Open threads at the Open Thread tab every Sunday and Wednesday

Links for April

This may be the most adorable article on Wikipedia: bubuti system: “The Bubuti system is the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights. Under the Bubuti System if someone is approached and says ‘I bubuti you for your shirt’, that person is obliged to give you their shirt. However the next day you can go to the person now wearing your shirt and say ‘I bubuti you for your lantern’, and now you have yourself a lantern.” But if you look at the sources, beyond the adorable exterior is a horrible reality. Apparently anyone being able to ask for and receive the property of anyone else works just as well as economists would predict.

If you want to know how the Supreme Court case on gay marriage is going, this “transcript” hits probably the perfect balance between hilarity and accuracy.

There are a lot of maps of hypothetical alternate divisions of the United States, but here’s a really cool idea I’d never thought about before: empirically determined economic regions of the US based on movement of dollar bills.

This Kickstarter-for-scientific-studies is the best idea since, well, the original Kickstarter: Microryza. You know those alternative medicine people who are always complaining about how ginger or cinnamon or something cures cancer, but the pharma companies won’t fund a study to look into it so they can’t prove it? If every one of them donates a couple of dollars to study it, that’s enough money for a study right there.

This story about the new SimCity seems unwilling-to-denounce-it-as-horrible enough that I suspect it might be some kind of paid shill for EA. But it’s a very very good paid shill, relating as it does the story of 6 teams of professional urban designers set head-to-head to play SimCity 6.

Florida DJs almost faced felony charges for claiming their city’s water system contained dihydrogen monoxide.

More proof that the science of psychology is just a big competition to see who can be more gratuitiously evil to research subjects: a replication of the Milgram experiment was performed making people give real electric shocks to a puppy. The listed results are confusing, but apparently women were much more willing to shock the puppy then men were?

More good controlled research on gender discrimination: scientists rate abstracts with male author names higher than abstracts with female author names. On the other hand, it also found the same thing all the other studies find: women are just as likely to do this as men. And although the report goes out of its way to obfuscate this, it sounds like they might have found the opposite pattern in subjects believed to be more stereotypically female. This seems to confirm my current pattern of thinking on gender issues, which is that they are real and important, but the standard narrative of “It’s all about men oppressing women” hides the fact that it’s more about both women and men working together to enforce norms that some areas should be male and others should be female. Which of course is pretty bad in itself.

I mentioned that I have trouble remembering how crazy the rest of the world is about polyamory, so as a reminder, here is a Reddit thread on whether people would let their SOs sleep with their celebrity crushes, assuming the opportunity became available.

I am very suspicious of their statistics, but I like the thought behind it: Science Heroes ranks scientists by how many lives they saved. They claim that twenty scientists have saved over a hundred million lives (although they give multiple people credit for the same discovery, which complicates things somewhat).

OH GOD YES: Sao Paulo bans all outdoor advertising. With before-and-after pictures of the city. WHY AREN’T WE ALL DOING THIS?

Speaking of urban beautification: a new LED streetlight may be able to cut light pollution by 98%. I hope the result looks something like this.

Person Who Thinks They Have Found The Neurological Correlate Of Consciousness Of The Day: Guilio Tononi.

An appropriately concise tourism guide to the 25 Least Visited Countries In The World. I have been to exactly zero of them, which makes me feel sad and inferior.

Reddit/r/worldnews has recently had a bit of a spat between people who think North Korea is tragic and people who think it is hilarious. I am sympathetic to both sides; they are certainly a nightmare and my heart aches for anyone who has to live there, but then again, there’s this North Korean threat against “Colorado Springs”.

Result of previous medical research: People in the Southern US are very fat! Results of more up-to-date medical research Everyone is very fat, and people in the Southern US are very honest!

If you haven’t read Wikipedia’s List of Shibboleths, do it now before the Belgians kill you for mispronouncing “shield”.

