[extropy-chat] Peak Oil meta-news

Robin Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Wed Mar 8 23:50:20 UTC 2006

At 02:07 PM 3/8/2006, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky  wrote:
> >>I venture to say that anyone who's studied Gold's fine book
> >>will significantly change his odds more towards the abiotic
> >>theory, (even if he retains probability at less than fifty percent).
> >
> > This can only be true on average for rational people if they do not believe
> > your claim.   If I believed you that my odds would go up after reading the
> > book, I would just raise my odds in anticipation of that, even if 
> I never read
> > the book.   If I am rational, I must expect that reading a book arguing for
> > a position on some subject will be as likely to move me away from that
> > position as to move me closer.  (More precisely my expected value of
> > my future expectation must equal my current expectation.)
>Robin, this is true, but I fear the way you phrased it may confuse
>people.  They may visualize picking up Gold's book, on Lee's
>recommendation, and being forced to believe that Gold's book, which
>contains many arguments *for* abiotic oil, must necessarily have a
>significant probability of leaving them *less* convinced of abiotic oil
>than they were before they ever heard of Gold's book. ...
>7)  When it is said that I must assign a balanced expectation to Gold's
>book increasing or decreasing my probability estimate of abiotic oil,
>this balance is estimated relative to my state of uncertainty as to
>whether Gold might have any good arguments, *not* relative to my
>pre-analysis state of having never heard of Gold. ...
>7b) For example, suppose that I hand Gold's book to someone after
>stripping off the cover, so the reader has no idea what the book is
>about.  It is quite reasonable for me to estimate an unbalanced
>expectation that Gold's book will shift their opinions in favor of
>prebiotic oil, rather than the converse.

Yes, this is all correct.  The news that there is a book many find interesting
that argues for a conclusion may well be bigger news than the news one
gets from reading the book itself.   For any news, you should expects that it
could just as well raise or lower your estimate on any topic.

Robin Hanson  rhanson at gmu.edu  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323 

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