organisms to overview the research. Invite prominent critics to be part of them2) Restrict the power and duration of patents on nanotech3) Force nanotech companies to contribute to some public good4) Set the safety bar on nanotech higher than it rationally should be5) Subsidise nanotech research that contributes to egalitarian goals. Pay for the subsidy through general taxation
Kevembuangga, the examples you provided don't add up to "Singulatarians love censorship". And I'm neither God nor your daddy, it's not my job to call out everyone who uses an ad hominem in this thread or elsewhere. "refusing to engage in argumentation on contentious points is a conspicuous feature of intellectual dishonesty" works on its own as a phrase. "X loves censorship" is a poor replacement in my opinion. Even better? "You're failing to optimize our mutual persistence odds in my opinion by refusing to engage in discussion on this particular contentious point with me". Because intellectual honesty is only valuable to the degree that it optimizes our mutual persistence odds, right?
Anders Sandberg : who is trying to shoehorn whom here?
You are trying to reduce the pro/con nanotech issue to a matter of "irrationality" of the opponents having its source in political bias, what did I miss?
I think the issue brought up by the paper is valid regardless of your political or nanotech stance.
I think not, since, as I said, playing down the political position to the "classic" left/right distinction is simplistic.Though this does capture a lot of the variance in political opinions it is too crude a criterion if some real discussion is to be made, isn't OvercomingBias a place where such debates are supposed to happen (not only for nanotech).
If the acceptance or rejection of technology is done without reference to the actual content of the technology in case, it is almost certainly an irrational act.
To use your own words isn't this an "interesting contradiction"?Because that's what you are actually doing : "Does it matter at all for this discussion whether nanotechnology can work?"
Even by the standards of social values it is irrational to not examine the content of a largely unknown technology to see how good or bad it is
Didn't I explain why I think Nanotechnology is a misnomer (polite word for hype...) for parts of physics and chemistry?Didn't I say that throwing around fancy molecules is dangerous and why, asbestos, CFC, pesticides...The fact that such warnings are actually supported by many people on the sole basis of their political positions does not detracts from the rationality of the arguments deriving from previous experiences with the same kind of carelessness.
That is why I'm not too keen on the kind of loose throwing around of statements we would get in this thread if we tried to apply it to analyse nanotechnology per se.
More self contradictions in your arguments.
Hopefully Anonymous : This is the response I get for saying that you're not a troll and that you add value to the thread?
Wasn't your statement "less unnuanced ad hominem, please" adressed to me?
Because Michael Vassar is a singulatarian and wanted you removed from the thread as a troll does not follow that "singulatarians love censorship".
Oh! It was just an "incorrect assessment", yeah?Though my view that singulatarians love censorship is an ad hominem?Can you explain the "rationale" in your distinction?
I certainly stand by my assertion that singulatarians love censorship and are unable to provide solid arguments for the plausibility of the Singularity.I have been banned from Michael Anissimov blog on the ground that "this is not the place to criticize Singularity, love it or leave it", LOL...I also had fruitless discussions with Kaj Sotala, though not banned, some singularitarians are more honest that others.You'll probably see another ad hominem in the above sentence, so please tell me which word I can use to call attention to the fact that refusing to engage in argumentation on contentious points is a conspicuous feature of intellectual dishonesty.
Nanotech debate! Time to pick a side of the rope and pull on it.
Kevembuangga,This is the response I get for saying that you're not a troll and that you add value to the thread?1. It wasn't an ad hominem for Michael Vassar to say you were trolling on the thread. It was just an incorrect assessment in my opinion -a real troll would be as annoying for you as for me or him, because a real troll is essentially spamming and wasting all of our times. It's usefully descriptive, not attacking, to point out real trolls. I just agree with you that he was wrong in identifying you as a troll.2. Because Michael Vassar is a singulatarian and wanted you removed from the thread as a troll does not follow that "singulatarians love censorship".3. It is unnuanced to claim "singulatarians love censorship".4. This sort of stuff distracts from your very interesting analysis and critiques. More baby, less bathwater, please.
Hmm, who is trying to shoehorn whom here? While I personally take a pro-nanotech, individualistic stance, I think the issue brought up by the paper is valid regardless of your political or nanotech stance. If its conclusions hold, good technologies might not be developed and bad ones might be because of how they fit with dominant cultural schematas. Isn't that something everybody who likes to overcome bias would like to work against?
