Living in trouble

We don't realize how much we're all used to getting along without facts...

So here's another reason why facts don't change our mind... We're used to getting along without them. 

New Yorker: Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds, 2017-Feb-27 by Elizabeth Kolbert

When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.

Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about.

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The truth we can't find

To some extent, I think the rise of 'fake news' or propaganda, or whatever it is, relates to our inability to handle uncertainty. We hear something we don't want to believe, we worry it may be true, then we look for disproof. When we see something we like, we decide that must be true. 

We are too ready and willing to stop searching. Real truth is an evolving reality. We have to be searching constantly, scanning  in places we haven't look before. 

Points: The Inescapability of Uncertainty: AI, Uncertainty, and Why You Should Vote No Matter What Predictions Say, 2016-Oct-31 by Jennifer Wortman Vaughan and Hannah Wallach

Rather than conceal the assumptions and uncertainty in their predictions, AI systems should enable users to understand the roots of this uncertainty and provide them with ways to reason about it more effectively. Longer term, this is an education issue. We need to acknowledge that uncertainty is here to stay and equip future generations to embrace it. In the mean time, though, remember that regardless of how precisely stated, there are hidden assumptions behind every prediction.

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The Casino-ization of Facebook: don't mistake clicks for friendship

I'm not saying the Facebook isn't a good tool for maintaining relationships. I'm saying that using Facebook indiscriminately can lead one to believe that it's a substitute for friendship. 

How We Get To Next: The Uneasy Blurring of Work and Play, 2016-Nov-22 by Tom Chatfield

If social media is a form of play, what does it resemble? When I think of memes and hashtags — of their constant, cascading mix of high and low; horror and triviality; trolling and larking; abuse and tenderness — I think of a vast playground at the world’s worst-disciplined school. It’s tribal, infantile, anarchic, rippling with rumor and sentiment. That’s the content side of things. When I look at the interface through which this comes at us, however, I start thinking of the world’s largest casino. Every single item on the screen, no matter what its source or cause, only exists to get you clicking one more time — providing one more byte of behavioral data for aggregation and sale....

Play is freedom within constraint, which means improvising, tinkering, disputing the rules and debating the scoreline. It’s the sublime moment of skill before the score, the thrill of the chase. If we do live in a simulation, whoever designed it was a genius — because they knew that pleasure isn’t the point. We keep score so that we can play; we don’t play in order to have scores to keep.

What should you be doing with as much of your time as you can manage? Hack the funhouse. Play in the gardens, hide in the hedgerows, climb onto the roof. Think for yourself. Take play seriously. Don’t confuse someone else’s game, however good, for the world.

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Halloween in Houston

Understanding irrational behaviors

What I love about Daniel Kahneman is that he's opened our eyes to the fact that just because behavior is irrational, doesn't mean we can't understand it. We CAN understand and control irrational behavior, and we don't have to control all of it... Just the part that's doing us harm. I recently discovered the writings of Chris Dillow, who's applying the principles to politics. What a relief.

Stumbling and Mumbling: Cognitive biases, ideology & control, 2016-July-3 by Chris Dillow

If people are subject to cognitive biases when they have big incentives to be right – when they are investing their own money – mightn’t the same be true in politics, where their incentives are less sharp? 

Some experimental research suggests the answer is: yes.

Some of these experiments have been done by Kris-Stella Trump at Harvard. She split money between subjects in different ways and then asked them what they thought would have been a fair division. She found that those who got a very unequal split thought that the fair division should also have been unequal. Those who got a more equal division said that a fair division would have been equal.

This suggests that as inequality increases, our perception of what’s fair becomes more unequal. That causes people to accept inequality. This is an example of a wider cognitive bias – the anchoring effect. 

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How public schools can better speak for themselves

What I love about this story is that it offers a method for schools and other institutions to shift perceptions and behavior in their community. Lots of big city school districts have public relations departments, but few of them "work smarter" to make change the way this team does. It's very inspiring, and I recommend reading the whole story at David Meerman Scott's blog on www.WebInkNow.com

WebInkNow: Brand Journalism at Cleveland Metropolitan School District, 2016-Jun-29 by David Meerman Scott

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District serves some 40,000 students. [Chief Communications Officer] Roseann [Canfora]’s team not only focuses on reaching the families of students, but also those who attend other schools or are considering doing so.

I was surprised by the importance of positioning CMSD vs the other education options available to families including charter schools, parochial schools, private schools, and home schooling that serve children across Cleveland. Many people think would think that a public school system doesn’t worry about “competition” but they must. That was eye opening for me.

[Roseann:] "... The daily stories that big city journalists are drawn to include gang fights, low test scores, truancy, and weapons finding their way past metal detectors. These stories fall short of what I learned in journalism school was our social responsibility to tell the deeper stories, the root causes of these things, the incredible stories of triumph over those challenges that take place in schools every single day. Those are the types of stories we [Roseann's department] now tell....”

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The pitfalls of being a problem solver

When I arrived at Columbia Business School, I was delighted to discover that every subject was just about solving problems. Instead of explaining things, we we always expected to propose solutions. Of course, the problem with business school is we seldom had the opportunity to execute a solution, and even if we did, we weren't around long enough to see if it really worked. 

When I look back, I realize I have often gotten hung up on my solution. But now I've found the right perspective... there's always another problem (and sometimes it's coming from our solution). 

Medium: The BOOTSTART Manifesto, 2016-Jan-4 by Ash Maurya

Love the Problem, Not Your Solution

It starts with a fundamental mind shift. Your customers don’t care about your solution but their goals. Identify the problems or obstacles that get in the way of their goals, and you identify the right solution to build.

Having more passion for your solution than for your customer’s problem, is a problem.

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Investors have a lot of investments, but entrepreneurs have only one life

Recently, I've been talking to many people about possible projects and jobs. They are distressed when I tell them my hourly rate. They respond... so consider that you're hardly making anything now, wouldn't a lower rate be better than nothing??? Uh, no. (Explained below.)

VentureBeat: Why I turned down 500k, pissed off my investors and shut down my startup, 2016-Jun-9 by Tim Romero

I am not particularly risk-averse, but I pay attention to risk and reward. As an investor, I probably would have told me to take the money and try to make it work. But the risk-reward equation for investors is different than it is for founders.

I was deciding whether this venture was worth committing to another year of 70+ hour weeks. I need a higher level of certainty than investors do because my time is more valuable to me than their money is to them. Investors place bets in a portfolio of companies, but I only have one life.

Thinking of you, Orlando...

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