Someone has finally quantified how many lives nuclear power saves. Answer: About 70,000 per year, mostly through preventing the construction of coal power plants that cause lung disease. Over the last half-century of nuclear power it’s probably saved about 1.8 million lives. BUT WE STILL NEED TO CLOSE DOWN ALL NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS RIGHT AWAY BECAUSE THE FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT INJURED THIRTY SEVEN PEOPLE

Finally online college is starting to take off.

However, this article claims that despite the gloomy talk about young people’s debt levels, young people today actually have the lowest amount of debt in 20 years. It’s just that today’s debt is college loans as opposed to the houses and cars of the past, and this is probably economically healthier. Someone who actually understands economics, tell me why this is wrong, will you?

I’m a bit confused by this study – well, beyond the normal amount I’m confused by studies where I can’t access the full text. It seems to claim that going to a more selective college doesn’t help lifetime prospects, but going to a more expensive college does (and that this isn’t just a result of confounding with students’ social class). Anyone want to explain it to me?

I don’t usually link to random atheism blogs, but Dan Fincke has an unusually good piece (mostly the second half) about why atheists resent the concept of Hell. I would add to it that while healthy people are able to laugh it off, a lot of mental patients end up obsessively terrified of it. I don’t know whether in the absence of stories about Hell they would find something else to be obsessively terrified about, but Hell does seem to be a particularly nasty meme for them.

We’ve known for a while that sleep deprivation effectively treats depression, but it’s hard to maintain and not always that much better than being depressed. Now scientists want to make sleep deprivation in pill form.

One of the more consistent results in epidemiology is that moderate drinking has a positive effect on lifetime health, so of course here’s a new study to challenge that (popular article version)

TVTropes’ page on how lightning is used as a lazy plot device for causing random miraculous effects nevertheless links to this real-life article on how a blind man struck by lightning was suddenly able to see again.

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66 Responses to Links for April

  1. Vanzetti says:

    >>>I’m a bit confused by this study – well, beyond the normal amount I’m confused by studies where I can’t access the full text.

    Use sci-hub.org

    Insert the link to access any scientific article. Be careful though, even tvtropes doesn’t match the addiction power of Nature, Science and Cell… 🙂

    Brought to you by russian hackers.

  2. Deiseach says:

    If they did a study giving shocks to psychology researchers, I’d volunteer to participate (as one of the shockers, not the shockees).

    What confuses me is the sleep deprivation thing – how can not getting enough sleep be helpful? Although I know that one effect of being depressed is that it makes you want to sleep more, so maybe it’s less “sleep deprivation” and more “sleep balance”?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      No, this is genuine sleep deprivation – I’ve seen some sources recommend 24-36 hours without sleep.

      According to the article, it’s helpful because one of the chemicals that builds up in the brain to signal sleep deprivation seems to be an effective natural antidepressant.

      • I was wondering if there’s something wrong with the way depressives sleep.

        • anon1 says:

          When you’re depressed, the feeling of sleep pressure (being forcefully shoved out of consciousness) is incredibly pleasant. But I have the impression that sleep deprivation causes euphoria in most people, not just depressed ones.

          Do they know whether different receptors are responsible for the elevated mood than for the sleep pressure, memory problems, and so on?

        • Army1987 says:

          (I’m not depressed.) Whenever I’ve gone that long without sleeping, the feeling of sleepiness does seem to be eventually replaced by a weird feeling of lightheartedness.

        • anon1 says:

          Also it seems implausible to me that any newly-developed compound that elevates mood consistently in both depressed and non-depressed people would remain legal for long.

  3. Vanzetti says:

    >>>but apparently women were much more willing to shock the puppy then men were?

    I can’t believe “to shock the puppy” is not an euphemism for something. This oversight must be corrected.

    • B_For_Bandana says:

      On average, ovulating women were more willing to shock the puppy, for obvious evo-psych reasons.

