Expecting Short Inferential Distances in STEM theoretical communications

http://lesswrong.com/lw/kg/expecting_short_inferential_distances/

In the ancestral environment there were no abstract disciplines with vast bodies of carefully gathered evidence generalized into elegant theories transmitted by written books whose conclusions are a hundred inferential steps removed from universally shared background premises.

In the ancestral environment, anyone who says something with no obvious support, is a liar or an idiot.  You’re not likely to think, “Hey, maybe this guy has well-supported background knowledge that no one in my band has even heard of,” because it was a reliable invariant of the ancestral environment that this didn’t happen.

Conversely, if you say something blatantly obvious and the other person doesn’t see it, they’re the idiot, or they’re being deliberately obstinate to annoy you.

And to top it off, if someone says something with no obvious support and expects you to believe it – acting all indignant when you don’t – then they must be crazy….

I have a tactic which has greatly increased my scientific eloquence professionally. Expect I’m speaking to someone with the intelligence of a rather dim child (about 10yo) and jazz up the vocabulary as they become accustomed to the concepts. Be heavy-handed with metaphor and make fun little anecdotes or examples, which tend to stick in lt memory.

A clear argument has to lay out an inferential pathway, starting from what the audience already knows or accepts.  If you don’t recurse far enough, you’re just talking to yourself.

If you dumb yourself down to begin with, human nature means the other person will show off (every single time) and you can see their intelligence level in what they think is The Best (in fact their personal best), and also what they value to leverage in persuasion e.g. pieces of paper/academia/authority figures, empirical truth/data, moral outcomes/personal feelings.

Game Theory: Rock Paper Scissors

I came across a theory of Rock, Paper, Scissors I think it prudent to share.

  1. Rock: Power, brute force

    Littlefinger would own you at Rock Paper Scissors

    Weakness: dissolution of size and reduction of intensity.

  2. Paper: Money, covert force

    What happens to people who suddenly land a windfall

    Weakness: flexible personalized trickery to impose harsh limits on their gains.

  3. Scissors: Intellect, adaptive force

    Cutting remarks are the forte of the intellectual badass

    Weakness: arrogance of believing a quick cognitive reflex compensates for a strong standing or presence where physical limits are imposed.

This analysis of weaknesses explains the puzzled reaction to the rule that Paper beats Rock. Ideas carry a power all their own and the fractional fiat currency is a very big idea, isn’t it?

I could take the easy route and spout platitudes over old misquoted sayings… For the record, it is absolute power that corrupts absolutely, the love of money (above virtue) which is the Biblical root of all evil and there are no good quotes about intellect which don’t end in accusations of madness. Sherlock Holmes’ “I am a brain” is the closest, purist quote in circulation.

You could read into which is better but it depends largely on the cause of the problem and one’s personal strengths in approach. Intelligent people develop their minds at the expense of other abilities, powerful people develop into tyrannical brutes if given all they desire and we know the ways having money and holding it for a legacy can go wrong by idiom. Truth be told, there is a place for them all, and the wise person would build a passing familiarity with their weakest techniques and least preferable tactics for the much the same reason we’ve each done fire drills in the early hours.

Games are generally an exertion of adversarial forces intended to mimic war. Hence, chess is considered the Ultimate Game. It is deceptively simple, compared to point-and-press FPS fantasylands with unlimited ammo. If you lose your King, game over.

I like the idea of apparently ‘nice’ child games like RPS containing hidden significance.