Overcoming Bias - RSS Feed

This is a blog on why we believe and do what we do, why we pretend otherwise, how we might do better, and what our descendants might do, if they don't all die.

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Medical Doubts OpEd

An editor asked me to write this OpEd, but then he never responded when I gave it to hm. So I submitted it to several other editors, but now I’m out of contacts to try. So I’m giving up and posting this here: Europeans in 1600 likely prided themselves on the ways in which their “modern” medicine was superior to what “primitives” had to accept. But...

Exploring Value Space

If you have enough of a following, Twitter polls are a great resource for exploring how people think. I’ve just finished asking a 8 polls each regarding 12 different questions that make people choose between the following 16 features, either in themself or in others: attractiveness, confidence, empathy, excitement, general respect, grandchildren, happiness,...

Best Case Contrarians

Consider opinions distributed over a continuous parameter, like the chance of rain tomorrow. Averaging over many topics, accuracy is highest at the median, and falls away for other percentile ranks. This is bad news for contrarians, who sit at extreme percentile ranks. If you want to think you are right as a contrarian, you have to think your case is...

Much Talk Is Sales Patter

The world is complex and high dimensional. Even so, it sometimes helps to try to identify key axes of variation and their key correlates. This is harder when one cannot precisely define an axis, but merely gesture toward its correlates. Even so, that’s what I’m going to try to do in this post, regarding a key kind of difference in talk. Here are six...

My Old Man Rant

As a 62 year old man, I think I’m entitled to rant once in a while. But instead of “you kids get off my lawn!”, this is my rant: In principle, economics can help advise most any decisions, like when to wake up, or whether to own a second car. But there are fixed costs to doing explicit econ analysis, and also persuasion costs when you try to influence...

My 11 Bets at 10-1 Odds On 10M Covid deaths by 2022

In February 2020, I made many bets on Covid19, including 11 bets at ten to one odds on if it would cause 10 million deaths worldwide by 2022, as estimated by WHO. WHO has a Q&A page on Covid excess deaths that includes this section: Why is excess mortality the preferred measure? … aggregate COVID-19 case and death numbers … being reported to WHO...

On What Is Advise Useful?

Regarding what areas of our life do we think advisors can usefully advise? Some combination of they actually know stuff, plus we can evaluate and incentivize their advice enough to get them to tell us what they know, plus how possible it is to change this feature. Yesterday I had an idea for how to find this out via polls. Ask people which feature...

To Innovate, Unify or Fragment?

In the world around us, innovation seems to increase with the size of an integrated region of activity. Human and computer languages with more users acquire more words and tools at a faster rate. Tech ecosystems, such as those collected around Microsoft, Apple, or Google operating systems, innovate faster when they have more participating suppliers...

Innovation Liability Nightmare

When I try to imagine how our civilization might rot and decline over the coming millennia, my thoughts first go to innovation, as that has long been our main engine of growth. And while over the years I’ve often struggled to think of ways to raise the rate of innovation, it seems much easier to find ways to cut it; in general, it is easier to break...

Karnataka Hospital Insurance Experiment

In 2008 I posted on the famous RAND Health Insurance Experiment: 1974 to 1982 the US government spent $50 million to randomly assign 7700 people in six US cities to three to five years each of either free or not free medicine, provided by the same set of doctors. … people randomly given free medicine in the late 1970s consumed 30-40% more medical services,...

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