  4. woopwoop says:

    Am I just one of the only people who never looks at online usernames/news bylines/article authors? I mean, if I’m told to look for such and such author for a paper, then I’ll know it, but otherwise I don’t really look until the end.

    I keep seeing study after study showing that people rate things worse with female-coded bylines, which confounds me because I basically never look at bylines.

    • Vanzetti says:

      You are not alone. Unless woopwoop is a female name. 🙂

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I don’t think I can tell you the author of any of the papers on this post (except the nuclear power one, because the article made a big deal about him).

      Maybe if you’re doing it as part of a research study, you put a lot of effort into making it prominent? Either bold in big type, or you hand the person the paper and say “Here’s Jennifer Smith’s latest research paper. You know, Jennifer Smith? No? Well, here’s her paper.”

  5. BenSix says:

    The Wikipedia page for that variation on the Milgram experiment describes the electric shocks as “harmless”, while Sheridan and King’s paper reports that they did not do “serious harm” but were distressing enough to cause the puppy to run, yelp and howl. Perhaps the editor of the page would allow me to pull their earlobes, tug their hair and give them kicks up the arse. It’s harmless, after all!

  6. JJJ says:

    This is really 101 question, but when does unjustified discrimination become unjust discrimination?

    Many people justify anti-incest laws because they believe incest results in higher birth defects. But since these laws were enacted, we’ve discovered that having your cousin’s baby is no more dangerous than having a baby when you’re over 40. And besides, virtually no one thinks people with inheritable chronic condition (even serious conditions) should be barred from marriage. So why not legalize marriage between cousins?
    So when my liberal friends say they think cousin marriage should be illegal, can I smugly compare them to Strong Thurmond and Fred Phelps? Or is this one of those cases where people can irrationally discriminate against minorities without being bigots?
    Bonus question: If the Supreme Court doesn’t have to respect the precedent of its 1971 ruling on gay marriage, why should it have to respect the precedent of its 1973 ruling on abortion?

    • Sam Rosen says:

      I had a statistics TA in college find out that his friend’s girlfriend was also the friend’s first cousin. (The two branches of the family didn’t talk to each other.) The couple only found out this fact when the families were making plans for an engagement party.

      When the TA told this story, the class was disgusted and they erroneously thought that first-cousin marriages were illegal in the US.

      I had to politely contradict the class and point out that:
      A) First-cousin marriages are legal in quite a few US states.
      B) Cousin marriages are quite common worldwide. (Marriages between first and second cousins account for over 10% of marriages worldwide.)
      C) Charles Darwin married his first cousin.
      D) Having your cousin’s child is no more dangerous than having a baby when you’re over 40.

      I was incredibly disappointed by how my classmates responded to the thought of cousin marriage. It is the most stark case of what Haidt calls “moral dumbfounding” I have seen.

    • Deiseach says:

      I thought marriage between cousins was legal? Heck, you can even get a dispensation within the degrees of consanguinity from the bishop to do so – my aunt married her cousin (had the same surname, so no change of name there).

      If you are trying to make the case “Well, if cousins, why not half-siblings? And if half-siblings, why not full siblings?” then be more direct about your intention. Or sneakier – don’t make what sounds like a slippery slope argument.

      And if you’re not trying to make that case, but you really do want to marry your cousin, then good luck!

    • ozymandias42 says:

      I weakly predict a People Who Want To Marry Their Cousins Rights Movement in a hundred years or so. (Although I’m not sure how many people want to marry their cousins, and in general it seems to be easier to make rights movements happen if you can argue that a group of people was born that way, which is probably not the case for cousin-marriers.)

      Incest gets a *really* bad rap because of parent/child incest (which you could definitely make a case for being always nonconsensual the way boss/employee relationships are always nonconsensual) and because a lot of cases of incest are pedophiliac as well.

      • JJJ says:

        “I weakly predict a People Who Want To Marry Their Cousins Rights Movement in a hundred years or so.”

