Friday, August 29, 2008

Probability of being right

Opinion * probability of being right.

The above probability is crucial for the value of every opinion we have. Every opinion/perception/understanding we have is probabilistic by nature. 90% 99.9% or more usually mere 40-70%.

Overestimation is very common in gauging this probability.

Ignoring it altogether is no less common. "That is my opinion". Where is the error rate?

The components of which he final conclusion is based are no immune. Every part and parcel of your thinking process has its own susceptibility for mistakes.

Bottom line: Probability of mistakes = product of mistake probabilities for all partial understandings whose opinion builds crucially on + (i.e. multiply by) probability of error in the final conclusion + probability of error in way the thinking process went (i.e. you can define in many ways: Either the problem itself, or the logical struture you walk throught to the solution, or the attention (weight) you give to every part of the process)

errors in the aformentioned probabiity guesses
errors I have not thought about

The color of an understanding is crucial for its meaning. i.e. what exactly did you mean. + context. i.e. under which conditions does it work. understanding limits and level of idea. How far it goes and to which effect.

How you know the reliability of your thinking process? Usually it is done intuitively. I guess earlier mistakes are calibrating these intuitions. So ignoring our mistakes is not just a local problem, it distorts our whole reality perception. Reminds me of Warren Buffet "I hate managers that lie. Not because I will not kkn0ow what is going on. Rather, a manager who lies to investors is liikely to lie for himself. hene he is a bad manger"

After reading this Buffet words, I realized that it is rational to avoid lying, which seems to make me lying less. That is, if you are naive enough to believe me.

Another way is by using meta-rules of reliability. Here, too you have to deal with the reliability of the reliability rule and the reliability of its application.

If you do not feel confused I recommend re-reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How different are you?

Estimate your variance (i.e. how normal you are)

Most what we know is about averages. General wisodm, as well as modern learned science.
The value of the above depends on the average + your deviation from the average. there is a randmo component in this. But everyone is different in how unusual he is (how much variance to expect). the less usual the person the less vaue of common knowledge, and more on other methods of learning (personal experience, or other forms of educarted guesses. Accepting lack of knowlwdge i.e. acting with knowing that you do not know).

Practicaly, estimate how your are usual of different in various areas.
Correct for bias! Since we tend to see ourselves as more unusual than we really are, you have to adjust your estimate by adding the usual error in this estimate... (on average people thing they are lss average than they really are. We tend to be nomre usual than we subjectively perceive). I wanted to add that some people can somehow guess more realistically. But this would make every reader thinking he is of this kind.

Daniel Gilbert ("Stumbling on Happiness") offers that we should learn from others (from the outside you can perceive emotional results more accurately) and surrogate decisions to others (they are not involved emotionally and biased). He claims - with interesting data - that people are more similar than we subjectively judge.Surrogating decisions and learning from others, builds on the common between people and is not good for differences. The usefulness of it is crucially dependent on how average you are. The less average - the less use you get from studying average folks.

If you are truly far from average, remember:
1) Learn from weired persons. Stories of unusual folks may be much more relevant for your personal life than than average stuff. Either personal - get to know. or via books etc. The weired the better.
2) Tolstoy says that all happy families are happy alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Not to make the weired unhappy, but every weired paerson can be weired in his own way.There are still similarities between many weired people, and between subclasses of them.

Good luck in the fascinating jungle of the weired!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The academic bias

Assume a person who believes that testable ideas are the most interesting ones. Or (weaker form) that stuff that can be laid down in a very neat and logical way or is testable has a strong superiority.

He will devote all his time etc. to this kind of questions, thereby creating a whole body of knowledge that has been selected not on the basis of importance, utility, reality & truth, but on the basis of what meets the technical criteria.

This may create a very distorted world view. and a off the mark body of knowledge.

Even more extreme oddities will emerge in the dynamics of knowledge and learning. When there is more literature and more people talking about a minor question that happened to fit the "science" criteria. Now other people will develop their life, perception and research in this direction, deviating even more form the more relevant issues that do not fit into technical handling.

These dynamics may create a very biased world view. As examplified elsewhere, small innitial biases may contribute to great deviation in the end.

A great example can be seen with happiness research. Put aside what is "correct" for happiness, it seems plausible that even just because some happiness measures are more "neat" and handy, they become "the currency of trade" in the research community.
AFTER they have become "the currency" of the research, they have several advantages including "framing" (i.e. they are written on the wall of the mind all the time as happiness strengthning their imagined relavance). The other advantage of is that even if you disagree with the idea, you will use it just because there is so much research based on that.

On balance, we have many reasons to value technically collected research. We should as well remember that our goal is not being technically correct. We want certain things from life, and should remember that technical science and logic can handle only part of reality.

Reality is there as it is. It does not care what we want it to be. Sometimes, reality even fights back to those trying to ignore it.

On Balance - Importance of an encompassing opinion

Understanding things on balane. Not just narrow opinions!

It is relatively easy to say a highly confined statement (it is cheaper to drive this way).Harder when more considerations come into play (include cost of driving. time. emotional effects. etc.)

Because it is hard to have clear cut evidence about the "on balance" issues, it is easy to build contradicting opinions + finding evidence upon request to satisfy whatever needs/interests you have.

The opinion that is general_all_summed_in is what counts in real life.Alas, it is harder. Hard to feel sure about. Complex.

Reality is that. Reality never apologizes and leaves no prisoners. Admit it, or escape into the territory of delusion. It dreams much better out there......

See my piece above on "the academic bias", regarding how being technically right absolutely can drive your attention to narrow/irelevant places.

I bought a newspaper

because I got seduced at the grocery store.

On the way, I realized what a mistake it was. I threw it to the garbage before entering my house. It is better to lose the buck I already paid for the paper, than lose a chunk of brain and some time.

Unhealthy food, should be thrown away as soon as you realize that it is negative to eat it. "Do not waste it" is irrational and unethical. The Talmud recognized it two millenia ago, when saying that the prohibition of wasting stuff, is irelevant when the body is the counter party. "The waste of the body is more important".

There has been times when it was crucial to keep food. Nowadays our trouble is the opposite and attitudes should be adjusted accordingly.