Monday, June 20, 2016

Against retroactive justice

We sometimes see people fighting to correct wrongs done ages ago.

In itself this is ok. But many times it is wrong. And damaging.

1) Not fair. When judging people for something done ages ago, it is easy to forget that the norms of the time are crucial. While one might believe in absolute morality, our current judgement cannot honestly be transposed onto people decades ago.

2) Counter productive.
changing norms is mostly what we want looking forward. We want less corruption tomorrow. Not yesterday.

Absurdly, every time we persecute a fallen dictator, we teach all other dictators to never ever give up power. Lest them be persecuted once relinquishing power.

A dictator that might have otherwise considered to allow an ordered transfer of power and democratisation, will be hugely reluctant to do so, the more retroactive justice in the world. (Lee Kuan Yew noticed this in his memoir regarding South Korea generals who gave up power on their own, and later got persecuted)

In Ukraine, part of the dynamic that caused the Russia involving war, was that Europe and others wanted to persecute the special forces of the fallen president. Fearing this, most of them run away to the eastern border, and they turned later as a great part for Russia instigated war.

Currently, for example in Ukraine. There is a massive fight about corruption, with various oligarchs fighting nail and tooth to block any anti corruption change.

Even if they want to accept future changes, they cannot accept a change that will put all of them in prison for historical corruption.

Allow future change, and I think that the chances for reform are vastly higher.


Why are people adamant to go retroactively?

My analysis was rational. Humans, are moral characters, and are emotional.
Justice is a value. This is why people want justice even in counter productive ways. 

But policy, if we want it to be effective should be designed in rational ways. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando shooting and polarisation. Exposed

In Orlando shooting, we got the perfect example of polarisation and blindness.

Most events are unbalanced. They are easier to use by one party.

So mass shooting makes Democrats yell at the republicans: You nuts! why do you object to gun control. And Republicans generally try somehow to answer.

Islamic terrorism makes Republicans yell: Why do you refuse saying "Islamic terrorism"? and Democrats try to answer.

So events make one party feeling right. and the other trying to escape somehow.

Orlando has both features. So it helped us see how stupid polarisation is.

Both camps are happily fingering the other camp:

Reps: you Dems can't even dare say "Islamic Terrorism"
Dems: It is all yours Reps gun freedom laws.

Would be funny if it was not so sad. But it is a perfect demonstration

Friday, March 25, 2016

Optimization means breaking multiple ceilings

One interesting feature of optimization is the ceiling. You go up with the optimization but you cannot go too much up. You have various limits to your growth. It's soon if you went up with one parameter you soon encounter the various other parameters that limit you.

Thus, significant and sustainable optimization requires raising various ceilings or upwards limitations.
This is generally possible, but it requires much more sophistication and persistence to go sustainably above the status quo.

For example. You have a chicken stand. It only looks like you can sell more. If you manage to triple your sales you will discover the other limits for selling a lot. More space, waitresses, cooks, material, etc. etc, so you will have to simultaneously solve various ceilings.

Or gym. You only think that doing more exercise is enough. Once you passed some level, you will need different food, stretches. Maybe even more sleep. Etc. etc.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pessimism helped me a lot

Forced me to act.
My mind was: this is never gonna be done. So pessimism made me do not now. And in every which way, even if imperfect.

Pessimism made me happier, and more sanguine. Things are expected to fail, so I'm not necessarily an edject failure, not a moron. Life just yends to suck.

I just spoke to a friend whose life is screwed up about as much as 25% of humanity. But he is "optimistic" beleives he could have been more successful and still can. Hence totally downtrotten 

PS. optimiusm has many advantages etc. 
Mental health is better with optimism. But probably not with too much optimism.
The other problem with optimism, especially when excessive is lose of realism....

Anyway, I.made some.points. which are not everything, of course.....

Friday, October 16, 2015

Three sources of political bias / polarisation

It is puzzling how smart people can diverge so much on political issues. Especially when they delineate their full lines of reasoning, covering much of the disputed arguments.

How come?

Three thinking dynamics are listed below. Which together can explain much of it.

1) Starting point bias.
Assume that both arguments have merit.

The right: Incentives are crucial, lower taxes encourage investments etc. (which is inarguable, but arguments exist on how far it can go. Nobody offers zero tax...)

The left: Welfare is crucial. We need taxes to fund it. Again inarguable. Only the extent is contoversial (nobody suggests building beach side mansions for the poor.)

But where do you start from?

A leftists will start from welfare importance. Where does the money come from? this is a problem to be dealt with. etc. etc.

A rightists will start from the importance of encouraging commerce and not strangle the economy. Welfare? this is a problem to be dealt with.

You can see how, even with similar beliefs, just changing the starting point of one's thinking can have a huge effect. Especially when some issues are blurred and subjective.


2) The cumulative effect of biases.
One of the biggest secrets in stupidity is that a slight bias if multiplied 10-50 times in itself can get enormous.

If you slightly over estimate parts of a discussion. but do it over multiple parts and issues, the cumulative effect can be enormous.

Lets see how the fate of the poor can easily go X10 either way.
For gauging how much suffering of the poor there are you go in stages:
Where is the poverty line? How much are the poor themselves responsible for their fate? How effective government aid is? to which degree welfare improves (helping people stay in workforce, helping the kids of the poor staying in soceity etc.) or degrade (maybe welfare encourage not working? etc. etc.)? How effective is welfare (i.e. how much is being wasted before arriving to the poor themselves)? how much is our moral obligation? and multiple other questions.

Eventually, a rational answer to the value of welfare is the combination (kind of numerical product) of all the questions above and similar ones.

If one can err on each question in say 20% the multiplied effect over 10 questions will be 1.2^10 = 6.16

basically deviating either side about those 10 questions by a mere 20% will either turn you into an anti welfare fanatic, or into a unquestionable pro welfare fanatic. I am talking here on the rational logic, not on any emotions of moral tendencies!


3) The complexity of the involved logic and circularities
The way to decide a political question is not a pre defined one.
There are multiple issues to decide upon, and many of them are interrelated.
It is even common not to trust some sources based on other peripheral opinions we do have.
This complexity opens the door to endless bias.

This complexity and circularity will be familiar if you try to recall arguments you ever had with people on the complete opposite of the political spectrum from yourself.
You think you will be done with discussing aspect A, but it ends up being related to subject B, which is related on a bag of facts C etc. etc.

If you were stupid and persistent enough to carry on enough, you will know exactly what I am talking about.


Thanks for reading. it has been exhausting






Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The futility of "intelligent" self-help books

many authors have interesting knowledge to write about.

Unfortunately, they tend to mix in self-help advice on applying their more interesting ideas.

It usually feels like high school seminary work, and is useless.

Self-help. Actually carrying out the great ideas you heard about is a totally different realm than the ideas themselves.


A book might be great about focus, or meditation, or money management etc,. etc.


Once the guy start giving you practical advice, you regret having met the book to begin with.


Stale, grandmotherly ideas: Start now. Start small. make a plan. etc. etc.

grandma was very cool. But remember that writing advice books that are not painful to read is a profession on its own, and you do not have it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The negative bias in the recent replication literature

the usual "publication bias" is reversed.

It used to be that positive results are likelier to get published, yielding a literature biased towards positive results.

Nowadays, publishing negative replication results is hugely popular. It is easier to publish. And many times the original authors even do not get the privilege of responding.

The social media reaction is very supportive, whereas original authors even if their arguments are sensible, are harshly scorned.


Publication bias now favors "positive failures". You are likely to get published if you can find a headlines grabbing "failure to replicate"