At 02:15 PM 11/29/2003 -0500, Robin Hanson wrote:
On 11/26/2003 Wei Dai wrote:
> There certainly do seem to be some situations in which it can pay not be
> seen as "too clever by half".  But of course there are many other
> in which being clever pays well.  So unless the first set of
situations are
> more important than the second, it seems unlikely that evolution makes us
> dumb in general on purpose.

Perhaps the first set of situations is more important than you think. For
example, could the Holocaust (and anti-semitism in general) fall into that
category, given that Jews have a higher average IQ than gentiles? ...

That's pretty weak evidence, compared to the vast experience each of us has in using cleverness to better get along in the world.

If you need an example of being "too clever by half," go watch a low-stakes
Texas Hold'Em poker table in a casino.  I'm not going to recap how the game
works here, but suffice it to say that (with a slight exception) one can
choose to not play the hand dealt them and, in folding, not suffer any
pecuniary loss.  You'll see one or more players at the table doing exactly
that -- playing "tight": folding just about every hand, waiting until their
hand is exceptionally strong.  The other nine players may play more
loosely, hoping that their hand will improve (in a sense, to beat the odds
and get lucky).  But when the tight player stays in for a hand, after a
while everyone else folds, assuming that he'll win.

The pain of being clever -- that is, being smart enough to not trust
oneself to get lucky -- is that the others should be smart enough to
realize this before long, and one cannot win anything more than the blinds
(Hold'em speak for "ante").   The remedy for this ill is to play a bad hand
occassionally, or, if possible, to change tables.  But neither is all that

> The question instead is whether evolution
> was able to identify the particular topic areas where we were better off
> being dumber, so as to tailor our minds to be dumber mainly in those

I'd argue no, at least beyond a certain degree, because if you have
sufficient general intelligence, you can apply it to any area but still
fake being dumb in particular areas. The only way to convince others of
actually being dumb in those areas is to be dumb in general.

If you can fake being dumb in particular areas, why can't you fake being dumb in all areas?

I agree with Wei here, given enough experience with the other person. The problem with faking being dumb, at least in the poker analogy, is that sometimes, succeeding in doing so is a bad thing. The poker equivalent is playing a winning hand as if you're losing, hoping to draw in the person who has a strong hand. The problem is that you can only fake having a bad hand when you actually have a good one AND someone else does, and therefore you can't do it too often. If someone reverse-bluffs often enough, chances are a lot of times they simply don't have the winning hand. So, you need to play w/the same people to get a good taste for when they're reverse-bluffing and when they're not, but once you have that experience, you don't see a lot of successful reverses; the "strong" hand will stop raising the "winning" hand.


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