Saturday, November 17, 2007

Simple math   posted by Razib @ 11/17/2007 11:44:00 PM

Over at Overcoming Bias Eliezer sings the praises of simple math. Steve was the first person to bring to my attention this phenomenon. For me, a little algebra, probability and statistics goes a long way in making one's thoughts more precise and rigorous (even one's own internal monologue). You can attempt this through pure verbal description, but unfortunately the precision may not be perceived the same from different vantage points. In other words, verbal arguments often tend to communicate different things to different people (or different things to the same person at different times) because of subtle and implicit semantic interpretations (the mental algebra obviously works out differently if the coefficients in front the variables vary from person to person). If you speak in cautious and specific philosophical language it may only clarify the misunderstandings further.* Another angle is that of simple data analysis. Half Sigma and Inductivist do this well. The data is out there, insight will come.

* This is confusing. Clarify misunderstandings? If two people are discussing a topic and their understanding of the terms is such that they have two different conceptions of what they are discussing, further specificity of the language won't necessarily bring them together, rather they simply clarify in their own minds their interpretation of the model.