        On what basis? Remember, society used to be MORE tolerant of cousin marriage, not less. More generally, it’s entirely possible for a country to become more sexually restrictive, see pictures of pre-revolution Iran.

      • JJJ says:

        Incest gets a *really* bad rap because of parent/child incest (which you could definitely make a case for being always nonconsensual the way boss/employee relationships are always nonconsensual) and because a lot of cases of incest are pedophiliac as well.

        There’s no crime called “having sex your workplace subordinate.” Rather, the fact that you’re sex partner is your subordinate makes it easier to charge you with rape or sexual harassment. I’d would be in favor of holding parent/child sex to a higher standard of consent, just like we hold boss/subordinate sex to a higher standard. But charging a rapist with incest instead of rape makes it seem like the genes were the issue, not the lack of consent.

      • ozymandias42 says:

        I don’t see a consistent argument for allowing gay marriage and not allowing cousin marriage; however, it is possible things will change more in the direction of “but it’s SQUICKY” being considered a valid moral argument.

        Your point about boss/employee is fair: I retract the boss/employee analogy and replace it with prison guard/prisoner, which is (in my home state, Florida) always considered rape.

        • JJJ says:

          Thanks for commenting Ozy!

        • im says:

          I generally view anything closer than first cousins with such horror that I cannot make and do not desire to make logical arguments or even coherent strategies to protect it.

      • Army1987 says:

        FWIW, in Italian there’s a rhyming proverb about there being nothing more divine that fucking one’s cousin. (But AFAICT few people take it seriously.)

    • Mary says:

      Well, whatever the reason for prohibiting cousin marriages is, it can’t be merely to prevent inbreeding since many cultures that prohibit parallel cousins from marrying, no matter how distantly related they are, also regard the cross cousin as the ideal marriage partner.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      First of all, may I ask what in this post brought up that question?

      Second of all, while you are no doubt right about birth defects, there is some evidence it lowers IQ, and although I’m not sure I think the effects get worse over every generation (that is, if you marry your cousin and have a kid, and that kid marries their cousin and has a kid, that second kid is going to be in even worse trouble). So I would expect it to have some deleterious social effects if everyone started doing it. For much more speculative thoughts on cousin marriage, see here.

    • Doug S. says:

      Marriage between first cousins actually is legal in a number of U.S. states.

    • Fnord says:

      Same-sex marriage bans cut off a huge population from your potential marriage pool. Incest bans (and bans based on a specific non-blood relationship, like stepparent-child) cut off only a small pool of potential partners.

      That said, I don’t think first cousin marriage should be illegal, though closer kinships might be another story.

  7. Douglas Knight says:

    The alcohol study is no way opposed to the claim that moderate drinking is good for your health. It merely says that the years lost to heavy drinking outnumber the years gained to moderate drinking. In fact, most of the paper is simply totaling the cancer cost, ignoring the cardiovascular benefit (and the cost in accidents, suicide, and homicide, the cost most relevant to your readers). Even moderate drinking is believed to increase cancer risk, just less than it decreases cardiovascular risk.

    —-

    The nuclear article claims that the past half-century only saved 1.8 million lives, not 7. Indeed, at the current rate of 70k/year, it would take a full century to get there. The 7 million figure seems to be about the future half-century, if nuclear is greatly expanded. The popular article says that the technical article talks about Germany and implies that it replaced nuclear with coal. As far as I know, Germany replaced nuclear with wind and solar. Perhaps you can say that Germany nuclear was replaced by whatever its neighbors used, as an alternative would be to export electricity, but the claim seems false as stated.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Corrected the nuclear part.

      I admit I haven’t looked through the alcohol paper yet, but I’m confused by your description. Is it claiming that lives lost due to cancer > lives gained due to cardiovascular disease? Or is it pointing out that lots of lives are lost to cancer and ignoring cardiovascular disease?

