1996-09-07 - Re: Reputations

Header Data

From: Martin Janzen <janzen@idacom.hp.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: b6af0bbe8261e68fd4595314c516dd364b448a4146721ca00a89c2ac3d620fc6
Message ID: <9609062100.AA29557@sabel.idacom.hp.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1996-09-07 00:36:50 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996 08:36:50 +0800

Raw message

From: Martin Janzen <janzen@idacom.hp.com>
Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996 08:36:50 +0800
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: Reputations
Message-ID: <9609062100.AA29557@sabel.idacom.hp.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

TCM> I strongly disagree. It's quite possible for Person A to quickly convert
TCM> his reputation to Person B to a _negative_ value. Real quick, in fact.

GB>I don't see how there can be such a thing as negative reputation
GB>capital. Wouldn't that mean B believes the opposite of what A says?

B wouldn't necessarily believe the _opposite_, but if R(A,B) is negative,
then B would treat whatever A says with greater skepticism.  ("Consider
the source.")

Alternatively, R(A,B) << 0 might mean that B has decided that A's posts
tend not to be worth even the time it takes to read them, and has set
his killfile accordingly.  (Think of someone who makes unsupported
assertions: this is not a reason to believe the _opposite_ of what he
says, but to ignore him.)

GA>If you anti-believed someone in a consistent manner, couldn't they exploit

Sure; see any number of Cold War spy novels for examples.

One point that I think deserves mention, but that I haven't seen yet in
this thread, is that R(A,B) is contextual; it should be R(A,B,subject).
To accept the word of an authority outside his area of expertise is a
common logical fallacy.  (Think of political endorsements by famous actors.)

Conversely, so is dismissing something just because its proponent has a
negative reputation in another context.  (At the risk of flirting with
Godwin's law, an example might be that just because a certain well-known
evil person liked Karl May novels and music by Wagner, this does not in
itself make these things bad.)

GB>For instance, when a certain infamously-low-reputation (deservedly so)
GB>individual recently joined the cypherpunk lists, others who had endured
GB>him in the past tried to relay their impressions of him. It proved very
GB>difficult to convey, and they were somewhat attacked for their efforts
GB>and not entirely believed.
GB>In other words, he *could not* spend down to 0, despite years of
GB>unflagging effort.

I'd interpret this situation a bit differently.  In the eyes of many
list members, this individual _did_ spend down to 0 -- and below, I'd
argue, based on the number of people who announced changes to their
killfiles.  But this was because of his actions on the list; it was
_not_ because of the impressions of others.  Most of the regulars on
this list are, IMHO, logical enough thinkers, and of sufficiently
independent mind (to put it mildly), to wait and see for themselves.
Results in other, more conformist or authoritarian groups may vary...

In other words, it would appear that "reputation capital" is difficult
to create or destroy based only on the word of others; it has to be earned.
(Hmm, is it easier to destroy than to create -- are we more likely to
adjust our R(A,me) score downward based on what others say about A?)

TCM?> But
TCM?> what if the American Heart Association publishes a detailed study on the
TCM?> fat levels of MacDonald's products and declares it to "Dangerous." The
TCM?> effect will probably be greater, as R (AHA, many people) = high, and by the
TCM?> kind of Dempster-Shafer belief calculus I discussed a few months ago, the
TCM?> rep of the AHA propagates semi-transitively to the rep of MacDonald's.
TCM?> (This all happened recently, with the famous studies of fat levels of movie
TCM?> theater food...sales dropped almost overnight, and now the fat levels of
TCM?> popcorn, etc., have been changed for the better.)

I agree with the first paragraph; however, I'm not sure that the second
paragraph gives an example of this.  The high levels of saturated fats
in movie popcorn were (as I recall) publicized by the previously little-
known "Center for Science in the Public Interest", a group with nowhere
near the reputation capital of the AHA.  Their claims were taken seriously,
not because the group itself was particularly reputable, but because the
results were dramatic and easily verified.   A better example might be
that of Surgeon-General Koop vs. the tobacco companies.

GB>I've already made the points I wanted to make, so I may not have further

TCM>Nor me.

Well, I've probably said enough, then, especially considering that no
one is paying attention any longer.  Wouldn't want excess verbiage to
lower what little reputation capital I may have here...  :-)

Martin Janzen           janzen@idacom.hp.com