Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: human behavior

Why people accept being biased

Here’s Robin Hanson’s advice at Overcoming Bias (by way of Tyler Cowen:

Best to clear your mind and emotions of group loyalties and resentments and ask, if this belief gave me no pleasure of rebelling against some folks or identifying with others, if it was just me alone choosing, would my best evidence suggest that this belief is true? All else is the road to rationality ruin.

This made me think about a recent political issue — whether the government should somehow bail out the US automakers. On one hand, we have the evidence that these companies are lost causes and principled objection to using taxpayer dollars to bail out certain failing businesses. On the other hand, we have the possibility of massive job loss at car factories, dealerships, parts suppliers, and so on. What’s best for America? What’s best for me? I don’t really have any idea.

To accept that means accepting a certain level of uncertainty that I think most people are uncomfortable with. To be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable with it.

What I do know is that the political party I most closely identify is against letting these companies fail. Many of the bloggers I most often agree with think we should bail them out as well. I think that’s all most people need.

Most big problems are too complex for an individual to fully understand, and rarely can experts agree among themselves on the best solution. So rather than just admitting to themselves that they have no idea what we should do, most people prefer to succumb to their biases and accept the ideas put forward by the group or faction they’re loyal to.

Maybe that’s the ultimate human bias — the bias toward believing that we know what we’re talking about.

Warren Buffett on evaluating people

I loved this quote from Warren Buffett:

The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.

I’m a big believer that every competition is really against the standards you’ve previously set.

Why people grind in games

Clive Thompson explains why people accept and even enjoy the grind in games:

Why? Because there’s something enormously comforting about grinding. It offers a completely straightforward relationship between work and reward. When you log into WoW, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you just plant your ass in that chair for long enough, you’ll level up. It doesn’t require skill. It just requires putting in the time. Play 10 hours, you’ll do better; play 50, you’ll do better yet; and yet more so with 500 hours.

The thing is, almost no arenas of human endeavor work like this. Many are precisely the opposite, in fact. When you go to your job at the office, there’s little or no linkage between effort and achievement: You slave like a madman all year long, only to watch the glad-handing frat guy hired two months ago get promoted above you. And if you’re a really serious nerd, the logic that governs interpersonal relationships — marriage, kids, your parents — is even more abstruse: Things can actually get worse the more time and effort you put into them.

I have often thought that this is the main allure of games. They offer a simple model of real life where the incentives are perfectly clear. It’s a refreshing break from the complexity of human relationships and human endeavor.

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