      Bah, I should probably just read it.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        They’re comparing abstinence to the existing world. Moderate drinking is not on the table.

        Also, they’re just counting cancers, not all costs, not any benefits. Only in one sentence do they say that the total population cardiovascular benefit is 1/10 of the cancer cost.

      • Alex Schell says:

        The paper ignores everything that’s not cancer, and finds that there is no non-zero cancer-safe threshold. Not news.

    • gwern says:

      > As far as I know, Germany replaced nuclear with wind and solar.

      It didn’t. The point about fungibility aside (Germany is right next to a country with a very vital nuclear industry), Germany has also replaced nuclear with coal: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/germanys-make-or-break-energy-experiment/2011/06/06/AGr2RLOH_story.html

      > More than a dozen new coal-burning plants were already planned around Germany over the next several years, many of them cleaner replacements for old plants that have reached the end of their life spans. Several investment firms said they expected that the country would emit hundreds of millions more tons of carbon dioxide over the next 10 years, driving up price forecasts for European-wide carbon-emissions permits.Even as Merkel promised to hold to emissions targets, she said she wanted to greatly expand the generating capacity of fossil-fuel-burning plants. “At least 10, more likely 20, additional gigawatts have to be built in the next 10 years,” Merkel said — more than a tenth of the country’s current capacity.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe-consuming-more-coal/2013/02/07/ec21026a-6bfe-11e2-bd36-c0fe61a205f6_print.html

      > In Germany, which by some measures is pursuing the most wide-ranging green goals of any major industrialized country, a 2011 decision to shutter nuclear power plants means that domestically produced lignite, also known as brown coal, is filling the gap . Power plants that burn the sticky, sulfurous, high-emissions fuel are running at full throttle, with many tallying 2012 as their highest-demand year since the early 1990s. Several new coal power plants have been unveiled in recent months — even though solar panel installations more than doubled last year. …Demand for coal in Germany has been rising since a May 2011 move to phase out nuclear power by 2022. The shutdown was spurred by the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan as well as long-standing German concerns about safety. But nuclear energy, which is low in greenhouse gas emissions, has been partially replaced by brown coal. Lignite supplied 25.6 percent of Germany’s electricity in 2012, up from 22.7 percent in 2010. Hard black coal supplied an additional 19.1 percent last year, and it was also on the rise.

      About the best one can say is that nuclear wasn’t *completely* replaced by coal. Just partially.

      More links can be found in Google News under ‘germany coal power’.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Here are more complete numbers. No net change in fossil fuels, in either 2011 or 2012. There is a shift from gas to coal. Maybe they’ve run out of renewable projects and future shift from nuclear will be to coal.

  8. Thanks for the link, Scott. I agree that the second half of my post is better than the first. I am just writing to say I think your tagline “WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE, CHARITY FOR ALL, CONFUSION ABOUT MOST, SECRET CRUSHES ON A FEW, AND MINIATURE FLAGS FOR OTHERS!” is awesome.

  9. Andrew Rettek says:

    “However, this article claims that despite the gloomy talk about young people’s debt levels, young people today actually have the lowest amount of debt in 20 years. It’s just that today’s debt is college loans as opposed to the houses and cars of the past, and this is probably economically healthier. Someone who actually understands economics, tell me why this is wrong, will you?”

    The first issue that jumped out at me about this article is that “the college premium is getting higher and higher”. If you believe that a lot of the job benefit of college degrees are from signalling, ie many jobs don’t require that level of education, but it’s easier to require a diploma than to look through all those resumes, then people are turning down absolute goods for positional goods en masse. Such a trade is very bad from a societal level.

    • Randy M says:

      It’s not a bad thing if you work in university. It is a bad thing if you want to build or sell houses or cars.
      Also, though, did it really work out when some people were buying houses they couldn’t afford?

      • ThrustVectoring says:

        It’s also a bad thing if you want to buy or have houses or cars.

