Sunday, February 24, 2008

Disagreement Checklist

If you seem to disagree with someone about a factual statement, it's important to consider all four possible explanations:

1. The other person's conscious beliefs are incorrect.

2. Your conscious beliefs are incorrect.

3. The other person is deliberately deceiving you about his conscious beliefs.

4. You have the same conscious beliefs, but your understanding of what the other person is trying to say is incorrect, and you perceive a factual disagreement where none exists.

Obviously more than one of these can apply to a given situation.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Majoritarianism and the Efficient Market

Posit four cases where your opinion differs from the majority:

1a. You are considering what checkout counter to go to at the supermarket; there are no lines. You are about to go to counter A, where the cashier looks like he'd be faster, when you are told that 3/4 of the people who shop here use counter B instead when there are no lines.

1b. The checkout counters have long lines; counter B's line is three times as long as counter A. The line at counter B looks to be moving only twice a fast, so you feel inclined to use counter A.

2a. You are, bizarrely, forced to make a 50-50 bet on whether Sun Microsystems will make a profit this year. You are about to bet "yes", when you are informed that 3/4 of the people offered this bet said "no".

2b. You are forced to either sell short or buy long on Sun Microsystem's stock. You are about to buy long when you are informed that three times as many people have shorted the stock as have gone long on it.

Philosophical Majoritarianism suggests you consider changing your mind in cases 1a and 2a, but not 1b and 2b. The reason is that, to the degree that Majoritarianism is valid, it doesn't matter which you line you pick in 1b, or whether you buy or sell in case 2b; the majority decision, if wise, has washed out the difference, so Majoritarianism doesn't provide direct guidance on what to do.