Sunday, January 1, 2017

We're not good at predictions

We need to stop, and admit it: we have a prediction problem. We love to predict things—and we aren't very good at it. 
Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't (Penguin Books, 2015) (orig., pub., 2012), p. 13

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Toffler's information overload prediction in 1970

Alvin Toffler, writing in the book Future Shock in 1970, predicted some of the consequences of what he called "information overload." He thought our defense mechanism would be to simplify the world in ways that confirmed our biases, even as the world itself was growing more diverse and complex.
Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't (Penguin Books, 2015) (orig., pub., 2012), p. 12 (citing Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), p. 362)

Friday, December 30, 2016

More knowledge can divide us

Paradoxically, the result of having so much more shared knowledge [with the spread of printing] was increasing isolation along national and religious lines. The instinctual shortcut that we take when we have "too much information" is to engage with it selectively, picking out the parts we like and ignoring the remainder, making allies with those who have made the same choices and enemies of the rest.
Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't (Penguin Books, 2015) (orig., pub., 2012), p. 3

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why believe in the supernatural?

Why do people believe in things that go against natural laws? It cannot simply be ignorance.
The answer is evidence. The number-one reason given by people who believe in the supernatural is personal experience.
Bruce M. Hood, The Science of Superstition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), p. 3 (former title: SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Human judgment is fallible

human  judgment is intrinsically fallible. It's hard for any of us (myself included) to recognize how much our relatively narrow range of experience can color our interpretation of evidence.
Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't (Penguin Books, 2015) (orig., pub., 2012), Preface (2015)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Contagious emotions

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843), Stave III

Monday, December 26, 2016

Marley's ghost: just indigestion?

"Why do you doubt your senses?"
"Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means wagging then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre's voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843), Stave I