        All else equal, you’re better off in absolute terms with a car and a house than a piece of paper saying that you’re smart enough and hard working enough to graduate from college.

    • Eric Rall says:

      My first thought was that house and car debt implies owning a house or a car — a tangible asset with direct utility and resale value. A college education is an asset, too, but an intangible one and one that’s far less liquid and more difficult to value.

      Whether college debt should be viewed as alarming or not depends on the actual value of the human capital that that debt was incurred acquiring.

  10. Sniffnoy says:

    Naturally, the first comment on Reddit explains why the lighting thing is nothing new. Or at least asserts that it is.

  11. Randy M says:

    “But if you look at the sources, beyond the adorable exterior is a horrible reality”
    I assume you have very little stuff? Come to think of it, I don’t really, either (compared to my local average, I guess) but I still don’t see the appeal of an obligation to give anything to someone simply for blowing a raspberry in one’s direction.

    I posted a link to a discussion of that obesity study in another of your threads, I’m glad you noted it. Quite amusing; how much common knowledge is based on random surveys?

  12. Mary says:

    Life is a comedy to those of us who think, and a tragedy to those of us who feel.

    Even life in North Korea.

  13. ThrustVectoring says:

    >However, this article claims that despite the gloomy talk about young people’s debt levels, young people today actually have the lowest amount of debt in 20 years. It’s just that today’s debt is college loans as opposed to the houses and cars of the past, and this is probably economically healthier. Someone who actually understands economics, tell me why this is wrong, will you?

    It’s a bad thing because people are better off taking on debt to buy durable goods such as houses and cars rather than taking on debt to get a fancy piece of paper.

    In other words, it’s a bad thing because young folks want cars and houses, but can’t afford to buy them. They “could” go even further in debt to buy a car or a house, but can’t afford to service that kind of debt level.

    And furthermore, people who don’t own a house tend to, you know, rent. Which is a monthly payment that the landlord then turns around and uses to service their debt on the building. Sure, rent isn’t structured as debt, but it competes for resources in much the same way (ie, mandatory periodic payments).

    Finally, automobile loans and mortgages are naturally secured debt. Student loans are only nominally secured by being non-dischargable in bankruptcy. If people go into debt to buy houses and then cannot afford the debt load, well, at least there’s still the house. If people go into debt to buy an education and then cannot afford the debt load, they’re completely screwed.

  14. Sapolsky lecture which includes the claim that maximum fertility happens in marriages between third or fourth cousins.

    *****

    One more shift in marriage customs– marriages with a large age difference (especially older man/younger woman) used to be more socially acceptable.

  15. Doug S. says:

    However, this article claims that despite the gloomy talk about young people’s debt levels, young people today actually have the lowest amount of debt in 20 years. It’s just that today’s debt is college loans as opposed to the houses and cars of the past, and this is probably economically healthier. Someone who actually understands economics, tell me why this is wrong, will you?

    You can sell a house if you can’t pay your mortgage, but you can’t sell your degree?

  16. houseboatonstyx says:

    Perhaps off topic for this entry, but it’s your sort of topic.

    http://www.rnzcgp.org.nz/assets/documents/Publications/JPHC/June-2012/JPHCGuestEditorialGreenhalghJune2012.pdf

    In every case, the practitioner
    must reason not from the general to the particular
    but from the particular to the general—abduction
    rather than deduction. [….]
    But the skilled practice of
    medicine is not merely about knowing the rules,
    but about deciding which rule is most relevant. [….]
    The British Thoracic Society has a rule that a
    patient presenting with a cough should have their
    chest examined and peak flow rate measured.
    The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims
    of Torture has a rule that patients scarred by
    unimaginable abuse should not be subjected to
    procedures that they may experience as traumatic
    unless the reasons for doing so are over-riding.
    These competing rules must be weighed against
    each other with the patient’s best interests in
    mind. The question of whether, on this occasion,
    the patient in front of me should be asked to strip
    to the waist and say ‘ah’ will not be answered by
    the evidence-based guideline which the A-grade
    student keeps at his or her finger tips.

