Are You Anosognosic?

by Eliezer Yudkowsky1 min read19th Jul 2009No comments


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Followup to: The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

Brain damage patients with anosognosia are incapable of considering, noticing, admitting, or realizing even after being argued with, that their left arm, left leg, or left side of the body, is paralyzed.  Again I'll quote Yvain's summary:

After a right-hemisphere stroke, she lost movement in her left arm but continuously denied it. When the doctor asked her to move her arm, and she observed it not moving, she claimed that it wasn't actually her arm, it was her daughter's. Why was her daughter's arm attached to her shoulder? The patient claimed her daughter had been there in the bed with her all week. Why was her wedding ring on her daughter's hand? The patient said her daughter had borrowed it. Where was the patient's arm? The patient "turned her head and searched in a bemused way over her left shoulder".

A brief search didn't turn up a base-rate frequency in the population for left-arm paralysis with anosognosia, but let's say the base rate is 1 in 10,000,000 individuals (so around 670 individuals worldwide).

Supposing this to be the prior, what is your estimated probability that your left arm is currently paralyzed?

Added:  This interests me because it seems to be a special case of the same general issue discussed in The Modesty Argument and Robin's reply Sleepy Fools - when pathological minds roughly similar to yours update based on fabricated evidence to conclude they are not pathological, under what circumstances can you update on different-seeming evidence to conclude that you are not pathological?

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