If the acceptance or rejection of technology is done without reference to the actual content of the technology in case, it is almost certainly an irrational act. There might be some diffusely encoded information in cultural systems that actually do contribute some rational information to this kind of decision-making (e.g. the often true fact that a fix that doesn't correct an underlying problem will be less efficient than a fix that does, so any technology that sounds like a superficial fix should be suspect) but I think it tends to be rather limited. Even by the standards of social values it is irrational to not examine the content of a largely unknown technology to see how good or bad it is - the collectivist/individualist relevance of nanotechnology or cognition enhancement are pretty nontrivial when examined, and just assuming without examination that it will be good or bad for whatever goal one has is just as irrational as making assumptions about its safety.
The problems with doing a rational, careful examination of a new technology are of course sizeable in themselves. That is why I'm not too keen on the kind of loose throwing around of statements we would get in this thread if we tried to apply it to analyse nanotechnology per se. There are far better forums for that elsewhere, or we could create a dedicated thread for trying to understand the biases affecting nanotechnology evaluation per se.
Anders Sandberg: Overcoming Bias is probably better for discussing the biases in thinking that occur when new technology is considered than actually considering the technology itself.
From your own contributions in this thread and comments it doesn't look so.Trying to shoehorn the pro/con debate about nanotech into a simplistic, one axis value statement, democratic/individualistic (good) versus authoritarian/collectivist (baaad, commies and fascists..) is not very enlightening.It sounds more of plain pro-nanotech propaganda or, could it be the result of some bias of yours?Furthermore, bickering about non existent and implausible technologies (advanced nanotech, not just buckyballs, smart paints or photocells) reminds of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin".
Hopefully Anonymous : More nuanced criticism, less unnuanced ad hominem, please.
Oh! Yeah?So, calling me a troll isn't ad hominem?And asking for censorship is "nuanced criticism"?Michael Vassar is a well known singularitarian.Am I wrong on this, is "singularitarian" an epithet?Denouncing the obvious love of singularitarians for censorship and their lack of solid arguments about the plausibility of the Singularity is "unnuanced"?This reeks of double standards!!!
Does it matter at all for this discussion whether [x] can work?
Anders, this is basic to my points above. Fundamentally, people come to agree, and cooperate, on the basis of similar values in the present. Goals are second-order, dependent on a framework of expectation, defined in terms of values, and set in the uncertain future.
William,It's a good question. I don't find the argument "because it hasn't already evolved, it can't alreay exist" very compelling either. Although I do think there are species with functional radar (bats), so that may not be the best example.
I think overcomingbias could adopt a trick from dailykos and have regular "open threads", or also sponsor a message board where we could develop our own threads rather than hijack existing ones when side interesting topics come up.
Anders Sandberg: nice entry! My compliments to you.
(There must be some more appropriate place to discuss this question, and I for one will be happy to leave if someone points it out, and might even try to bite my tongue until someone does. But first...)
Just because evolution is very clever with carbon and water doesn't mean that bacteria are anywhere near the end of the line in tiny self-reproducing forms.Look at the macroscopic technical stuff we've come up with that never seems to appear in macroscopic organisms: radio and radar, for instance, or all sorts of structural materials that neither plants nor animals use, or fast transistor switches instead of the crazy tricks the brain uses to try to compensate for neuron slowness in important subsystems (for stereo hearing, e.g.). Do you think that radio wouldn't be a competitive advantage to some species of animals, or that it is fundamentally chemically impractical to grow a radio organ? I think a more likely explanation is that evolution can't get from here to there in any reasonable time.
Also, even accepting a limitation to carbon and water, various fundamental things in the design of life look to me like local optima far from global optima. Ribosomes built largely out of RNA, for example. Something radically different could be more efficient. How does one place a bound on much more efficient?
Does it matter at all for this discussion whether nanotechnology can work? I am pretty certain that if the study had asked people about their views of nonexistent technologies like tautotechnology and hexatechnology, or classical but not widely known technologies like fluidistors, people would have given the same answers. The issue here is that for many people facts don't matter as much as putting concepts they encounter into the ideological/cultural frameworks they already have.
Hopefully we (and relevant decisionmakers) care about the facts of the matter, but when it comes to debate Overcoming Bias is probably better for discussing the biases in thinking that occur when new technology is considered than actually considering the technology itself.