  17. Curly says:

    I will only support your campaign to end public advertising if you include an exemption for neon signs. Honestly, it’s like you don’t even *want* to live in a dystopian sci-fi future.

  18. Douglas Knight says:

    Yes, São Paulo looks better without the signs, but is it useable?

    From the before and after picture, it looks like they eliminated 90% of storefront signage. That seems to me to be the most defensible kind of advertising, by which I mean the kind that I use all the time. I need signs to find stores, even ones that I’ve been to several times. It’s more important for finding stores I haven’t visited, not to mention ones I don’t know about. Maybe smartphones and actually displaying street numbers would make up for it. Or maybe enough signage is allowed.

  19. April says:

    OMG… a page of links just for me! Thank you Scott!

  20. Leonard says:

    both women and men working together to enforce norms that some areas should be male and others should be female. Which of course is pretty bad in itself.

    Sustaining gender norms is bad? Why? Is it evil that men are dominant in the fields of “political communication, computers, news and journalism”? Is it wrong that women are more interested in “children, parenting and body image”? Or is the evil that people (or rather graduate students in communication) have noticed these aspects of the real world? Or is the evil that people use apriori information (aka “stereotypes”) to construct priors? Wait, I thought you were a lesswrong rationalist? Aren’t people supposed to be Bayesian reasoners?

    I might also point out that in asking people to rate a paper using a 150 world abstract, the researchers were dialing down the signal to a very low level. This comment is more than 150 words. Certainly one can say something in 150 words, but not that much. And the article you linked, at least, gives no hint as to how strong the effect was. Just that people rate male-authored articles in “male” areas “significantly higher”. “Significance” is a very low bar. Is this a little higher, or a lot?

    • ozymandias42 says:

      It is bad because there are some women who would be better at being journalists than at raising children, but instead are raising children, and some men who would be better at raising children than being a journalist, but instead are being journalists. This is an inefficient way of distributing talent.

      • Leonard says:

        You say that gender norms are bad because talent might be distributed poorly. Even allowing inefficiency as a problem (I thought the game was supposed to be utils per second?), the study in question is no evidence that it is the case. All that the study shows is that people are biased in a manner which is consistent with what you’d get from a correct application of Bayesian reasoning. If you give a Bayesian reasoner very little information, you should expect to discover his stereotypes. Indeed, if you give a Bayesian reasoner zero information (which is almost what they did), you should expect to discover only his stereotypes.

        So how would one design an experiment to distinguish between correct Bayesian reasoning and incorrect reasoning? I’d suggest a multiple stage approach. First you give your subjects the 150-word abstracts (that is, a small amount of information). Then you sample their opinions. Second, you give them the full paper. (More info.) Then you sample again. Ideally you might then add a third stage, perhaps a second paper by the purported authors. And again sample opinion. The bigotry theory of gender norms suggests that more information will not change the opinions of the subjects: they know that women should not do math, dammit, because math is hard, even though this paper really is a pretty good result! The Bayesian theory suggests that more information will change their opinions.

    • Roxolan says:

      Or is the evil that people use apriori information (aka “stereotypes”) to construct priors? Wait, I thought you were a lesswrong rationalist? Aren’t people supposed to be Bayesian reasoners?

      Are you saying that it is *correct* to assume that male scientists write better scientific studies than female scientists? Or is it that you don’t think widespread bad priors are a bad thing, so long as one is using them to do proper Bayesian reasoning? Or am I misunderstanding you completely?

  21. Paul Torek says:

    Tononi’s view on consciousness is the first information-theoretic approach I’ve ever seen that has a plausible take on qualia. Which doesn’t mean it’s correct, but hey, at least it’s not functionalism.