On Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 01:40:45PM +1300, LizR wrote:
> One problem, surely, in real life is not knowing what the other person's
> "utility function" is? So someone may behave apparently irrationally - e.g.
> giving away money - because their utility function involves making
> themselves feel good, or getting a reward in heaven, or they want to show
> off how generous they are to impress someone, or something else we don't
> know. So in practice it isn't even theoretically possible to know if
> someone else is behaving rationally a lot of the time.
> Personally, I think anyone without brain damage or mental illness will
> normally behave rationally according to their own lights. We call it
> cognitive dissonance when someone is unable to justify their beliefs or
> actions - they have found some contradiction within themselves - but they
> usually quickly act to reduce this, by changing their beliefs or doing
> something different. And it doesn't seem to happen very often, as far as I
> know, so it seems to me that most people are acting rationally according to
> their own utility functions most of the time.

Fair enough, but someone behaving deterministically can be modelled
quite effectively given sufficient study.

> By the way, I don't see how a random decision can be considered "irrational
> by definition". To say something is rational surely means there is a reason
> for doing it which "attempts to maximise the person's utility
> function"

That's not the definition. A rational agent is someone who always
chooses the optimal course of action, not that there might be a reason
for it.

> so making a random decision is rational so long as there is a good reason
> to do so - e.g. neither option seemed better, or a "leftfield" move
> confounded an opponent, or it was more important to make *some* decision
> quickly than to work out the best decision (as in the chess clock example)
> etc.


Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Principal, High Performance Coders
Visiting Professor of Mathematics      hpco...@hpcoders.com.au
University of New South Wales          http://www.hpcoders.com.au

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