Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alief > Belief

Perhaps you have heard of the mystery of the haunted rationalist – where the rationalist fears ghosts even though he believes that they don't exist.  Sometimes people have aliefs that cause them to act in ways inconsistent with their explicit beliefs

Because of this, it is important to judge people based on their implied beliefs instead of their professed beliefs. If your beautiful, accurate, and consistent belief network doesn't shape your anticipations and actions to get you more of what you want, then what is the point?
So in general, aliefs are more important than beliefs.  Beliefs may matter more than aliefs in far mode, which is worth keeping in mind since people occasionally do make important decisions in far mode.  But in general, all the action is in near mode.
Since alief driven anticipations are what matter for determining your effectiveness as a rationalist, we should stop pretending beliefs are important while brushing aliefs under the rug - closer to the opposite, if anything.  If you cut someone slack for being "a good rationalist with a belief->alief problem", then it's just that much less pressure to actually take your beliefs seriously. Likewise for a rationalist with "akrasia". I'm not saying that you need to shame someone for not working as hard as they say they want to (don't), just don't pretend to believe them when they act like that's what they 'really' want.

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