From WP admire thread: Knowing Solutions and not Acting

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cubedemon6073
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09 Nov 2012, 11:11 am

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3. People who already know the solution to their problem, but won't do anything until an infinite number of others give the same solution.


Fnord stated as well and I assume others believe this. I have further questions for him and others with these thoughts.

1. Why is this wrong to do when one does it to have an excellent amount of members in a sample space? Why would one take one person's advice without fact checking it with multiple sources? Does Barack Obama do this? Did George W. Bush or any other president do this? Does he take everyone one of his advisor's piece of advice and always use their advice and follow their advice? No, Barack Obama and other presidents weigh the facts and all of the advice given and come to their own judgements and conclusions. Why wouldn't one do this as well?

2. Even then doesn't one still have to weigh it through sound logic and reasoning? Let's say 1 billion people give the same advice. Does this mean all 1 billion people who give this same advice is correct and sound advice? Isn't this called a fallacy of the appeal to the masses? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum



AngelRho
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09 Nov 2012, 11:42 am

The appeal to majority fallacy is committed when someone tries to convince an opponent of something because "millions of registered voters/Linux users/whatever can't be wrong" when, in fact, they CAN be wrong. I think what you're seeing is that when holdouts fear going along with a questionable action, seeing billions of people do whatever it is someone fears doing might help them feel better about doing that themselves. It might be right. It might be wrong. But billions of people say this or do that and they seem to have turned out just fine. So, right or wrong, maybe if they don't get hurt, neither will I. It's not so much about weighing a rational decision against an irrational one, but rather more about risk/benefit analysis.

You can, for example, make a perfectly rational decision and still have a piano drop on your head. You can also be completely irrational and do things or make decisions without doing any harm to yourself or anyone else.

Also, if billions of people get away with doing something, based on probability you would likely be just as able to get away with it yourself. Sure, you might be that "one in a billion." But spending your day worrying about that is a waste of good, productive time.



cubedemon6073
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13 Nov 2012, 9:20 am

AngelRho wrote:
The appeal to majority fallacy is committed when someone tries to convince an opponent of something because "millions of registered voters/Linux users/whatever can't be wrong" when, in fact, they CAN be wrong. I think what you're seeing is that when holdouts fear going along with a questionable action, seeing billions of people do whatever it is someone fears doing might help them feel better about doing that themselves. It might be right. It might be wrong. But billions of people say this or do that and they seem to have turned out just fine. So, right or wrong, maybe if they don't get hurt, neither will I. It's not so much about weighing a rational decision against an irrational one, but rather more about risk/benefit analysis.

You can, for example, make a perfectly rational decision and still have a piano drop on your head. You can also be completely irrational and do things or make decisions without doing any harm to yourself or anyone else.

Also, if billions of people get away with doing something, based on probability you would likely be just as able to get away with it yourself. Sure, you might be that "one in a billion." But spending your day worrying about that is a waste of good, productive time.


Oh ok, I misunderstood what this fallacy said then.



AngelRho
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13 Nov 2012, 11:40 am

cubedemon6073 wrote:
AngelRho wrote:
The appeal to majority fallacy is committed when someone tries to convince an opponent of something because "millions of registered voters/Linux users/whatever can't be wrong" when, in fact, they CAN be wrong. I think what you're seeing is that when holdouts fear going along with a questionable action, seeing billions of people do whatever it is someone fears doing might help them feel better about doing that themselves. It might be right. It might be wrong. But billions of people say this or do that and they seem to have turned out just fine. So, right or wrong, maybe if they don't get hurt, neither will I. It's not so much about weighing a rational decision against an irrational one, but rather more about risk/benefit analysis.

You can, for example, make a perfectly rational decision and still have a piano drop on your head. You can also be completely irrational and do things or make decisions without doing any harm to yourself or anyone else.

Also, if billions of people get away with doing something, based on probability you would likely be just as able to get away with it yourself. Sure, you might be that "one in a billion." But spending your day worrying about that is a waste of good, productive time.


Oh ok, I misunderstood what this fallacy said then.

You're on the right track, though. Think of it more in terms of scientific observation and inductive logic. Let's say you take a random sample of 4 cats. Each of those 4 cats eat mice. So you'd logically conclude "cats eat mice." Ok, so let's say you expand your sample to 5 cats, and the 5th cat eats grass or a houseplant. So you're conclusion would be adjusted somewhat, like "80% of cats eat mice," or perhaps "cats eat mice most of the time." You'd be making an error if you said "80% of all cats always eat mice and 20% of all cats always eat plants." Why? Because your sample doesn't include "all cats," nor are your observations truly capable of showing what cats do all the time in all situations.

An appeal to majority is "billions of people can't be wrong" happens when it can be shown that billions of people CAN be wrong.

But when you can induce that "billions of people are right x% of the time," you can prognosticate your own chances of taking advice and remaining unscathed. You just can't make the mistake of assuming that will always be the case. And you can't use that in absolute terms to make your case. I don't mean to say that there are NO absolutes, just that we have to have discerning minds to understand the difference.

It's like saying you should buy x-brand toothpaste because 9 out of 10 dentists recommend it; moreover, these 9 dentists are the top ranked dentists on the planet. Now you've got an appeal to majority AND an appeal to authority. Based on the info you have, there's a pretty good chance it's a pretty good toothpaste. So what about dentist #10? Perhaps this guy knows that there's an unusual ingredient that might make your hair fall out, your nutsack to shrivel up, and slight chance of mouth cancer and stomach ulcers. If this is the case, then maybe those 9 dentists aren't credible in THIS case--and who knows? Maybe the R&D for the manufacturer hired those 10 dentists and 1 of them has a huge integrity streak. If the 10th guy is right and has the evidence to back up his claims, I don't care who the other 9 are. I'm not buying that toothpaste!